Giving Until It Hurts
“YOU can call me a beggar; that doesn’t bother me. I’m begging for Jesus.” Those telling words of a Protestant minister underline the controversy that swirls around religious funding. Organized religion seems to be able to survive only with sizable financial support. Salaries need to be paid, temples need to be built and maintained, evangelizing campaigns need to be financed. How is the necessary money to be found?
For many churches, the answer is the tithe.* “Tithing is God’s way of financing His kingdom on the earth,” claims evangelist Norman Robertson. “It is His system of economics which enables the Gospel to be preached.” Not shy about reminding his followers of their responsibility to give, he emphatically states: ‘Tithing isn’t something you do because you can afford it. It is an act of obedience. Not tithing is a clear violation of God’s commandments. It is embezzlement.’—Tithing—God’s Financial Plan.
Most likely you agree that giving should be part of Christian worship. However, do you find insistent appeals for money disturbing, perhaps even offensive? Brazilian theologian Inácio Strieder accuses churches of resorting to tithing to “solve their institutional problems” and labels such practices “illegitimate, abusive, and a theological aberration.” The result, he observes, is that “unemployed people, widows, slum dwellers, and those who are incapable of critical thinking conclude that God has abandoned them and that they are obliged to give so much to ‘the preacher’ that their own families go hungry.”
You may wonder: ‘Are churches that enforce tithing correctly applying Scripture? Or could some religions be invoking the fear of God to fleece the flock? Really, does God expect us to give until it hurts, as some would say?’
The tithe has been defined as 10 percent of a person’s gross income.