Godpuddle

Splashing around in theology.

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Location: Ottawa, Canada

I read lots. I have a cat. I drink coffee. Therefore, I am.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tithing

I am writing this from a Chapters store, while sipping a Starbucks coffee.
[Big surprise!]
While browsing the shelves I happened to notice this book, shown here to the left. Finding Financial Freedom: A Biblical Guide To Your Independence.
It’s by Grant R. Jeffrey.
I set my coffee down and flipped through the thing, landing upon chapter 3, entitled: The Importance of Tithing and Charitable Giving: The Key To Financial Success.
I guess, one of my first thoughts is… the “financial success” of whom?

Tithe, the word itself, means “tenth.” The tenth part of something is a tithe.
In Christian circles the word is known to represent the tenth part of one’s income, or more specifically, one’s “increase.” Christians committed to active church life are not only encouraged, but often commanded to surrender one-tenth of all their financial increase to the church, for the furtherance of its work.
As a minumum! As a commandment found in scripture.


Do Christians do it?
Well, lots of them do, yes.
Jeffrey’s chapter 3 begins with these words:
“A recent study of giving habits found that only 4 percent of all church members tithe. Not only does this lack of generosity rob Christians of the joy of giving; it also prevents them from experiencing God’s promise of financial blessing.”
I must admit, I myself have quite a different take on this conclusion.
The way I see it, what this opening statement shows me is that a clear 96 percent of church members are a bit smarter than the other 4 percent!

I mean, come on!

To me, it is clear that Christian advocates of “tithing” are basing their admonitions on Old Testament laws and principles which are no longer applicable to modern-day people.
And Mr. Jeffrey knows this also. He says, “While we are no longer constrained by the Old Testament Law, God’s principle of blessing our obedient giving remains as His unchangeable law.” [p.39].
But whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold thy oxen!
I contend that this is a claim that goes quite beyond our mutually understood convictions. By that I mean, it is an interpretive statement, and as such, subject to investigation!
Just prior to making that statement, Jeffrey cites Leviticus 27:30 as a reference point. The passage says, “And all the tithe of thy land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.”
How lovely.

But I have just re-read the entirety of ch.27 of Leviticus, and I can assure you that there is not even one other verse in that chapter that modern mankind would claim as some sort of culturally normative practise!
So why single out this one thing about tithing?
In fact, this whole portion of Leviticus is rife with laws that deal specifically with the Hebrew people of an ancient era in time. Are we to follow all of these scriptural passages with the literal exactitude that Jeffrey is suggesting?
What then should we make of this one, found a few pages earlier, in Leviticus 19:19? “Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.”
Holy Moses! Should I check the tag on my T-shirt now? Run home and rend my poly-garments? Should I call my mom and tell her she needs to decide whether she wants carrots or cabbage this year…. because scripturally, she can’t have both?


A favorite passage that people like to cite [regarding tithing] is the one about Abraham and Melchizedek. From Genesis 14:18-20.
But the thing is, Melchizedek is reported to have made this gesture prior to Moses revealing the Law at Mount Sinai. [To be fair, Jeffrey acknowledges this]. But my point would be, if we are going to use this passage at all, why not use it to emphasize the difference between tithing [according to Law, which I contend is defunct], and donating, [according to the heart, which I contend is valid].
Certainly we should donate, certainly we should give of our increase and income to causes that are worthy of our concern and charity, but we should not do so based upon some alleged God-given law. Nor should we do it based upon some returned blessing we are expecting to receive as a result of our obedience!


Jeffrey teaches [in this chapter] that, “God promised that we would reap his blessings in direct proportion to the amount we sow.” [p.40].
Then, when he is asked in his seminars HOW MUCH people ought to be giving, he answers: “do you want God to bless you in proportion to your net income or your gross?” [p.40]
How ridiculous is that?
Like God is this Accountant in the Sky, balancing a ledger on a cloud.

But of course Mr. Jeffrey is going to say this.
Why?

Because that is WHY HE WAS ASKED TO SPEAK AT THIS SEMINAR!
It is his current VOCATION to say this.
Afterwards he shakes hands with all of the conference organizers backstage, and receives a check for saying it! And he was asked to speak this very message by a committee of people who not only totally agree with that answer, but who want him to say it because they are going to [in turn] financially gain from it.
Pastors are forever inviting guest speakers like Mr. Jeffrey to their congregations in an attempt to motivate the saints to become Old Testament tithers. All pastors dream of ways in which they can educate that other 96 percent!
Another common dream involves convincing people that the local church is the equivalent of the “storehouse” of Malachi 3:10!
[I’ll save that exegetical discussion for another day].

Why is the word “increase” preferred over the word “income”?

Well because this covers an entire other swath of stuff that the faithful are supposed to hand over to the church!
For instance [p.40]… if you sell your house for $300,000 but you only had paid $200,000 when you purchased it, you now owe your local church $10,000.
One tenth of the “increase.”
You know, if we are going to be entirely consistent here, the ancient Hebrews usually BURNED their offerings! Would any church ever advocate such a thing? Set up a large barbeque in front of the pulpit, and have everyone fling their cash onto the grille?
Well?

You know what I find extremely interesting? At the front of Jeffrey’s book is a list of his previous publications. There are twelve books listed.
However, this one, shown below and entitled The Millennium Meltdown is conspicuously absent.

Do you know why it is not there?
Because it was whacky!
It was all about the Y2K computer crisis. It adamantly held that on midnight of New Year's Eve, 1999, millions of computers worldwide would crash. Power grids would fail. It would result in the most devastating and costly problem in history. It would probably even set the stage for the coming world government that was biblically prophesied to arrive in the last days.
Well, as you and I both know, this greatest of all technological disasters to ever hit the surface of the earth proved to be about as menacing as a fuse with no firecracker at the end of it!
That’s all I will say.
I just feel that this author likes to deal in hyperbole.

[Fast-forward six years…]
Chapter 3 of Jeffrey’s LATEST book ends with this:

A story is told about a man who died and went to heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter, who led the man down the golden streets. They walked past mansion after beautiful mansion until they finally reached the end of the street, where they stopped in front of a modest wooden shack. The man asked Saint Peter why he got a shack when others were enjoying so many gold mansions. Saint Peter replied, “We did the best we could with the money you gave us.”

He obviously hasn’t learned much from the Y2K storytime-session… because this one, above, is equally bogus and unwarranted.
Besides not even being very humorous, the little vignette makes me angry, and I will tell you why it does.
It makes me angry because too many people hearing it, believe it.
And the person telling it, knows this. He knows that many will believe it. That’s why he tells it.
He knows that for many hearers [not all, but many] it will be much more than a little story. And I think it is unfair to wave metaphors like this around in front of [certain] people who do not know what metaphor is.
It amounts to what I would call, spiritual abuse.
When he tells this little anecdote to faithful parishioners, so many of them will get their checkbooks out and start calculating, and writing… and dreaming of their mansion.

**************

7 Comments:

Blogger RantandRoar said...

Grant Jeffrey epitomizes the oppression of religion (and in particular christianity) to "the common folk" of this world. Most of Jeffrey's previous books are not only scientifically inaccurate (like his claim of hugely increasing major earthquakes in the past 100 years when in fact The American Geological Survey , which he names wrongly in his book, claims the opposite), but he distorts biblical text to great proportions to accredit his claims in his prophetic writings (as you have exampled among many others). Jeffery's has over 4 million books in circulation, not to mention his TV shows and specials, along with personal engagements to the "faithful" of which, I am sure you can imagine is very lucrative. I like to refer to Jeffrey's as a prophet of hysteria.

He works hard in his speaking and writing to create a hysteria among those who would believe, so that he can make a very comfortable living. Now that many of his previous books have been total discredited by the "world" (but these inerrancies ignored by many of the evangilical churchs) such as The Bible Code and The Millenium Meltdown (version 1 and 2), now Jeffrey's has cooked up a new scheme to make money. By writing a book on tithing, he has become every pastors dream guest speaker. The famous Grant Jeffrey, who in the past has brought fire and brimestone on the heads of unbelievers with his doomsday prophecies, is now availbale to speak to your church on why your attendees should give every last cent to "god" in order to buy their way into the kingdom. Great scam he's hatched up here no doubt. This man has less credibility than George Bush at a Democratic convention!

As for tithing, I believe it is another teaching of the bible's old testament to tighten the hold on it's followers. Most world religions want it's followers to be beholdin' to their god through money for 2 reasons;

1. To keep the adherant in subservience to said religion/god.

2. So the priest, pastor, guru, rabbi, etc. can "stay in business".

My words, not as eloquent as yours but ... the whole thing is a load of bull shit.

4/30/2006 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Cleo said...

Thanks. I'm at home sick and now I'm totally ticked off as well. Listen, if there is a heaven and it's a place where the money I've given to a church determines my status or acceptance there, I don't want to be there-it's just like Earth! More and more I view religions, especially those of the conservative and/or fundamentalist types as a hiding place for those people who cannot think for themselves. Somebody makes a bunch of rules to make them feel superior and good about themselves and it allows them to look down on everyone else - all so they don't have to think for themselves and do the hard reflecting and soul searching. People keep falling for the 21st century's version of the snakeoil salesman and rain makers. I read the End of Faith like you recommended and now I'm on American Theocracy and I'll tell you I just want to scream, "WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE WITH WORKING BRAINS GONE???" The future scares me more and more because of these folks. Now I need another nap, my head may explode...

5/03/2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger cipriano said...

Terrific comments here.
I think I am in the same ideological boat as the both of ye.
Rantandroar, visceral as ever!
And cleo, frustrated. Perhaps you are as I consider myself to be? A "Christian" in exile? I don't know, is there such a thing as christian with a little "c"?
Maybe that's what I am.
Like you cleo, I think what bothers me the most is the non-thinkingness of it all!

Let's hang in there.
Keep thinking straight.
Reading, learning, growing, thinking.
Talking, blogging, loving.

5/04/2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger Cipriano said...

Someone keeps leaving a comment here which does not actually APPEAR in this space... it only appears in my personal email. Hence, I cannot reply to you.
James, you are asking for permission to quote from this article on "Tithing".... feel free to email your request to bookpuddle@yahoo.com
Thanks.

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