Monday, June 30, 2014

What Happens If A Christian Does Not Give Money To The Church?

                  Some Christians are put off by the force of Church’s appeal for money from their congregation. These Churches mandate or threaten or dangle the carrot of God’s blessing or HIS wrath as a motive for their congregation to give. But there are churches, possibly in the minority, who teach their congregation the principle of sacrificial giving and do not demand. 

            Nevertheless, is it mandatory for a Christian to give money to the church? If he does not give, then what happens to him?

            Two terminologies widely used in this context are: Tithe and Offering. “Tithe” is an Old Testament term and it means “tenth” in the Hebrew. It’s the one-tenth of a Christian’s income. The “offering” is over and above the tithe. It’s a specified or an unspecified freewill offering of a Christian.

            The Old Testament specifies God’s mandate to every believer to tithe (Malachi 3: 8-10). But God is spirit and so does not need our money for HIS sustenance. Hence the believer’s money offered to God was to be put into good use for God’s people (Numbers 18: 21-24; Deuteronomy 26: 12).

            Therefore, money collected from God’s people was given to God’s people in various needy situations. Everyone, believers of God and unbelievers, are God’s people (Cf. Matthew 5: 45; Luke 6: 35).

            The third chapter of Malachi specifies God’s curses upon those defaulting on their tithes. This and maybe a few more are exploited by many pastors and elders of the churches to forcibly extract money from their congregation.

            Is tithing applicable today? A contemporary teaching is that tithes are no longer mandatory. This teaching is correct if and only if the emphasis is on “giving” rather than “tithing.” While tithing mandated one-tenth, the concept of giving mandates everything, life included (Romans 12: 1).

            The Christian should not legalize his giving to a mere one-tenth to derive sublime satisfaction, but he should excel to exceed the one-tenth. The Macedonian churches were an epitome of giving; they gave beyond their ability (2 Corinthians 8: 3). This is sacrificial giving.  

            So a vital aspect of a Christian life is to give beyond our ability. The terminology (tithe or giving) is irrelevant. A Christian should not contain his giving to a mere one-tenth, for this betrays sacrificial giving, the greatest epitome of which is Christ HIMSELF, who gave HIS life for us. If we optimize our giving to a mere one-tenth, we betray Christ.  

            Christian giving is not about whether it’s mandatory or not, but it’s a gracious overflow motivated by gratitude to God, concern towards others and extreme joy - of a life dedicated to Christ and HIM alone. But a Christian should not give in expectation of God’s blessings.

            Would God bless those who do not give sacrificially?

            Two situations could be considered. First, when God blesses those who do not believe in HIM, who are we to think that God would not bless those Christians who do not give (Cf. Luke 6: 35)? Second, when God blesses the wicked to prosperity, who are we to think that God would not prosper those Christians who do not give to HIM (Cf. Psalm 73)?

            If we insist that the prosperity of the wicked is outside God’s powerful presence, then we negate God’s sovereignty. Alternatively, we should examine the prosperity of wicked people from within God’s sovereignty. The sovereign God either causes or permits events to occur.

            Therefore, God either causes or allows the blessing of the wicked for reasons best known to HIM but from within HIS attributes - loving kindness and justice. Hence there is a possibility of God’s blessings upon a Christian who does not give sacrificially.

            However, the Bible asserts that a cheerful and a sacrificial giver would be blessed abundantly by the Lord. These verses communicate this truth, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously...for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly…Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…” (2 Corinthians 9: 6-11, NIV).

            God will abundantly bless (spiritually and/or materially) the sacrificial and a cheerful giver so that he continues to excel in the grace of sacrificial giving, which is always for the glory of God.

            But what would God do to a Christian who is unable to give sacrificially because of his meager income or excessive debt? Consider these two situations. First, a Christian could earn a measly income that he is literally hand to mouth or is unable to pay for his livelihood. Second, a Christian could have become bankrupt after a loss of all his life’s savings.

            If a Christian is living in sustained poverty and so is unable to give sacrificially, then his priorities and questions will be out of the ordinary. Tithes or giving will not be the primary concern of this person, rather the primary concern would be asking very difficult questions about God and anticipating a miraculous intervention from God to deliver him from his painful predicament.

            In both these instances and in similar situations, I am confident that God’s gracious blessings would not cease upon these Christians because of their failure to give sacrificially. In fact, the greater questions of these Christians could be:

            (1) “Where are God’s blessings in my life?”

            (2) “Why does God allow this great pain in my life?

            (3) “How and when would God deliver me from this painful situation?”    

            Would God curse those who do not give sacrificially?

            God in HIS perfect justice can curse anyone, if HE deems them fit to be cursed. In the context of the many verses such as Ephesians 1: 3, I understand that God would not curse someone for not giving sacrificially; instead HE will be patient and will teach them to give sacrificially. These verses summarize my position on this theme, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103: 8 – 10, NIV).

            The Bible does not teach that God will never be angry; instead God is slow to anger. The Bible also teaches that God’s people should give and learn to give sacrificially. So it should be our constant endeavor to give sacrificially.  

            Should a Christian give all his money to his church or can he give it to anyone doing God’s work? If we are a member of a local church, we are a part of the church family. The local church does have its share of expenses, and these expenses should be paid in full and promptly. Hence, it’s our responsibility to support our church financially. In other words, we cannot allow our church to suffer debts.

            Significantly, churches ought to be transparent with its financial records. Any church that does not declare its financial records to its congregation does not deserve money from anyone. Every member of the church possesses inherent rights to question the church authorities about the way the money is being handled.

            The church that does not declare its financial records to its congregation seems untrustworthy. So if I were a member of that church, I would only offer that which I think is due to them for their service to enhance my spirituality. This is synonymous to paying for the movie ticket to watch a movie.

            The church being a congregation of sinners is more often ruled by sinful authorities. These authorities often hold to selfish agendas and the church becomes a victim to Satan’s temptations when it overlooks the genuine needs of those in and outside the church. So if God brings missionaries or mission organizations into a Christian’s life, he should financially support these entities as well.

            What about a Christian who does not give to his church instead supports other deserving missionaries and mission organizations in Christendom? The money the Christian owns is not his, but God’s. It is God who should determine where HIS money should go.

            Therefore, a Christian should discern the will of the Lord in deciding the recipients of his sacrificial giving. If the Christian is confident that God wants him to divert his money to entities other than the local church, then so be it.

            Therefore, there’s nothing wrong in a Christian…

            (1) …giving sacrificially to his church.

            (2) …giving sacrificially to his church and to other deserving entities in God’s Kingdom.

            (3) …not giving anything to his church (if he’s got valid reasons) but diverts his sacrificial giving to other entities in God’s Kingdom, in accordance to God’s will.

            Finally, can the church force the Christian off his money? No. The church should teach their congregation the principle of sacrificial giving and should not demand. 

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