How Does Your Religion Raise Money?
IT TAKES money to run a household, a business or a government. It also takes money to sustain the operation of a religious organization. Many and varied are the methods used by churches and temples to raise the necessary money. Which method does your religion use? More important still: Which method does God’s Word, the Bible, indicate as the one to be preferred?
The more popular methods of raising funds in use by many religions include church suppers, bakery and rummage sales, bazaars and even ox roasts. Of course, there is nothing wrong with these activities in themselves, but when they are employed for the raising of funds for religious ends, the Christian naturally feels tempted to look for some Scriptural basis or precedent that supports their use. But the search is in vain, because it was not Jesus and his apostles who originated these methods of fund raising. In fact, the lunches provided by Jesus were free.—Mark 6:35-44; 8:1-9.
Others, again, raise money for their churches by operating games of chance, such as bingo, raffles and lotteries. It must shake the composure of some church members to read press reports such as these: “Church Raffle Fete Shut Down by Police,” and “Charity ‘Wheels’ Seized.” Some may be reluctant to think of this as gambling. Somehow or another it may seem to them that, since the games are connected with church work, they are lifted out of the realm of anything suggesting immorality. ‘And,’ they may feel, ‘there is really no harm done, since the funds are not appropriated for the personal enrichment of individuals.’ But just a little thought on the matter will tell us that someone is being harmed, at least in a financial way. Since these projects are for the purpose of raising funds for the church, then there has to be a winner—the church. And since there has to be a winner, there also has to be a loser—the participant. So is this going to help the participant to stand up to his financial obligations at home and elsewhere? He may feel that this is only a way to help him live up to his obligations toward his church. But he could always contribute the money to the church according to his means. A lot depends on whether he wants to get a “kick” out of giving or happiness out of giving, which is what the Bible recommends. (Acts 20:35) Of course, there are more than just financial obligations to be considered. People join churches as a means of bringing themselves closer to God. But can it honestly be said that raising money by games of chance draws people closer to God? He speaks out against those “setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck.”—Isa. 65:11.
A number of churches employ the services of professional fund-raising experts who make use of all the up-to-date techniques of salesmanship in order to high-pressure church members into making larger contributions. Then there are also “psychological stratagems,” advertised by such organizations as the American Institute of Motivation Research and offered to clergymen for a price. But what is the effect on church members when they begin to realize that they are being treated with “techniques” and “stratagems” every Sunday? They may give, but are they happy givers?
OPERATING BUSINESS ENTERPRISES
Then, again, other churches have gone into business to raise money. Thus the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Journal, February 25, 1962, reported that “Churches ‘Lay Up Treasure’ in Business,” and that “Many Denominations Make Profits in a Wide Variety of Nonreligious Enterprises, from Parking Lots to Wineries.” Under these headings the Journal went on to say:
“Just inside the gate of a large amusement park in New Jersey a black-robed nun sits on a folding chair, accepting with a warm ‘God bless you’ each coin that drops into the cigar box on her lap. To beg, she’s not ashamed. But if it’s money she’s after, real money, her humble method is as out of tune with the 1962 church scene as her whispered aves with the calliopes’ strident oom-pah-pah. . . . She could, for example, turn a neat profit for her church by owning a parking lot, or a restaurant, or an apartment house, or a coal mine. . . . Or she could make exquisite candies, or bake fine bread, or [make] new brandy. . . . These are but a handful of the profitable ventures pursued today by churches across the land.”
But is business for profit necessary for the sustaining of religious activity? There is certainly nothing wrong with a Christian’s being in business. The apostle Paul and other early Christians worked for financial gain when this was necessary. But necessary for what? Why, necessary for their own personal needs, so that they could sustain themselves as active ministers of God’s Word. There is no record that the first-century Christian church itself ever went into secular business for its own support. Jesus did not feel any need to amass funds for the sake of carrying on his ministry. When a certain rich young ruler came to consult him on God’s requirements, Jesus did not tell him to invest and expand his riches for the sake of contributing to the ministry. Rather, he told him that he would do well to rid himself of his material encumbrances for the sake of dedicating himself to ministerial work as a follower of Jesus.—Matt. 6:19, 20; 19:16-25.
ASKING OR BEGGING
The item we quoted from the Milwaukee Journal spoke of a nun begging for her church. Roger Lloyd, religious editor of the Manchester Guardian, once stated that he gave two cheers when, after twenty years, he ceased to be a parish priest. One of these cheers was to celebrate the fact that he would no longer have to beg for money. No doubt, one of the ways he begged for his church was by having the collection plate passed. This common practice is not usually thought of as begging, but the insinuation involved is tantamount to begging.
Much of this form of raising money is done by mail, as when Billy Graham sends out postal cards soliciting help to pay off the deficits incurred by his publicity campaigns. A letter sent out by the Passionist Fathers Missions, located in the southern part of the United States, begins this way: “Dear Friend: Did you ever have to beg? God grant that you shall never have to. It is a most unpleasant task—one that often meets with harsh refusals and bitter, unkind words, or simply ignoring. Yet, beg we must. The priest in the mission is forced to be a beggar for Christ.”
But can we imagine God’s cause in such dire straits that his servants have to beg to keep it alive? Does begging for God make sense? Is it in the fitness of things to beg for the One to whom belongs the universe, “the beasts upon a thousand mountains”? The priests and Levites under the Mosaic law never found it necessary to beg. When, in the days of Nehemiah, the Israelites failed to provide properly for the temple worship, the Levites went to working in the fields to provide for themselves.—Ps. 50:10-12; Deut. 12:19; Neh. 13:10.
The same principle applied in the days of Jesus’ apostles. When fellow Christians failed to support the apostle Paul in his ministry, he worked at making tents. He acted on the principle laid down by Jesus: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Paul set the pattern for Christians.—Acts 18:3; 20:34, 35; 1 Cor. 11:1.
Perhaps your church is one of those that raise money by means of the tithe. Some of the smaller denominations, such as the Seventh-day Adventists and the Mormons, have practiced tithing for a long time, but today there is a definite trend toward its use in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Especially zealous in this regard is the American Roman Catholic weekly, Our Sunday Visitor. Says a “Father” Joseph Payne: “This is God’s plan, not man’s, that each wage earner give 10 per cent to His works. . . . If we question the fairness of tithing we are questioning God’s wisdom.” It is said that every family must tithe the gross income, and this regardless of how large the family is and how small the income.
But is tithing “God’s plan”? No, says the Roman Catholic theologian Gregory Baum, professor of theology at St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Canada. To claim that it is, says he, is dangerous, “because it not only proclaims wrong teaching but also falsifies men’s conscience and causes anguish and revolt. The divine teaching confided to Israel has been abrogated. . . . As Christians we are free from the law of Moses. Circumcision, tithing and other commandments are no longer for us. Is tithing the law of the church? The answer is very simple. It is not.” However, the sixteenth-century Catholic Council of Trent went so far as ordering the tithe on pain of excommunication.
Gregory Baum may be mistaken as to Roman Catholic teaching on the subject of tithing, but he is not mistaken as to what the Bible teaches about it. When Jesus Christ abolished by his death “the Law of commandments consisting in decrees,” he also abolished tithing.—Eph. 2:14, 15; Rom. 6:14.
If tithing were for Christians there would be some indication to that effect in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but we look in vain for such an indication. Although tithing is mentioned some forty times in the Bible, there are only three separate and distinct references to it in the so-called New Testament.
The first of these is where Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you give the tenth [or tithe] . . . but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” Another reference is found in the words of the self-righteous Pharisee of Jesus’ parable: “I fast twice a week, I give the tenth [or tithe] of all things I acquire.” Yet a third reference is found in a discussion of the subject in the book of Hebrews, where tithing is mentioned to show the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus, but not to show that tithing is for Christians.—Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb. 7:4-9.
Just reasoning on the subject rules out tithing as a means for sustaining Christian activities. Christian service is a matter of love, and love is not rendered on a percentage basis. A man who truly loves his wife does not need any such regulation in order to supply her needs, nor would he limit himself to a certain percentage if able to give more when required. And a woman who truly loves her husband would not expect a certain percentage of his salary for herself regardless of whether he could afford it or not. God is more reasonable than the best of housewives.
Besides, tithing is not always an entirely equitable arrangement. Due to present unequal economic conditions, the tithe for one man may amount to a mere trifle, a bagatelle, as it were, whereas for another it may represent a staggering burden. So, on the one hand, the tithe would not necessarily indicate unselfishness and, on the other hand, it would work a real hardship, an oppressive burden.
It is not surprising, therefore, that tithing was not a part of early Christian teaching. In earlier times it was required in God’s law for the Israelites but it was an entirely just arrangement. In the first place, each Israelite received a just portion of land and, if this were lost, provision was made for restoration in the jubilee year. Besides, the tithe was given primarily to the Levite, who received no inheritance in the land. But those conditions did not prevail in the Christian congregation. For this reason neither do we find any tithing arrangement in the postapostolic days of the Christian church. Says the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics: “The system of tithes was not resorted to for several centuries . . . Until the fourth century little is heard of it . . . Epiphanius says that the tithe is no more binding than circumcision.” (Vol. 12, p. 348) However, with the falling away from the true faith, as foretold by the apostle Paul, the Christian church also went astray as to the means to be used to raise money to take care of the expense incurred in preaching the good news. Still it was not until the sixth century that certain church councils made the tithe obligatory, and only toward the end of the eighth century did Charlemagne make the tithe a matter of law for the Holy Roman Empire.
However, even in ancient times the simple device of having a contribution box or chest was found to be very effective. This was done in the days of King Jehoash and High Priest Jehoiada. Such chests were also found to be practical in Jesus’ day, and a similar method prevails in the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses today. A contribution box or two are placed at the rear of the hall where each one may go and contribute whatever he chooses without feeling any obligation or compulsion.—2 Ki. 12:9, 10; Luke 21:1.
Where the true Christian spirit is, there is no need for anything more; the fund-raising activities discussed here are not employed. What is required is more teaching of the people about God’s own attributes, his wisdom, love, justice and power, the truth about his purposes regarding the vindication of his name and the establishment of a paradise earth. Not to be overlooked are the Bible examples of unselfish giving displayed by God’s Son and also by God-fearing, though imperfect, men. This teaching will bring about a spontaneous response from those so taught. Then, as the apostle Paul expressed it, “if the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”—2 Cor. 8:12.