I was listening to a sermon Sunday and the sermon was good until the guest pastor got a little too excited in his bid to convince people to give to the year-end offering the church holds and said “Are you not getting a breakthrough (the new Christian buzzword, in case you don’t know) or aren’t seeing the blessings you think you should? Maybe it’s because you aren’t tithing (In Christianese this means giving to the church) what you should be.”
He went on to suggest people need to give money to the church or they will remain stuck in their negative situations. This rubbed me the wrong way, of course, not because I don’t think we should give money to the church. On the contrary, I do believe in tithing and I do believe that God provides us with our money and we should, therefore, give it back to him. What I don’t like is when pastors link that giving to receiving blessing or answers to prayers, from God.
Are they suggesting God can be bought? That God can be manipulated into doing what we want because we give money to his church?. And is it really his church if pastors are telling people they can only be blessed if they pay cash (or they accept VISA and MasterCard too.)?
It reminds me of these clickbait emails I get from a well-known pastor with subject titles like “Do this one thing and your prayers will be answered.” Or “Five steps to get your healing.” I never even open those emails. That whole vending machine mentality, as I’ve said before, drives me crazy. It’s like: “Slide this ritual in and get an answered prayer out.”
Is this really what Christianity has become? Some vapid, self-serving, misleading lip service to get clicks and social media rankings? Does God really only answer our prayers if we pray this way or worship that way or give our money to a specific church? I don’t remember reading in the Bible that God only provides if you write a check to a well-known, internationally reaching church, though I do feel giving to the church (as a whole, not a specific one necessarily) is important, especially in a day and age of such absurdity and craziness going on.
My big worry is someone hearing what this pastor said and starting to believe that if they give all their money to the church their cancer will be healed, their husband will stop cheating, or their father won’t be an alcoholic anymore. What happens when their cancer progresses instead? What happens when their husband tell them he wants a divorce? What happens when their father dies in a drunk driving accident? Despite the money they gave.
Will they feel they didn’t work enough, do enough, spend enough to have their situation changed?
What message is that sending? “Come all you who labor and are heavy burdened…but bring your wallets because only then will God give you rest.”? I’m pretty sure that’s not what Matthew 11:28-30 says.
It says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
His burden is light. He doesn’t want to put more burden on you. He wants to help make what you carry through life easier. So why is the church heaping more burdens, in the form of guilt, on its people?
The Church preaches that Jesus died on the cross for everyone and the salvation that his sacrifice provided us is free. They’ll say that you don’t have to do anything to earn that salvation, to receive it, or God the Father’s love, but in the same breath, they’ll hinge your healing, your life change, your unanswered prayers on whether or not you gave money to the church. Something about that doesn’t sit right with me. There has to be a better way to explain that the church needs financial support, so it can continue to help those within and outside its walls without attaching guilt to it.
Oh, wait, that was it. Just say that. Just say: “We need your financial support to help reach those in need and spread the gospel. Give what you can, when you can. Prayerfully consider what you can give and give what you feel God wants you to.”
Remove the guilt. Remove the contingencies. Remove the false teaching that God will not bless you if you don’t give to the church during their once a year giving session. Remove the month-long sermon series to sway listeners to give you their money. It smacks more of manipulation than honesty to me and many others.
Don’t manipulate your church into giving money by acting like you can manipulate God. Don’t lay down little pieces of bread of life-supporting goodness in your sermon just so you can tie it all up with a reminder that next week is the week to open your pocketbooks.
The one good thing the pastor who spoke this weekend said was to give only what you can give – though he ruined it by adding whatever was given needed to be a sacrifice, which to me still sounds like he’s suggesting church members should give beyond their means if they want their blessing or their “breakthrough.”
We, as a church, need to stop hinging blessings and breakthrough on performance.
We need to stop hinging healing on writing a check.
We need to stop acting like we can buy God off.
No, we shouldn’t stop telling the congregation the church needs them to give and that God does want them to give so the church can continue its work. But when people start believing their illness, their loss, their difficult situation is based on what they didn’t do or didn’t say, we have a communication problem.
I don’t think that’s the message God wanted pastors to pass on — that they didn’t do enough or weren’t enough to be healed, to be saved.
God does love us and he does want to provide for us and it delights him to answer our prayers but we don’t have to do anything for him to do that.
We do not have to be saved by our works because Jesus already did the work for us.
Give to your church what you can give, support their ministries and make giving money a regular act, but never feel that if you are stuck in a situation it is because you didn’t give or do enough.
God never asks us to do or be enough because he is enough through us.