Saturday, May 26, 2012

Frequent Problems with Tithing #3

Profiles of Christians Who Rob God

Used with permission.[Alcorn, Randy (2003-02-01). Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Kindle Locations 4142-4233). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition].

The Situation:

Joe is an outspoken Christian known as a man of faith. He stands up at church business meetings and says he wants the church to build, raise the pastors’ salaries, and expand into new ministries. Joe challenges the church to rise to the occasion and reads passages of Scripture about walking by faith. He inspires everyone. Everyone, that is, except God and the financial secretary, who know the truth: If everyone gave like Joe, the pastors would be laid off, the missionaries would have to leave the field, and the church would close its doors.

The Problem:

Joe has great faith and vision when it comes to other people’s obedience. It’s his own obedience he has trouble with. He fails to ask himself, “If everyone gave like I do, where would this church be?” He’s quick to commit other people’s money but clings to his own. Joe is a hypocrite. He says one thing and does another. In doing so, he heaps up judgment for himself. He’ll be held accountable to God, not only for his lack of giving, but also for his hollow words.

The Situation:

Paula believes in giving but thinks that Scripture says giving should be voluntary. After all, “God loves a cheerful giver.” However, Paula is not yet to the point that she really wants to give. “Given my financial obligations, right now I just can’t give cheerfully,” Paula says. “And if you can’t give cheerfully, you shouldn’t give at all.”

The Problem:

Paula is right that God wants us to give cheerfully. But she is wrong in thinking that she should only give if she feels like it. The tithe belongs to God. It is not Paula’s to withhold, regardless of how she feels about it. Paula’s point about cheerfulness may be relevant to freewill offerings (those beyond the tithe), but not to the tithe itself, since it doesn’t belong to her in the first place. After becoming obedient, Paula will perhaps become more cheerful in her giving. But whether she does or not, she should still be obedient.

The Situation:

Dan is a seminary student headed for the ministry. He and his wife, Karla, have sacrificed to attend seminary. Knowing that God commands them to give to his work, they believe that by giving their tithe to their own tuition they are investing in the ministry, even though they don’t give to their church.

The Problem:

Dan and Karla are not God, and they are not the church. Giving to themselves is not giving to God or the church, no matter how the money is spent. The people of Israel brought tithes to the storehouse for the spiritually qualified leaders of Israel to distribute, just as the first Christians laid gifts at the apostles’ feet. The Israelites were not given the option of “tithing to themselves”—that is a contradiction in terms. It is not their tithe, it is God’s. Should church leaders or others decide to help Dan and Karla financially, that’s up to them and God—not to Dan and Karla. They are robbing and it’s hard to imagine him blessing them as they steal their way through seminary. This final profile centers not on the amount of giving, but where it goes:

The Situation:

Jim is a successful Christian businessman who wants his dollars to count. “I strongly believe in tithing,” says Jim. “Part of my tithe goes to a missions organization, part to a student ministry, a radio broadcast, and a television ministry. I believe in giving where it matters. Too much of the church’s money goes to salaries and buildings and maintenance. I don’t want my money going to clean restrooms and mow lawns. I’m not that impressed with the church anyway. The services are too crowded, the building needs repairs, and we ought to be giving more money to missions. Why doesn’t this church get on the ball?”

The Problem:

Jim fails to understand the centrality of the local church in God’s kingdom program. Jim is annoyed at the deterioration of the church facilities, yet he doesn’t want his money going to buildings. He would be appalled at dirty restrooms, yet he doesn’t want his money to clean them. He wants and expects his pastors to meet his needs, but he doesn’t want to pay their salaries. He wants the church to give to missions, but he doesn’t give to the church. The church will get on the ball when people like Jim get on the ball.

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