Tithing is way down, entertainment expectations way up

Before I was saved, I used to think that churches were a racket. “All they want is your money,” I’d parrot, like so many other people say without thinking. LOL, I have no idea how I thought the church building electric bills got paid, or who paid for the gas in the church bus that takes meals to shut-ins.

On a less practical and a more spiritual level, tithing and making offerings should be a joy and a blessing to perform, just as any other service to the Lord. It is an act of offering to give something back to Him, who has given us and will continue to give us so much. GotQuestions.org has a good essay on tithing here, with scriptures.

When I ran my newspaper, it was paid for by advertising. The paper didn’t cost anything to buy, so the local businesses that placed ads in the paper paid for the printing, mailing, circulation, insurance, and salaries. When a business was feeling the pinch, they would look for ways to cut back. Of course, advertising was often the first to go. There was an intangible benefit to advertising that couldn’t be quantified and was rarely demonstrable. Frugal business owners would cut back anyway and their ads would stop. The benefit was there, it just couldn’t be seen.

Tithing is like that. Taking the spiritual obedience away, on the practical side, people who are iffy on tithing often don’t see an immediate benefit, so when their household budget gets pinched, they quit. It is like advertising in the paper: an activity containing an intangible reward that goes out the window when money gets tight. They want the tangible reward and they want the payoff now, not later.

But just as money gets tight, people want more for their money. In Christian churches these days, they want and expect entertainment. So churches spend more to hold on to their church-hopping congregants. It is a downward cycle.

This article from the Christian Post reports on that downward cycle we’re seeing so much of these days. “Tithing Hits Record Low; Churches Spend More to Make Congregants Happy
“Are churches spending more on themselves than on the needs of those outside the church? According to a new report they are, with churches keeping a larger share of their tithe-generated income for their own in-house needs. In a report, titled “The State of Church Giving Through 2009,” released Friday by Empty Tomb inc., a Christian service and research organization, authors found that “benevolences” – or funds used for giving outside the church including giving to charities and seminary training – hit new lows compared to their first report in 1968. Understandably, with the tithing amount greatly reduced over the past few years because of a bad economy, a drop in benevolences was only normal. The report, which used data from evangelical and mainline churches including Lutheran, Presbyterians and Episcopalian churches, in fact revealed that tithing as a percentage of income was at its lowest level in 41 years, Religion News Service noted. Parishioners were only giving about 2.38 percent of their income to the church in 2009, down from 2.43 percent in 2008 – shockingly low percentages.” More at link.

One can only wonder what the levels are now, three years into the terrible depression we are living through. The article continues in the same sad vein:

“If Americans who identify with the historically Christian church had chosen to give 10 percent to their congregation in 2008, rather than the 2.43 percent given that year, there would have been an additional $172 billion available for work through the church,” the Empty Tomb website noted. Though the greatly reduced tithing rates garnered much attention, what remained more surprising to the authors was the church’s distribution of parishioner income. While only 0.34 percent went toward benevolences, over 2 percent was used on congregational finances. If the percentage of income for benevolences was at the level it was back in 1968 – 0.66 percent – there would have been an additional $3.1 billion in benevolence giving. “Churches on the whole are continuing to spend more on current members and less on the larger mission of the church and cutting back on missionaries,” Sylvia Ronsvalle, Empty Tomb’s executive vice president, told RNS.”

Wow. What is our prime directive from Jesus? What was the last thing He said to the people before he ascended to the right hand of the Father? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Our job as humans is to submit to God’s will for us. That will includes first and foremost, repentance to the Lord leading to salvation and a deep love of Him. After that, we’re told that the next greatest commandment is to love one another, and finally to witness to the ends of the earth. For those who can’t go, they finance those who can and do go. Failing to support missions, failing to support benevolences fails the two most basic things He told us we are put on this earth to do: love one another and witness to His glorious Gospel.

Far from being an intangible reward, the rewards we receive are very real: only delayed. Though we do not give in benevolent fashion only to receive a reward, but to honor Jesus, we do receive them. Here are a few of the verses which state this, as a reminder:

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)

“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

The reward is great:
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12)

It is so great we cannot even conceive of what it is:
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)

When we make offerings to Him, do we do it in like attitude as David?: “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.” (Psalms 27:6)

Because after all, He sacrificed Himself, freely, for us:
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:2)

Please do not let your church be one of these that expects entertainment while at the same time you are withholding a tithe or an offering to the Lord Jesus. Give, give joyfully and plentifully in love to Him and on behalf of others. And sing gladly.