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Author Topic: Tithing and Financial Giving in the Protestant Churches?  (Read 1469 times) Average Rating: 0
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HabteSelassie
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« on: July 19, 2011, 03:25:48 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

This has been something on my heart my entire life, having been raised a Baptist and of course an American surrounded by endless denominations and even non-denominations, but what is the Protestant spiritual, theological, or soterieological explanation as to the seemingly mandatory status of financial giving and tithing in the Protestant churches?

Why give? Who are they giving to? For what and what pretext and under whose authority? What is the purpose, sola scripture interpretations aside.  I have always felt uncomfortable when the basket goes around, when the preachers mention financial giving in their sermons and even worse equate such tithing as being part of God's Grace and Blessings, like planting a seed.  This is not just for glib televangilists, even in small churches across America tithing, giving, and finances are an ever present aspect of Christianity, but for what exactly?

See, in Orthodox we have this radically different Ontology about Grace and giving.   We receive the Grace of God at no cost, we do not tithe in the legalistic sense that such financial giving will contribute or cooperate with God's Salvation and the healing Grace of the Divine Mysteries.  Initially, tithing in the Orthodox was simple, enough resources to maintain the clergy's households and also the upkeep of the Church property and of course the flour and grapes essential for the Holy Communion, which is the center of Orthodox worship.  Of course, the Church has always had wealthy patrons and donors from even the days of Christ and His Apostles, as attested by the scathing comments of the Essenes to Christ ministering to the rich and tax collectors. However, our tithing is not ontologically linked with our blessings or with God's Grace, as some Protestant preachers might have others convinced of.  We do not give to God to get back, neither to repay some kind of debt with our sacrifice of wages or effort of labor.  Ontologically, in the Orthodox we give to the Church in the way that the Israelites stripped the Egyptians at the Exodus, and then melted down the vain golden jewelry to build the objects of worship including the Ark, the Vessels, and the Tabernacle.  Ever since, to build a Church, to adorn an Altar, to donate a Chalice, to commission Church art, these have not been signs of opulence and celebrations of wealth or status by the Church, rather they have been methods for the pious to revert material gain for spiritual expression.  We do not receive any Grace or extra blessings for such financial gifts, rather it is just another of our Orthodox spiritual exercises.  Just like exercise itself does not give the victory in sport but rather is preparation, so to are our tithing and giving to the Church a means of exercising our spirituality through budgeting, empathetic giving, and conscious sacrifice.  We don't earn anything by this, but we do learn something through the experience. Plus it is practical, since the days of the Apostles, giving to the Church tends to benefit the poor, the widows, the sick, as through history and up until today the Church (be it Orthodox or Catholic) has fulfilled these crucial social services in our communities, so at least nominally to give could contribute to such (today this is especially true in the RCs)

I would hope that many Protestants see their tithing in the same kind of context, however I fear such is not the case from my experience with some of the more bane elements of American Christianity and Protestantism..

Could any Protestants our there explain what tithing means to them or their churches or from their experience to elucidate more clearly?

Stay Blessed,
Habte Selassie
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David Young
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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2011, 05:17:40 PM »

what is the Protestant spiritual, theological, or soterieological explanation as to the seemingly mandatory status of financial giving and tithing in the Protestant churches?

Why give? Who are they giving to? For what and what pretext and under whose authority? What is the purpose, sola scripture interpretations aside.  I have always felt uncomfortable when the basket goes around, when the preachers mention financial giving in their sermons and even worse equate such tithing as being part of God's Grace and Blessings, like planting a seed.  

I don't remember tithing being taught or even mentioned in my Methodist days, back in the 1960s, but it is common in Baptist, Pentecostal and Brethren churches. Let's separate tithing (i.e. giving a tenth of one's income) from financial giving, for I assume all Christians believe they should give something financially to support their church and its work.

Tithing is giving a tenth. Some churches talk about "tithes and offerings", meaning you should give 10% anyway, and that doesn't count as an "offering". What you give above the mandatory tenth is deemed a freewill "offering". I am not saying this is correct: I am merely trying to define the meaning of the phrase.

There are, I think, three approaches:

1. Some churches teach that, as Jews under the Old Covenant were required to tithe, so are Christians. That is the minimum.
2. Some teach that there is no mandatory amount laid upon Christians, but if you want to have some idea where to start in working out what you personally will give, the tithe is a good place to start your thinking and perhaps your practice.
3. Whilst teaching the duty to give something, other churches mention no amount, even as voluntarily accepted guidelines such as a tithe.

Then there is the question of where to give. Some churches teach that the entire tithe should be given to the local church, on the basis (I think) of the text which says bring all the tithes into the storehouse. Others would see more liberty in this, and would deem it proper to include giving from the tithe to other organisations, such as missionary societies or Christian philanthropic works - though they would expect it to be given to specifically Christian work of some sort, because it is giving to the Lord.

Another common practice is for a church as a body to give a tithe of its income to other Christian work, again such as missionary or Christian philanthropic ministry: that is, if a church gets £100,000 one year into its bank accounts, it will give away £10,000 that year.

It is commonly believed that God blesses an individual or a church which gives in this way, not (of course) because the blessing is in any way earned, for that would go entirely against the Protestant belief in sola gratia, but because it pleases him. As it is written, God loves a cheerful giver. The text which says bring all the tithes into the storehouse is immediately followed by a promise of overflowing blessing. Without checking, I believe it is in Malachi.

There is no soteriological aspect to giving or tithing. It makes no contribution to whether or not a person is ultimately saved, though one's developing or sustained practice would be part of one's progress in sanctification and devotion.

One's giving should, as far as possible and practical, be kept secret, as in the Sermon on the Mount - which is why, of course, I have not said which of the various views I myself take.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 05:20:41 PM by David Young » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2011, 05:33:08 PM »


It is commonly believed that God blesses an individual or a church which gives in this way, not (of course) because the blessing is in any way earned, for that would go entirely against the Protestant belief in sola gratia, but because it pleases him. As it is written, God loves a cheerful giver. The text which says bring all the tithes into the storehouse is immediately followed by a promise of overflowing blessing. Without checking, I believe it is in Malachi.

There is no soteriological aspect to giving or tithing. It makes no contribution to whether or not a person is ultimately saved, though one's developing or sustained practice would be part of one's progress in sanctification and devotion.
All of what you said lines up quite well with everything I remember from my Protestant days. The encouragement of regular giving was seen as something of a spiritual discipline, to be part of every Christian's life, as much as prayer and Bible reading.
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2011, 07:28:57 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I agree with y'all, that was how it was when I was raised, but that was in small Appalachian Baptist churches where 10% of anything didn't really amount to much of from even everybody so it wasn't quite like these mega churches today.  But really, that is the heart of what I am curious about.  I understand more "responsible" Protestant churches that use their contributions to support food banks, or the Red Cross, or a mission afield somewhere, or some "feed the children" type adoption program etc etc and I am familiar with these.  But then again, there are an entire group of people in churches (and growing) that really seem to be beyond logical scale and it forces ones to ask the question, where is this money going exactly? Further, especially from my Baptist background, I would be very cynical about any church where the tithing and giving is emphasized from the pulpit unless in specific regard to some need the church is fund-raising, any other sermons seem a blatant conflict of interest, even within the Orthodox. 

However, my real issue is the difference in ontology.  I had to learn to readjust to the Orthodox rhythm of worship and understand the difference in the concept of Orthodox giving and the separate concept of charity.  In my experience with more sincere Protestant tithing, it is usually connected with the same concept of Christian charity, which is not necessarily warranted.  Yes, some tithing should support some charity through the Church (which it generally does be it Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant) but realistically, in Orthodox charity (which is obligatory)  is separate from tithing in the Church.  This is why the story of both Christ and the woman with the alabaster and also the Israelites stripping the Egyptians of their gold to make the Ark and the vessels are good to understand the Orthodox.  Its not that we don't help the poor, its just that we realistically can do both adorn our Churches, support our clergy, and also give charitably to support the poor and needing of our communities. 

But what of these megachurches? We in the Orthodox give to the Church because of the authority of Apostolic Succession and the Divine Mystery of Ordination makes our clergy literally sacred, so we are duty bound to give them often the benefit of the doubt if they already haven't earned our trust.  But what of these mega churches (like where my aunt and uncle now attend) and these televangelists who mention quite often money matters, tithing, and financial giving in blatant connection with being blessed by God etc etc, and surely the people who support these ministries are not stupid or duped? What motivates these people to give so widely, blind faith? Literalist interpretation of the Old Testament scriptures? I have been curious about these long before my Orthodox conversion..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2011, 03:25:53 AM »

But what of these mega churches ... and these televangelists who mention quite often money matters, tithing, and financial giving in blatant connection with being blessed by God etc etc,

They are regarded as deceivers preying on the gullible.

Quote
and surely the people who support these ministries are not stupid or duped? What motivates these people to give so widely, blind faith?

Stupid and duped are different things. You are right - many of them are not stupid, and those who are should draw out our care, not become targets for rapacity. But duped, yes - the "Evangelical" gurus must be perceived as so close to God, that what they say, God is saying, so it's good to get in on the act and become part of it all.

Is it not a fact that certain people, including highly intelligent, highly trained professionals in other spheres of life, often go into a religious meeting and, as it were, hang up their mind along with their coat in the vestibule? And so - yes again - it becomes a sort of blind faith which they would never allow to operate in the other areas of their lives - hobbies, business, investments, family etc.

Having said all that, I confess I have never experienced a mega-church, and I have never watched a televangelist except once when someone played a recording to me, and it seemed to me like high farce - nearly as good as Fawlty Towers, but blasphemous. (I felt mildly guilty for the fact that I could not restrain the laughter of spontaneous mirth.)
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2011, 09:03:46 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I suppose its really just a matter of taste, which is hard to define tangibly, considering that the conventional Protestant ethos in America lacks the rigidness of any kind of universal doctrine.

I have met folks who are quite sincere in their piety and also their involvement in megachurches, they seem neither duped nor stupid as I said.  Realistically, I can only assume that then this is a result of the lack of cohesiveness in Protestant America, really what defines a Church by these traditions? What really grants legitimacy from one denomination or preacher to the next? The standard has always seemed to me to be floating upon the sentiments of the membership.  So one man's scoundrel is another man's keeper in this regard. Sure some staunch Baptists wouldn't even take a church with a tambourine seriously, but then again, what even gives those more sincere Baptists any authoritative legitimacy aside from a social contract with its membership? This is where the fluctuations can appear then, and how megachurches creep into our communities, and more and more Americans reject traditionalist legitimacy and embrace a purer Protestant approach.  Its also nothing new by the way, all of the Great Awakening revivals of the 18th and 19th century were the mega churches of their time, having "camp meetings" and such with tens of thousands of people attending, and traveling preachers would routinely draw in large crowds. 

Further, not all televangelists are snakes, Gene Scott (rest his soul) was one of the good ones, who would get up and teach the Bible from TWELVE languages no less, and spend hours on single verses! Sure, he was eclectic in other things like UFOs and conspiracy theories, but he was intelligent about it and it made it interesting if not entertaining.  Of course, Dr Scott was much much different then the Benny Hins or the John Hagees, people with blatant agendas and financial motivations. 

So again, I'm curious how much the ontological differences between Orthodox and Protestantism in America reflect what defines both a legitimate church and also legitimate tithing? Really, on whose authority is it?

Stay Blessed,
Habte Selassie
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 04:50:01 AM »

what defines ... a legitimate church?

Briefly, in a nutshell (for I am sure people write long monographs or books on this), I think we could say that we (Baptists) define a church in the light of Acts 2.41-42: a body of people who have believed and been baptised, and who meet regularly (normally it would be on Sundays at the very least) for teaching, fellowship, prayer and (not necessarily weekly) the Lord's Supper. That is, a combination of faith, the sacraments (or 'ordinances') and regular religious meetings.
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