Thursday, May 1, 2008

Church, Money and Giving the Church your Money

“They just want your money”. That can be said about several groups. Politicians, people who ask for money downtown and even corporate America. Unfortunately one other group says this and they often get away with it…church!

Why does the church need our money? The usual argument is so that the work of the Lord can be done. There are expenses incurred by churches. Typically, and I am aware of some exceptions, the actual church building, staff salaries and operating expenses take up the lion’s share of the money. No wonder we only equate the work of the Lord with things that happen at church buildings and with “church people”. No wonder the average Christian doesn’t lead any significant charge into the enemy’s camp or even feel that they have a responsibility to do so. We have been trained to financially support the professional Christians we label “pastor”, “preacher”, “reverend”, “priest” or “minister” through our secular jobs and the money we earn there.

Why do we even need a “church building”? The early church didn’t have buildings and frankly didn’t need them. They met in homes and in public places. Church buildings and properties were unheard of prior to Constantine adopting Christianity as the official religion of his empire. Yet we have them today and they cost a lot of money. If we are honest though, we must admit that the church building has little or no impact on “the Lord’s work”…especially on days other than Sundays. I would even argue the buildings that cost so much are detrimental to the work people claim to be about…but they do look nice.

Now to church staff…in my opinion the idea of an official minister is also a detriment to the Lord’s work. Let me add that I tread lightly here since some great friends of mine are ministers that are not typical and are not parasites, but with that said…if churches and Christian in general lived as they should professional ministers wouldn’t be needed. I said that I have friends who are ministers and from hearing about their ministries I can say with certainty that their job mostly entails “babysitting” Christians who should NOT require babysitting. Which came first? The baby Christians who never grew up spiritually or the professional ministers who continue to baby the spiritual infants and never hold them responsible or accountable for their own walk with God? Who knows…but I do know that the expense of mostly overpaid ministers is laughable at best and an abomination at worst.

So what does the New Testament say about giving money to the church organization? Nothing! In case you missed that or misunderstood let me state that again. NOTHING! The N.T. does provide an example of those who gave as they had the ability to give. (2 Cor. 8). We also read of the early church practicing of giving to people in need (Acts 2 and Acts 4). We are told that we are to give whatever we do in secret (Matt 6). We are told to give whatever we give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9). With all of that I still can’t find that we are commanded to give to a church organizational structure. Nor can I find that we are to support a building fund, staff salaries or any other things we typically hear that we should support.

So what does the Old Testament say about giving to God? God outlines well for us what His people should do in Deuteronomy 14. Let’s look closely for a minute…
Deuteronomy 14:
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.
ok, so 10%...that’s easy, what’s next

23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. Wait a minute…we are to save a tenth of our production and then eat it as long as we do so in the presence of the Lord? What does that do? Oh, it teaches us to revere the Lord…got it

24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. so if I can’t get to the Temple I am to exchange my production for money, which the bank has already done for us…then what? I can use the money to buy WHATEVER I WANT? Sweet!!! Then we just enjoy what we purchase in the presence of the Lord and rejoice…got it

27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. Ok, Levites…are these not what we may today call ministers and therefore we have to give them money? NO NO NO. The Levites had no way in which to make money and never had an inheritance…ministers have plenty of other ways to make money and they are left an inheritance if their family has the financial means to do so…so this doesn’t count today.

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. every three years it sounds like the rules change a bit…how so? Well, apparently we are to use our tithe in the third year to care for the foreigners, fatherless and the widows. That sounds very Christ-like and very near the heart of scripture as a whole

So what about paying the mortgage on church buildings, paying staff salaries and making sure our pet “religious” projects happen? Nope. Nothing. It’s not in there…so then why in the hell do we do it and why in the hell are we asked to? I have an idea…let’s just say I intentionally used the word hell…but that’s just my opinion.

No comments: