My bible study group has just wrapped up a two-week study on tithing and it was so revealing! The discussions we had were honest, filled with a biblical perspective and more importantly, led by the Holy Spirit. I was led to do this study because it's a question that's commonly asked; should I pay my tithe? I answer this question in another post where I discuss the spiritual basis of giving to God - there's a lot more to it than a monthly 10% offering of your income. There are so many examples of the different types of giving (good and bad) and they're not all monetary. Each of these offerings were viewed differently and rightly so. We all have a different heart towards our offering to God and this ultimately determines the acceptability of our offering. We covered more of this in our first week and the second week was spent discussing a few questions about giving in the church so I thought I'd share.
Q. Is it acceptable to make a public declaration of giving? E.g. going up to the altar when a Pastor/Minister calls for a certain amount to be given.
A: Absolutely not! I don't believe there is a biblical basis for declaring what you're offering. Examples in the Bible show us what God’s response is to those who make a public spew tackle of their offering and God clearly prefers those who give with a humble heart. Read Matthew 6:1-4
Q. How should you respond when confronted about the amount you were offering?
A: You should never feel pressured to give more than you are comfortable giving and can afford. The bible tells us to give with a cheerful heart. Once we give out of fear of man, we risk losing the benefit of giving cheerfully. The best way to respond to this type of request is to politely decline to divulge this information.
Q. Should I pay my tithe with a credit card?
A: I have known this to happen and it's something I do NOT recommend. 2 Corinthians gives such a wonderful account of the Corinthian church's approach to giving. They truly embraced what it meant to give, in abundance and in lack. We might go through different periods where we're not able to give as much as we'd like but we should never put ourself in debt for this reason. As children of God, we are called to be lenders not borrowers so as much as possible, we should always give out of what we have. And in those periods where we may not have so much, we give out of the little we have - God cares more about the heart that gives, not the amount given. Read Deuteronomy 15:8 and Proverbs 22:7
Q. What should churches use the offering for?
A: This is one question that's very frequently asked, unfortunately, because of the rise of the prosperity gospel era which saw hardworking individuals paying their tithes and offerings directly into the pockets of Pastors who lived ridiculously extravagant lifestyles. I would highly encourage you to read Acts 4:32-37; it gives a brief explanation of how the monies brought by the believers was spent. I believe this template is still relevant for churches as there are so many people in local churches who are in need and don't get the support they need.
Q. I don't think my church uses the offering wisely, what should I do?
A: In the UK, most, if not all churches are required to register with the Charity Commission and report on their financial earnings so it's fairly easy to check how the money from your church is being spent. If there are other questions you would like to ask, churches should be open and transparent about how they use these funds so it could be as simple as asking the question. I do know that not all churches follow the template set by the Apostles in Acts but do support the church in other ways so I will encourage you to have the conversation and ask the questions you have. The financial reports may not always give an accurate picture.
Q. Should I stop giving if I suspect my church of misusing funds?
A: Unfortunately, this is something that happens and the easiest answer I can give is that you should never stop giving because of the actions of another person. This is where discernment comes in; you have to pray for God to guide you in this situation. If you're not sure funds are being used properly, ask the question as outlined above and make a decision about whether that ministry is right for you. Ask God to lead you to another opportunity to give. There are so many other ways we can help the body of Christ outside of a church offering including giving to a Christian charity, another ministry that helps those in need, or directly giving to those in need.
I hope this answers some of the key questions you might have about tithing/offering. After all is said and done the only person we will give account to is God. This includes the leaders who fail to follow God's instructions and even lead others to do the wrong thing!