The World According to kcillini77

June 18, 2008

Feed the world or feed the pastor(s)?

Filed under: America,Christianity,Kansas City,tithe — kcillini77 @ 11:17 pm

My parents taught me from an early age to tithe, and I’m happy they did.  When I got a dollar, I put a dime in the collection plate at church.  It became a habit and I knew it was the right thing to do.

The first time I remember having any qualms about giving to the church was in high school.  I had my first real job, and I knew I needed to give to the church.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head that we lived in a small house with no air conditioning and had one car.  Meanwhile, one of my classmates was my pastor’s daughter.  She was never wanting for the latest fashions, lived in a house with plenty of privacy and central air, and drove her own car to school.  Every day I saw her, I would wonder how much of the money I put in the collection plate ended up as a new outfit for her.  I would quickly try to correct my attitude.  It doesn’t matter what happens to the money, as long as we’re giving it to God, right?  God loves a cheerful giver, and I need to be cheerful!  Stop thinking about it, dufus!  But of course the next time I saw her she had a new watch and… STOP IT!  I felt tremendous guilt for being jealous of my pastor and his family, and I constantly tried to get it out of my mind, but it really never left.

I’ve gotten over the jealousy.  Really, I have.  But lately I’ve been pondering this scene that I have seen over and over again in the churches I’ve been in.  A video is shown of hungry kids in Africa or poor people on the streets of our city and a sincere plea is made for funds to help them.  Our hearts are genuinely touched.  Then enter the pastor.  “This organization really needs your help.  Please consider giving generously.  Remember this should be above and beyond your regular tithes and offerings.”  Excuse me???!!!  You just told me about starving children who are going to bed hungry every night, and you feel compelled to remind me that while I should be helping them, I should not do it at the expense of keeping the church mortgage and salaries paid?  Why not?

Recently I read through all of the biblical references to tithing.  All are in the old testament, and most references refer to the tithe (usually crops and livestock) being used to sustain the livelihood of many, and to celebrate the LORD.  Check out Deuteronomy 14.

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Some day suggest to your pastor that instead of paying his salary every year the church throw a big barbecue in the presence of the LORD with a nice assortment of wine and mixed drinks, except for every third year, where we just feed the poor and destitute.  See what kind of reaction that gets you.

Listen, I am NOT suggesting that our churches don’t need money.  I’m not suggesting that a pastor shouldn’t receive a salary.  I’m not saying that we don’t need buildings or to have the power bill paid.  But when the church says that it is more important that we have a staff of a hundred with salaries and benefits sufficient for suburbia to keep all of the church programs and activities going than for children to eat, that’s when I cry foul.  I challenge anyone to show me (biblically, not traditionally) why the firstfruits must go to the administrative needs of the church rather than to the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows.

I’m probably crazy, but I think God would rather that a child in South Africa find nourishment and live through another day than that a child in suburban Kansas City have a youth center to play XBox.  But maybe I’m just not reading my Bible correctly.  You tell me.

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