Money is a touchy issue.
And that goes, in any form of relationship. Whether it’s between spouse and spouse, employee and employer, non-profit and the giver.
No area can money be more awkward to everyone involved than between the leaders and members of a church. Churches and religious non-profits need money to exist. There is a mortgage, electric bills, printing costs, online maintenance fees, staff salaries, phone bills, property upkeep, and other costs.
Fortunately for the churches, they don’t have to pay taxes, as long as they remain neutral in regards to political matters. Otherwise, they’d have taxation as an expense, as well.
That final subject aside, there is still much to pay for, so I understand the desire for pastors and preachers to want money to come in, especially for those who daily or weekly receive services and fulfillment from the church or ministry—the latter term can loosely include mosques, temples, foreign outreaches, and undefined domestic movements.
I know what it’s like to be dependable on others’ giving, and I know what it’s like to give. I’ve given for over a decade religiously to my church and other causes I believed in. Metaphorically, if I eat from a table, should I not leave a token of gratitude? If I utilize a service, should I not help fund its gears?
While no longer religious, I still give to groups I believe in, help fund upstarts that I trust will do well, and I sometimes give to someone just simply to give from my heart. Unless it’s to a crowdsource that offers a perk or goody in return for my money, I usually don’t expect anything back … except for appreciation.
We all should be as altruistic. We all should be generous. We all should be compassionate and kind.
However, we should also take a stand against giving to groups or people that misuse funds, abuse people, or take advantage of people.
We should examine what and who we give to. We should know how the money is being used. And no one should hold the name of “God” in the air, in order to manipulate people for funding, or to hide their spending from its people or the IRS. If something seems shady, you should keep your money or give elsewhere.
When I was giving to my church, I gave ten percent. This is what is taught that we should give: a tenth of your income.
It’s based on a verse in the Old Testament book of Malachi and is called a tithe. Anything above that, or given elsewhere, is called an offering. This verse is sandwiched between a section about how a cursed Israel is robbing their deity Jehovah and a section about there being an overabundance of food in Jehovah’s house. Innumerable blessings follow.
So, a normal church-goer tends to give ten or more percent of their income—usually gross not net income. If a church has ten people in attendance, that means there can be ten 1/10 incomes—that is, one full salary. One hundred people can mean ten salaries for the church.
You can imagine what one thousand or ten thousand regular church attendees can mean for annual income for the church or religious group. This is how megachurch pastors are able to buy luxury vehicles, mansions, and even private airplanes.
Ironically, there isn’t a variation of this tithing verse in the New Testament—the newer section of the Christian Bible that was written after their leader, Jesus, had died. Malachi was written before Jesus’ birth by 400 or 500 years, and there is no person in all of the Bible named Malachi, though the word translates from the Hebrew meaning my messenger.
Jesus nor any of the Christian letter-writers of the 1st Century CE mention a person named Malachi, his teachings, or this form of building or ministry support through a percentage of their financial income. Malachi 3:10 can even refer to property and possessions instead of actual coin or bankroll.
Some of this I knew, even as a Christian. Everyone else is giving. It was expected—or I felt I’d be questioned if I weren’t tithing my ten percent. Besides, even if this were Old Testment law, I felt that maybe I was still storing up blessings in Jehovah’s house, which was fine. Someday perhaps my overabundance would bless me and others, like a group bank account that had a ridiculous return on my investment.
But this is unlikely. Tenfold returns on this investment is improbable. Multiply this by how many tithing Christians and Jews there are. Highly unlikely.
If I wasn’t getting rich on my tithes, then I assume it’s either of three things:
- Tithing is a spiritual realm investment that isn’t physical in reward
- Tithing is no longer valid
- Tithing has some other condition or truth/untruth to it.
So, if Christians aren’t required to obey most of the 500 or more Old Testament laws that “God” gave the Jews (and Christians adopted), why is this one singled out by Christians that other Christians have to obey, even if relunctantly? What makes this one out of all of the chapters and verses in the 24 (of the Tanakh) to 39 books (of the Catholic canon) more special than the ignored others?
I’ve searched Christian websites to justify this.
Many have lists of verses that have to do with the topic of money. Some have general lines about being a joyful giver, but excludes the amount. Some talk about kindness and giving, but it’s not to a building but a stranger. There are also verses that seem to have nothing to do with money, but rather about character.
It was almost like the website developers were trying very hard to tie anything he or she could to the topic of money and giving to their church or website ministry, no matter how remote. It was almost like there was little on the topic that actually warranted pulpit-funneled direction to give a tithe.
However, I did find a few verses that were in the New Testament about money, some supposedly quoting Jesus and other supposedly written by the apostle Paul or the disciples, Peter and John.
A few paraphrased words of Jesus:
- If someone asks, give to him. Don’t ignore one who wishes to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42)
- Give in secret (Matthew 6:4)
- Don’t accumulate wealth on earth (Matthew 6:19)
- To be complete, sell your possessions and give it to the poor (Matthew 19:21)
- Whatever you do to the hungry, thirsty, poor, or stranger, you do to God (Matthew 25:37)
- Jesus destroyed and refused merchant tables at the temple (Mark 11:15)
- Give to the King what is his and to God what is his (Mark 12:17)
- Some give only of their surplus, but this lady gave me all she had (Mark 12:44)
- Lend without expecting anything returned (Luke 6:35)
- Sell your possessions and give the money to charity (Luke 12:33)
And here are a few words from the teachers who wrote 50-100 years later:
- The property owners and home owners in the first church gatherings sold their property and possessions, shared everything together, and no one was then with need (Acts 2:45 and Acts 4:34)
- On the first day, put aside money to save, as he may prosper, so no collections would need to made when Paul visits (1 Corinthians 16:2)
- The Philippian church is the only church Paul had visited that shared with him (Philippians 4:15)
- The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:9)
- Command the rich to not be arrogant or too trusting in their wealth (1 Timothy 6:17)
- Stay free from the love of money, content in what you have (Hebrews 13:5)
- Rich people: weep and wail. You’re self-indulging (James 5:1-5)
- Overseers, serve and don’t be greedy for money (1 Peter 5:2)
- If you see a brother in need and don’t have pity on him, you don’t have God’s love (1 John 3:17)
There isn’t much that celebrates a Christian worldview of tithing ten percent to the church in any of the lines above.
However, the Christian leader will however quote Malachi, as well as another old verse from the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 26 about giving the first fruits of your harvest, usually the best ten percent. The rest that is left is for you.
Leaders nowadays will say that “God” gave you all of what you have and is only asking for a tenth of it back. This is not true. This is Old Testament, and Christians are generous in telling others that they don’t live under the Old Testament.
Christians aren’t required to be circumcized, aren’t forbidden from eating shrimp, and aren’t forbidden from mixing polyester and cotton. There are hundreds of laws like this that the Jewish people had to follow, but the New Testament writers seemed to say that social justice, forgiveness, and mercy were more important.
The New Testament verses seem to clearly say that a member of a church is to give all of their money into the Christian community, and from that you’ll have no financial needs. The beginnings of the Christian church in Acts state this twice. The communal purse should take care of your food, your residence, and your health concerns. That is the biblical context of giving to a church building or people group—not tithing a tenth of what you make.
Jesus and his followers say it’s either all or none of your possessions and money.
A mandatory ten percent just simply isn’t Christian.