Money -- The Real Issues
Money, is there a touchier issue. Touchy because most people do not understand what money is and how we as Christians are supposed to manage it. We are deluged with so-called financial experts, telling us how to manage our finances. Some of the advice is good, but much of it is poor and the reason so many people are in financial trouble.
The organized churches have responded to these needs by hiring so-called "financial teachers" to come to the churches and give "financial seminars." These teachers come into the churches and often teach very poor financial practices. The only credential they have for teaching people about finances is a Bible College or Seminary degree. Hardly the credentials for giving people financial advice. Only our acceptance keeps them coming.
The church leaders like to bring in these people because their Contribution Income does increase. These Financial Speakers are good for coming in and telling people that if they pay tithes to their church, G_d will bless them financially. They further contend that G_d will not bless them (in other words curse them) unless they pay tithes to their church. To support their untoward conclusion, they cite Malachi 3:8-12. They further support their conclusions that even before the law existed, Abraham paid tithes to King Melchizedek of Salem. (Genesis 14:20) Then they talk about the establishment of a tithes system in the Mosaic Legal System. However, they do not talk about Jesus' comments about tithing:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23)
But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of G_d: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:42)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We may now call our religious leaders, pastor, reverend, bishop, etc., but are they any different than the scribes and Pharisees who opposed Jesus. These religious leaders gave, as a matter of pride, because in the end, they were only giving to themselves. What religious leader puts money into their own offering plate without realizing that they still maintain control over how that money is spent. The end is that they build their own ministries and bring credit to themselves.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
Suddenly, when we realize the hypocrisy of their actions, the question becomes apparent: are these religious leaders really serving God or are they serving themselves? To answer that question, we have to look at motive. Does their attitude in ministry reflect an attitude of love or are they into greed? Do not be deceived by their words. Any greedy person with even a small amount of intelligence will contend that they are not greedy, that they are serving the LORD with what they are doing. No, we will have to look deeper. We have to search our hearts and their hearts to find out what their real attitude is. How do we search their hearts? We call upon the Holy Spirit, the One who knows the truth.
The Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. However, to be led into the truth, we first have to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth and let Him set us free. We have to find out if their hearts are filled with greed. We also have to find out if our hearts are filled with greed as well. How do we react when we hear the "financial expert" tell us that if we give the churches money, that G_d will bless and prosper us? If we reach for our purse or billfold, we need to stop and pray.
But if we empty our purses and wallets, and sign that pledge card, we have accepted their premise and will be set up for their next move. They fan the flame of our financial wants and desires, by selling a "machine giving" program to insure their "client church" will have a stable "cash flow." The tell us that if we follow their "machine giving" program, we will get rich and prosper in everything we do.
However, if you think about it, if "machine giving" would make you rich, the churches should be full of rich people, working at high-paying jobs. The reality of the situation is just the opposite. We see lots of tithing people, but very few of them are any more prosperous than their non-tithing and non-believing neighbors. Instead, we see lots of people emptying their pockets and their bank accounts, and get nothing for it. As a tax preparer and financial advisor, (Mr. Mack has a BA in Accounting and an MBA in Information Systems Management) I have watched while my clients have given their money away. While there are a few that do get rich, I more often see people ending up worse off than before. When they should be retaining their money to feed their families, they drop it into the collection plate in hopes of prospering and getting rich. This is a total tragedy, because the church falls into low repute because their people give away their money when they should be attending to their needs.
The second tragedy comes later when these people give their money to the church and nothing happens. They blame God and lose faith in His Word. The Bible is true, but only when read in its full context. Woe unto those religious leaders who use G_d's Word to manipulate people into giving their money to them, because of their greedy desires for riches.
Let us take the analysis further. If we are giving money to the churches in hopes of getting rich, we are guilty of the sin of Simony; buying the blessings of God with money. Read the story of Simon the Magician in Acts 8:18-23:
"And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."
If indeed, we are trying to purchase the blessings of God with money, we are in big trouble. We need to get down on our knees and confess this sin, ask for forgiveness, and then start searching for truth.
The bottom line is very simple: we cannot serve God and greed! They are mutually exclusive. The time has come when we must choose: either we serve Jesus Christ or we serve greed. If we choose Jesus Christ, we will have to confess our greediness as sin. Once that is done, we need to embrace and fall in love with the truth. Only after we have experienced the truth, can we know how to find out if a leader is greedy.
When we have made that decision to follow the truth, we have to re-examine our giving. Giving must be something that should come from the heart and must reflect an attitude of LOVE! Otherwise, we are just wasting our money. If we insist upon giving our money with a greedy attitude, we would be better off going to the convenience store and buying some lottery tickets or taking a trip one of the gambling casinos and at least we could have "a measure of fun" giving away our money. Besides, gambling revenues in part pay for a lot of social works, same as many churches.
Now that we have resolved to bring LOVE into our giving equation, we have to face a problem. Just because we have said we are no longer greedy does not mean it will not rear up its ugly head from time to time. Greed is as much a drug as nicotine, cocaine, or heroin. The temptation will be there, and we will have to resolve to defeat it. This task will not be easy. The advertising world's primary focus is to get us to be greedy for things, for services, and untoward desires. They will get us to want this, to want that, and suddenly, we are trying to make those extra bucks so we can fulfill the desires the advertising world has placed in us. Suddenly, when the offering plate is passed at church, we are tempted by the idea that if we give to the church, God will give the money we need to buy what we are programmed to want. When this happens, we have to realize we are "greed junkies" and must get on our knees and pray for forgiveness and help.
To help with the greed problem, the best thing we can do is to call a "giving moratorium." When the offering plate is passed, we pass it on! When we are asked for money, we "just say NO!" We cannot give into the pressure people place on us. The devils like to "put us under pressure" and force us to do something quickly and without thought. When the Holy Spirit leads, He does so gently. We need to be sensitive to this leading of the Holy Spirit and be ready to give when he says give and if he does not say give, then keep our money in our pocket.
While the giving moratorium is on, we need to pray and ask God about how we should give. If we are addicted to greed, then we may find that it will be a while before God may let us give again. God will use this time to build us up in LOVE so that when we do give again, it will be in LOVE and not for greed. Yes, there are many organizations and churches, which may be worthy of our money, but unless G_d directs you to give away that money, you do it in vain! We must resist these organizations that use various forms of "guilt-manipulation" or other spell-binding programs to separate us from our money. If we give any kind of a response to organizations that use these methods, we have missed the plan of God. If these organizations were truly relying upon God for their finances, they would not have to resaort to using these methods.
The operant words in our giving should be TRUST and SURRENDER! We must learn to trust G_d when it comes to our giving. Then we must surrender our money to G_d and let Him lead us in how we should give it.