Pastors, Stop Robbing My People, Church Membership is Not For Sale
This article is a warning to the church down the street who binds up their people with erroneous, legalistic and compulsive tithing requirements in exchange for church membership.
by Jon Hanna
There are churches throughout America that won't allow anyone to become a member of their church unless they sign an agreement to give ten-percent of their annual income solely to their church. Some churches go as far as requesting W-2 forms and other income verification. This is crazy! Some churches will preach on tithing 52 weeks a year without ever once preaching about prayer. Remember, God identifies His house as a house of prayer, but many of our unchurched friends have only learned that many churches regularly focus on tithes, (money). What a shame! These pastors will mistakenly speak of a misunderstood, annual ten-percent tithe 52 weeks a year, yet during the same period they won't even mention what the Bible says about adultery, divorce, fornication or homosexuality. What's wrong with this picture? Too much emphasis on money and not enough on prayer (fellowship with God) and holiness.
Manipulating God's people to give under compulsion and legalism, rather than obedience to God, is wickedness. (Since your church correctly teaches tithing through obedience to God through His Holy Spirit, and not legalistic tithing, you don't need to be offended at this column. After all, you help foster their relationship with Jesus and their trust that they're learning to walk by faith and obedience to Him and His word. You trust Jesus to lead them to support your church, uh, I mean His Church. Right?)
God wants to set His people free from their sin, which the law could not do. So He made a new and better covenant of salvation by grace. God now desires obedience and not sacrifice. Sacrifice is so impersonal and keeps people at a distance from God. Obedience demands an active search for God, a listening for His voice and obedience to it. It's that personal relationship of fellowship that we are suppose to be growing in. Teaching and practicing legalistic tithing limits a person's ability to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.
If your church demands that you tithe ten-percent annually, and specifically to their church alone or you can't be a member, you may want to find a church that recognizes membership through the blood of Jesus. You can't join the church anyway. You must be born-again to become a member of God's family. Once your born into God's household, in Jesus name, you are free from the law of the old covenant. No one can use the Levitical law of tithing as a means of qualification or disqualification for church membership to one who repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as their righteousness. If God be for you who can be against you? That includes the old covenant law of tithing, which is obsolete anyhow, (See Hebrews 7, and Hebrews 8, specifically Hebrews 7:18 &19, and 8:6-13). Pastors must trust God to put His law on the heart of His people so they can give out of obedience, rather than out of compulsion by the commandments and traditions of men.
Pastors who insist upon tithes for church membership must, themselves, keep the whole law. Levitical priests were qualified to receive tithes because God did not give them property as He did all other tribes. I don't know of any Christian pastors submitting to Levitical law and only taking room and board, (because they don't have to unless God leads them to). Many pastors who preach Levitical tithing own more worldly possessions than most in their congregations. They're not submitting to the Levitical law they impose. (Which is it, giving by the law of ten-percent, which was only required every third year (not annually), or giving by faith as the Lord leads?) Only the first fruits were to be given to the priests annually. Again, under the Levitical law, tithing ten-percent was only required on the third year, called 'year of the tithe'. Even then, the priests only received a portion of the third year tithe. A portion of the third year tithe also went to foreigners, a portion to the fatherless, and a portion went to the widows, (Deut. 14:28 & 29, Deut. 26:12), a four way split.
Because many give ten-percent to their church out of legalism and compulsion, they have no money left for the poor among them. Some are unable to help the needy in their own family because their churches are mistakenly imposing an annual tithe of ten-percent, strictly for their church. God instructs all believers to give to the poor and needy, yet I've never heard of any American Christian pastor that follows Levitical law and dispenses seventy-five percent of the churches annual income to the needy as the law requires.
The person who does give to the poor or needy around him often becomes ineligible for church membership. The person who gives cash so that no one but God sees his giving, does not meet the demands to prove tithing and is also denied church membership. This oppression must stop! All one-hundred percent of our giving in faith and obedience to God is acceptable to Him.
All of the giving done out of compulsion is not acceptable to God, yet that is the money that many ministries are building 'their' ministries with, (wood, hay and stubble).
Remember, unless God builds the house your labor is in vain.
Pastors who demand the tithe or refuse membership, stop robbing God's people. Teach them faith. Help foster a relationship between them and God through Jesus, where they can learn obedience to God's voice. Where they can learn to grow in fellowship (relationship) with Jesus. Trust Him to guide them and instruct them on exactly what, where and when to give. He promised you He'd write His law on their hearts. Now it's time for you to trust Him to build His house like He said He would.
God desires that we all support the work of His kingdom, which includes Christian education for our children, financially helping widows and the fatherless, giving to the poor and continue to support our local churches. But remember, we don't have to be forced or compelled to tithe for membership sake. We don't have to give ten-percent annually to the church to qualify as a member of God's church.
If you keep robbing the people of God, He is going to snatch His people out of your hands. God desires more than ten-percent for membership. He wants to set His people free from legalism so that they can give Him one-hundred percent, obedience. Now get out of His way so He can do it!