Church Criticisms Day 5: Churches Are Greedy – A Change in Finances
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV).
One of the more damaging teachings in present day churches is known as Prosperity Gospel. Personally, it is a phrase that makes my blood boil. Without naming names or churches, it is a blasphemous, poisonous, unbiblical teaching that has leeched its way into the 21st century church like a snake. Men and women have perverted Scripture to tell their audience that they should be rich; if they aren’t, they aren’t living in the will of God. They tell people they can win the “tithing lottery” if they just give a little more to the church (and, of course, to the pastor’s wallet). I’m actually getting a little worked up typing this out! It’s worse than nonsense; it is sinful, false teaching, and it is of the devil. So, yes, there are absolutely many churches that, unfortunately, are saddled with greed. If you are in a church that constantly tells you about how wealthy or healthy you can be through prayer, giving, and faith, my best advice for your best life now would be to leave and never go back.
There. I feel a little better having said all that! I get worked up for a reason. These awful teachings are what all too many people associate with all of Christianity and every church. We all get painted with the same brush, which is sad! It’s also sad that giving is being treated as a transactional thing. I give God X, and He gives me Y in return. This is completely contrary to Scripture. After all, God gave His Son fully knowing that Jesus would be hated, despised, and rejected in return. For many people, God has given X and has gotten nothing in return. Our financial giving should be a beautiful expression of worship, as we give as a “cheerful giver.” Paul notes that we shouldn’t give because we feel we have to (“under compulsion”). Nor should we give because we feel forced to (“reluctantly”). God is not pleased in either of those situations. Instead, He desires His people to give (yes, financially) because we want to, and because we want to please Him.
So, let’s get it straight. A church having an offering isn’t greed. Think about your own church. At a minimum, the building has to be paid for. Utility bills must be paid. Outreach work costs money. Missionaries need support. A sort of “rainy day” fund is smart in case something needs repaired. Where does that money come from? Under a rock or on a tree? Of course not! If comes from you. What happens if the church doesn’t bring in enough money to cover its bills? Hopefully, the people that give don’t let it come to that. But it could definitely happen! Sadly, this is the trap that some churches fall into. In an attempt to “go big,” they invest heavily in augmentations that trend towards entertainment. They expand their building. And up go the bills; they hope that, commensurately, up go the offerings. If they don’t, this can lead to a church’s having to take on the approach of emphasizing giving to receive something in return. Do some research on your church’s outgoing expenses and incoming offerings. You might learn some eye-opening things about your own giving. Spoiler alert: it might be pretty convicting (or even embarrassing).
But the lesson to be learned here is for us, the attendees. Instead of examining the motives of the church in “taking our money,” maybe we should examine our own motives in “keeping our money.” James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Paul wrote, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). Everything we have is the Lord’s and from the Lord. This makes the question not of how much I will give to the Lord, but instead, how much I will keep for myself. Jesus obviously did not live an opulent lifestyle. Why, then, should I? Earthly wealth is short-lived and short-sighted. Heavenly wealth is eternal in both value and duration.
So, if agree with and enjoy the community, teaching, mission, and Gospel focus of the church I attend, I should give in the way Paul told me to give: joyfully. I should give in the way Jesus told me to give: generously (see Mark 12:41-44). Lord, help my focus to be on what lasts and what matters: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).