Sadly we have entered the day of Christian criticism. Sheep are biting shepherds, and shepherds are abusing sheep, and to try to get to the cause is like when the fighting brothers exclaimed to their mother, “it all started when he hit me back.”
There is much division about many things in professed Christendom, and for what it’s worth in many cases rightly so. The late Dr. Rogers said it is better to be divided by truth than united in a lie. One of the things in this day that seems to have created a fault line between Pulpit and Pew is the issue of whether or not believers should tithe. Not only has it become just an issue of disagreement, for many it has become an issue of accusation, slander, and vitriolic exchange. The issue of tithing aside, the heart of the angst is an issue all by itself. The fact of conflict itself over the tithe has become it’s own issue among many Baptists.
The Bible makes it plain that “only by pride cometh contention.” Whatever the reasoning of the mind, pride is the permament problem of the heart. That being said, why is there this much anger over the doctrine of the principle of tithing? I didn’t ask why is there much disagreement, I asked why is there much anger. I don’t have the answer but but there are some things I want to point out.
One – For some people the fact is that there are a lot of pastors and preachers that “over-preach” it. I tell my congregation from time to time, that if they’ll listen to me, when I’m finished I’ll quit. There is no doubt that there are many money preachers in the pulpits of this land, and people are awake to that fact, and tired of that fact at the same time. I have been guilty of preaching past my point on several occasions, and that is often the case here. Sometimes these preachers really are guilty of being money preachers, sometimes they are just guilty of not being aware of the fact that they’ve made their point.
Two – What many in the pew need to realize is that pastors are not paid in proportion to the income of the church any more. Whether their people tithe or not has no bearing on the salary of the pastor. The fact is that most church members in this land do not truly practice the principle of tithing, yet the pastors still get paid. I cannot speak for the motives of every man who over-preaches tithing, but the general fact is, it doesn’t benefit him one way or another. I am not aware of a single legitimate viable church that pays the pastor according to the general offerings of the church. My point on that is this, it is a futile argument to accuse the pastor of wanting more money for preaching on tithing. Pastors are paid the same whether the offering be up, or the offering be down. Generally even when it comes to cutting budget items, the Pastor is also the last one the church wants to touch. So to be accusing these pastors of wanting more money from tithing is kind of a toothless bite.
The fact just may be that they understand that the Word of God teaches the principle of tithing.
Third – The fact may also be that this is a source of conviction for those who do not practice tithing. Not from the stand point of disagreeing about the principle, but from the stand point of comparison as to what they actually do give. I have pastored people that rejected the principle of tithing, (without hostility) but gave more than 10%. I have pastored people that rejected tithing, and wouldn’t even put a “look” into the offering plate. The fact is that when someone giving 2% hears that the Biblical principle is 10% it’s like anything else; it will do one of three things. It will either turn them, burn them, or have no effect at all.
Fourth – It is not only Pastors that hold the conviction of the principle of tithing. I know specifically of a church that on one occasion, took issue with a pastor that wouldn’t tithe. By their own reading of the Word, and by their own conviction, they were convinced that the tithe is the Biblical principle when it comes to basic giving. He was not, and did not, and ultimately they parted ways. (There were also other reasons involved.) My point, is that many people have tried to drive this wedge between pulpit and pew, and sometimes the disagreement is between pew and pew and pulpit and pulpit. The fact is that this is not merely an issue of “greedy pastors” as some want to accuse. There are many “tithers” all the way around.
Now just for a personal note here. I mentioned in a previous post the names of Steve Gaines, and Mac Brunson. I do not personally know either one of these men. I have hosted Steve Gaines at my church, and enjoyed some private conversation and a meal with him. And I will say this as fact and let it speak for itself. He left here refusing our funds. He would not receive our travel reimbursements, or our honorarium for speaking, and had we not prearranged the ticket for dining he would have rejected that as well. So what that boils down to, is that it cost him financially to preach at a Bible Conference that we held. I will let that speak for itself.
When our emotions get the best of us, they bring out the worst in us. I personally am more concerned with todays constant criticism of the Baptist pulpit from within Baptist pews, than I am with whether or not all of my church memebers are giving their 10 percent. I would much rather see ALL of our church members actually in church than I would to see them all tithe. I would like to see all of our church members more faithful in a lot more areas, and most pastors I know would agree. When I preach on praying more, people who aren’t praying like they ought to do not get upset. When I preach on witnessing more, people who are not witnessing more do not get upset. And I am extremely thankful that when I have preached on giving, (tithing), the people that are not tithing do not get upset.
Antagonistic criticism is a course changing force, and more often than not that course change is a negative. There is nothing wrong with addressing wrongs that is needed; but that is not the same as passionate criticism of something we don’t agree with.
Now I will say this. I have said that I will post further my defense of tithing, and I will. But for now I believe in the principle of tithing from my understanding of the Bible. I believe that it is wrong for a Christian to know this principle and not practice it, for to knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin. The church I pastor takes care of my family and our needs, regardless of whether or not people tithe. I do not remember the last time that I preached on tithing. Our church has always had what it needs to do what it feels lead by the Spirit to do. One of the things that I remember and have kept, and use frequently from the late Dr. Rogers is the fact that “the Lord always pays for what He orders.” Because of that, I never worry as a Pastor about the funding for the ministries of this church.
My encouragement to you is don’t let the issue of tithing change the way that you view the Lord’s churches, or the Lord’s pastors. That is a change that is not worth making.