I listened to the sermon in Mum’s church two weeks ago and the topic was about giving offerings (i.e. tithes) to the church.
According to church doctrine, one of the duties of a church member is to give offerings. Though this is a feature that is common to all Christian denominations, I would like to concentrate on the giving of offerings within my Mum’s church.
You know that in the early years of your marriage, Mum persuaded you to listen to the doctrines of the church through regular Bible studies. However, you have decided to stop attending those studies because you found that her church and its doctrines were not to your liking.
In one of our family dinners, you have mentioned your opinion about the church’s finances. (I’d rather not mention it here.) Thanks to you, I have felt the urge to question church doctrines and take them with a grain of salt.
In this letter, I will mention the Biblical bases of giving offerings (according to how the sermon was delivered).
Why give offerings?
"Therefore, through him let us always bring God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Do not neglect to do good and to be generous, for God is pleased with such sacrifices."
— Hebrews 13:15-16 ISV
But isn't it just a doctrine written by man?
"For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that person be condemned!"
— Galatians 1:11-12, 8 ISV
How should one give offerings?
"Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.
Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver."
— II Corinthians 9:6,7 ISV
Where do the collected monetary offerings go?
1. To provide for the needs of the ministers
"In the same way, the Lord has ordered that those who proclaim the gospel should make their living from the gospel."
— I Corinthians 9:14 ISV
The ministers are not allowed to have other means of earning money (e.g. job with a salary, business) except through preaching and other church work. In local church jargon, it is called “tulong” (financial assistance). It was based on a law made by Moses.
"For in the law of Moses it is written, 'You must not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' God is not only concerned about oxen, is he?
Isn’t he really speaking on our behalf? Yes, this was written on our behalf, because the one who plows should plow in hope, and the one who threshes should thresh in hope of sharing in the crop."
— I Corinthians 9:9-10 ISV
However in the next verse (which was not mentioned by the minister during the sermon), I have read:
"If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you?"
— I Corinthians 9:11 ISV
It was then backed up by another verse:
"For everyone must carry his own load.
The person who is taught the word should share all his goods with his teacher."
— Galatians 6:5-6 ISV
2. To provide for the needs of the church and the ministry
"For this ministry you render is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but it is also overflowing with more and more prayers of thanksgiving to God.
Because of the proof that this service of yours brings, you will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and because of your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else."
— II Corinthians 9:12-13 ISV
According to church doctrine, the monetary offerings are used to provide for the needs of the church, for the administrative expenses, and for evangelical missions. In this era of technological advancement, the church uses print media, radio, television, and the Internet to spread the gospel, and that needs money. (Yes Dad, they have a radio and TV station.)
3. To build houses of worship
"Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, says the LORD."
— Haggai 1:8 UKJV
The church buys an area of land where a building (or buildings which include offices and houses for resident ministers) will stand. The church also buys building materials, pays the laborers, and provides for the maintenance of the buildings and the things used in the church.
I asked myself, “Why would God, a being who had the power to create planets and galaxies, need a man-made house here on Earth?” There are a lot of homeless people due to poverty and natural and man-made disasters. They do need houses.
The “carrot and stick”
"For he will repay everyone according to what that person has done:
eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing good;
but wrath and fury for those who in their selfish pride refuse to believe the truth and practice wickedness instead.
There will be suffering and anguish for every human being who practices doing evil, for Jews first and for Greeks as well.
But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who practices doing good, for Jews first and for Greeks as well."
—Romans 2:6-10 ISV
The “good” being referred to is, again, the duty of giving monetary offerings.
And finally, the last reading of the sermon:
How to show devotion?
"Never be lazy in showing such devotion. Be on fire with the Spirit. Serve the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in trouble, and persistent in prayer.
Supply the needs of the saints. Extend hospitality to strangers."
—Romans 12:11-13 ISV
This only means that church members should always do their duties, which includes the giving of monetary offerings.
Being a cheerful giver is nice, but I’d rather give to those who really need the money. God does not need money and houses, people do.
There are a lot of people who lost their homes and livelihood to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng and they are in need of help. For me, helping them through donations and volunteer work is the way to go. The church can thrive even if I choose to divert my charity pesos or dollars to worthy causes.
(J) The Freethinking Geek