Saturday, June 07, 2008

Joyful living and joyful giving - Part 1 of 2

I don't quite understand it (ha ha), but for some reason churches seem to make a priority of teaching on the topic of giving. And many of the teachings I've heard on this topic just make me sad. This is stuff I've heard all throughout my church life but I can't say that I ever get any happier when I hear it.

Here are two sad stories I've heard lately that I believe are direct results of how giving is taught in churches today.

1. On a Christian radio talk show, a woman called in with a problem. The gist of her problem is that she gives money to the church but she just can't seem to do it joyfully. She said something like, "We do pay our tithe to our church, but it just isn't a joyful thing for us."

2. Another woman called into a Christian talk show (I can't remember if it was the same program) and said that there was a time when she and her husband couldn't afford to pay their tithe to their church, because they wouldn't have enough money left over for other necessary things, but they felt guilty about it. So what did they end up doing? They SOLD their house, and in her own words, they took a huge loss on it. But, she says, now they are in a smaller house that costs less and they can now afford to "pay their tithe" to their church.



Why do things like this surprise me? It probably happens far more than we can imagine.

But the point is... what has the Christian religion done to us??? We take Old Covenant laws and practices that served specific purposes for Old Covenant times, we stretch them and manipulate them to fit into the ways we've devised to do things in the church, and we call it "Christianity." I've written full commentaries on "the tithe" in the past and I've shared bits and pieces of my thoughts in various newgroups, and even more recently on other blogs, and I have in mind to do a full series here on "the tithe."

But for now I'll just say that I'll bet there are many similar stories to the ones I shared above, with people dealing with joyless giving, changing their lifestyles so they can "pay a tithe" to a church, and other problems rooted in legalism, and this is one of the areas of modern day legalistic Christianity that really gets under my skin.

The stories above didn't end where I left off. I'll pick up where I left off in Part 2.


  1. Now Joel, you best be careful lest someone comes and hits you over the head with Malachi 3. You wouldn't want to see anyone lose their blessing.

    But seriously, those stories you shared were awful, but all too common, sad to say. I have had conversations with legalists about the difference between the old and new covenant giving. I'm here to tell you that there is nothing that will make a legalist foam at the mouth in anger more than trying to tell him about free-will giving.

    I have been part of churches that have preached on tithing nearly every Sunday. At the time I didn't know any better, but I do remember always feeling beat down and discouraged. How wonderful it was when God led me to a church that preached grace and the grace of giving. I can probably count on one hand all the time our pastor has preached on giving in the last 5 years...for the most part, we have never lacked for money.

    I think it comes down to faith. If a pastor doesn't have faith in the power of God to move in his people to provide for the needs of the church, then he feels the need to wield a club.

    In Christ,

  2. Joel, I love how in your previous post on giving, you've named it New Covenant cheerful giving. It's supposed to be a joyful experience done out of love and gratitude. However, in the modern church, giving has become something that is done out of guilt and manipulation.

    These stories are sad and I've heard even sadder ones where families did without necessities so they could pay their tithe. Unfortunately, in most of those cases, there was no 100 fold return. Instead, these people sank deeper into poverty.

    It's so sad but I'm glad the church is starting to speak out and declare the truth. Religion will never set people free but knowledge of the truth will.

    Can't wait for part 2.


  3. Gary,

    These stories are indeed awful and disheartening. Malachi 3 is still very alive and well, albeit in a very twisted and manipulated way, in the Christian church.

    My old pastor from the Vineyard church that I stopped attending last year had said that John Wimber (founder of the Vineyard association) had said that "giving" was not taught enough.

    Not to take shots at Wimber himself by any means, but just at the thought that teaching "giving" more is the way to encourage true giving. I an, of course, taking a huge shot at the whole idea of tithing as well. The church has very much strayed from true, simple, joyful giving.


    That is indeed sad and a shame that people would deprive themselves and their families of the necessities of life in order to "pay a tithe" to a church. And it's true that Christian tithing does not provide a 100 fold return, or the windows of heaven opening and blessing them beyond what they can contain. And yet people continue to do it for those reasons and more. Like you, I'm very glad people are speaking out about it.