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Chptr 16 - The TV Preacher Says So

"Well, the God I pray to isn't short of cash, mister."- Bono, U2's Album - Rattle and Hum

"Every business has operating costs. Tithing just covers overhead. Besides, ten percent is cheaper than taxes and I think the church does a better job managing the money than the government." Tom Searcy, 2001

"I don't think that tithing is the point. The ten percent is really about all of it. Money, time you give in service, donations to charities, coaching kids, it's the whole thing. Add them all together and that's your 10% tithe."  Guy overheard at a conference.

I was viewing some information feed on the Internet and a picture of Joel Osteen's house came up. I think that the house was so big the picture was taken from a satellite. If you do not know who Joel Osteen is, I have no idea how you got this book. He is a Christian pastor, speaker, and writer who is very famous and prolific. His house represents all things people believe about Christian ministers - that they receive enormous amounts of money from their work and the donations of congregations to then shower that money on themselves. There is a famous news story of a different pastor who wanted millions of dollars to buy a plane in order to "spread the gospel."

If you have ever toured the Vatican, you noticed it is not a hovel. Priceless frescos and gold and silver treasures from around the world adorn the walls.

Wow! I want this pastor job! I just have to get people to give money to the church in order to squander it on myself.

The fact that so many pastors seemed to live so extravagantly kept me from tithing and giving to the church. I am not stupid; the church is a ridiculous place to put money and I do not understand why I should give my money to them.  I actually do not think that you are going to tithe because of what I am writing here. I do not have a story about ”giving it all to God and He gave it back ten-fold" story, although, I don't mock anyone who does. It's just my story is a little different and bigger. People who tithe usually don't compete on their collection of miracles as compared to others, but we should. It would be a cool Olympics to have every year. Who had more miracles than other people because they put God first and were more obedient? (I kind of lost my way on the chapter, so be patient and let me get back to it.)

My wife and I had been on a "work your way up" plan. We tried to give little bit more each year. We were at about 5.5% per year at one point and were working toward 10%. That 10% would be "when we got to it," based upon our budget, expenses, and income. You know we were planning the other things and tithing with what was left, covering the other items, just in case.

Lie - I tithe 10% to the CHURCH, rather than tithing to God.

We were listening to a sermon and the pastor made a lot of sense. The point was simple; God asked that you give the 10% of what is already His back to Him in order to show your obedience to Him. All is His anyway, but are you obedient? Do you believe that you are obedient, and you put Him first, or do you believe you put yourself first? Whoa! Rewind the tape- Say that again, slower. All is His anyway, but are you obedient? Do you believe that you are obedient, and you put Him first, or do you believe you put yourself first? It is hard to think about it when the truth is hard to hear.

My wife and I talked about it on the way home from that sermon and realized that we thought we were giving money to the church. We were not putting God first. In our own minds, we were contributing to the light bill, the mortgage, and the salaries of staff of the church. It was like paying our dues at a country club. That's not what God said at all. He said in the scripture to bring your tithe to the church in recognition of Him. What He does with it is not relevant. The issue is our obedience to Him, not His use of what is His. Also, He did not say, "Choose where you tithe." He said, "Bring it to the temple" (Nehemiah 10:38). That is the church. This kind of blew our minds. We had been talking about obedience, prayer, small group attendance, charitable giving, service, and so on. All good. Of course, we had decided that was what we wanted to give in order to show our obedience.

Sure, we are generous to other charities, with our time and other blessings that we are given. Those are other opportunities to give and participate in His work. It doesn't have anything to do with tithing. Tithing is about showing God that in our lives He is first.

I don't have all of the stories people tell of multiplication of donations that I hear. Not financially. I have so many other blessings that financially I really don't care. We are so blessed in our lives that financial multiplication does not matter. Tithing is not about a spiritual investment portfolio. It is simply about knowing and showing what comes first. I happen to know that our church manages money that it has been given well. Our church tithes as well. That is also not the point. I am not God's accountant and auditor. I have been asked to bring God my first 10% to show Him where He sits in my life. If God said, "Set 10% of your earnings on fire in your front yard to show me that you are obedient," then that is what I would do. Stupid? No. Obedient? Yes. God is not asking my opinion. He is defining what demonstrated obedience looks like in the form of what is first in your life.

What about the church? I'm supposed to bring my offering to the temple to show obedience to God, which we call the church. What if the church does not operate with financial acumen? What if you do not like how the pastor is using the funds??

I don't think that this gives anyone a free pass. We are to show obedience to God. If the church is not obedient to the principles that God laid out, then move to one that is. In the meantime, yours and my responsibility is not to the church, but to God. That means your obedience is expected, represented in your tithe.

Just so we may be on the same level on this when I am in doubt about the financial practices of a church, I don't

• Like it

• Think it's fair

• Believe that it's the right thing to do

• Want to pretend like there isn't a problem

• Give money when I know that it is not supporting Godly principles

If God had asked my opinion and wanted me to define under what conditions I was going to be obedient, I would have provided this list and a longer one. God is God. He did not ask for my list or my contingencies. He said to put Him first, be obedient and He will work out the details. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). I do not like that passage; it seems like such a cop-out. However, it is true. It is like telling a child not to run with scissors or a young adult to buy insurance. At that child’s stage in life and manner of thought, we ask them to do things and accept things that are sacrifices. Those warnings or sacrifices may not be understood for a very long time, but all will be understood in time. The kids do not even remember that they were told or were angry or resentful at the time, they are just glad when they are protected.

When I was twenty-five years old I started purchasing disability insurance. I was in a white-collar management job, had company disability insurance, but I started buying it anyway. I continued to buy it for twenty-five more years and even increase my policy. Often, I thought of how stupid I was and what I could have done with the money. For a reason I never understood, I kept buying the insurance with money out of my own pocket. At fifty-one years of age I became permanently disabled and this policy protected my family and myself for a long time going forward. I did not know why I bought it nor why I kept it or why I did not follow the advice of many smart people to cancel it. Twenty-five years later, God’s plan became clear.

The belief that we give money to the church is so insidious in America because it is Baal for us. If you go back to the Old Testament, Baal represented all of the idols that were held up by the people to worship instead of God. For the modern people, we put our money first. We watch it, earn it, spend it, talk about it, worry about it, protect it, invest it, measure ourselves against other people with it, horde it, and consider ways to pass it on to the next generation. Our ratio of time spent on God versus money is a pretty clear illustration. I have passed the point of lecture here. Let's tighten it up.

Jesus isn't greedy. We are.

If you think I'm right or wrong - please post up in the Comments-

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