Yesterday I was perusing the SMCC Draper Facebook Page, as we occasionally like to do with some of the churches that we check, and I came across this video that they recently posted, which you can watch on their Page here:
You can also see our entire discussion by going to that video on their page as well, but first, let me explain exactly what happened.
The video does a decent job of explaining how Christians are now in a New Covenant with God in which the two great commandments: Love God and love others, is written on our hearts.
Seeing this video on SMCC's Page wasn't exactly surprising. After all, they are a church like most Christian churches which claims to preach the Gospel and believe in the grace of God, but at the same time, they preach the Old Covenant Law of tithing.
Unlike many Christian churches which pressure and manipulate people into giving more by simply taking the many Scriptures on giving and constantly referencing them to their congregation, SMCC doesn't just pressure giving. They actually preach tithing as a commandment of God.
If you don't remember, that was Rick Henderson's answer to my question of what their church's official position on tithing is: "We believe it's taught in the New Testament."
Additionally, Paul Robie has written an entire ebook on the topic, the church's website has a Position Paper on it (which we refuted here), an entire page dedicated to it, and even a video on that page to further pressure people into giving more to their church.
This church is all about the money, and they get it by preaching a legalistic doctrine of tithing wherein which people are actually commanded to pay a minimum of 10% to the church.
Seeing a video on their page which touts and reasonably explains the grace of God through Christ and His Gospel made me wonder: How can they claim to be a gospel preaching church when they believe Christians are actually obligated to the law of tithing?
So, I left a comment:
"Pretty good video. Jesus fulfilled the Law and nailed it to the cross, establishing a new law of Love written on our hearts by God. Love God and love others. This is why we aren't bound by the Old Testament Law anymore. So how does preaching the Old Testament Law of tithing to free Christians work exactly?"
Now to be honest, I've tried asking questions like this on the SMCC Draper Facebook Page before. The Check My Church Page has been banned from commenting on their Page at all, and the comment I made under the CMC account was deleted promptly.
Needless to say, I was expecting the same reaction with this comment, but I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. In a happy and surprising turn of events, whoever runs the SMCC Draper Page (I'm assuming it's either Rick or Paul), actually answered me, and from there, a debate commenced!
Here's how it went.
The Debate On Tithing
At first, it seemed the only discussion to be had in this thread was between myself and one of our good friends and CMC readers, Patrick Leyerle. Here's how things started off.
Patrick: Sarah Young your question is valid. Tithing wasn’t always about money in the old testament. Nonetheless, it’s not part of the new covenant.
Sarah: True, it wasn't necessarily about money. Glad we don't have to worry about it though. I couldn't afford it. Jesus paid our tithing on the cross.
And then SMCC Draper/Paul/Rick, or whoever it was representing that church, actually responded (emphasis mine).
SMCC Draper: Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law and we celebrate that. Fulfilling the requirements of the Law is the not the same thing as removing all commands. The Old Covenant (Old Testament) finished and we are in a New Covenant (New Testament). New Testament Christians understand that all commands are an expression of God's love for us and obedience is our expression of love to Him and others.
John 14:15 Romans 13:9-10
There are good hearted, intelligent New Testament Christians who disagree on the matter of tithing. Some see it as a clear command. Some do not. Yet, virtually all understand regular financial giving to be a command. At SMCC we believe that tithing is included in the good, loving commands expressed in the New Testament. Anyone who is interested can read why we have that understanding: https://bit.ly/2Sjye26
And so, the debate began. Read the rest here, or you can go to the original thread on SMCC Draper's Facebook Page here.
Patrick: Show me where in the New Testament tithing is a command. Show me in context. Please! I’ll wait.
Sarah: The New Covenant consists of two commandments: Love God, and love others. Just as the video you posted explains. All Old Covenant Laws have been fulfilled and all now hang on these two great commandments (Matthew 22:40). Why would we revert to trying to obey the Old Covenant when Christ shed His blood to free us from the OT Law and give us a new and better one, written directly on our hearts? (Romans 2:15; Hebrews 8:6)
Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians taught or commanded to pay tithing, nor regular financial giving. Your 41 page document seems unnecessarily long for answering the simple question of where in the Bible are we commanded to pay tithing. I’ve actually read the whole thing before, but I can’t find anywhere in it that shows Jesus or any of the writers of the NT actually commanding Christians to pay a regular tithing or financial giving to a church. Could you just share one verse with us that contextually shows that tithing is commanded of Christians?
Giving is an act of love, and as 2 Cor. 9:7 says, it shouldn’t be compelled. Commanding Christians to pay a tithe is obligating and compelling them to give in contradiction to that Scripture. We are to give as led by the Spirit out of love and it’s between us and God, not us and anyone else.
Patrick: Tithing is not for us today. Do we pay a temple tax, priests. No. Look at how Abraham paid tithes. Not the same as you preach.
Patrick: Love is the law for us today. Money isn’t.
Patrick: Jesus taught about giving to the poor. Not to corporate churches who get bigger and bigger.
SMCC Draper: As was stated before, this read will explain our understanding of scripture on this; https://bit.ly/2Sjye26 I hope you'll take the time to see where we're coming from.
Sarah: I think you know that I've already taken a lot of time trying to see where you're coming from (See: https://www.checkmychurch.org/.../refuting-smcc-s...). All I'm asking for is one verse to show that tithing is commanded of Christians in the New Testament. I don't think one exists. I'll re-read your e-book on giving though. Will you answer any questions I have regarding the ebook itself?
Patrick: I’ve read it. Please, one verse in context!
SMCC Draper: It's assumed in 1 Corinthians 9, specifically "in the same way" v14; Paul relates supporting ministers to how the priests were supported in Israel (which was the tithe), and then says "the Lord has commanded", which either refers to Jesus' commanding something we don't have a record of, or his comments to the religious leaders about tithing in the Gospels (showing that he saw it as valid, and never said anything like "oh, until after I rise from the dead" or "but only in this age, not the church age" etc.). In light of Paul's comments here, and no "qualifiers" elsewhere on tithing (only further comments on "offerings") we feel confident that tithing is a New Testament concept;
1 Corinthians 9:7-14 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of 12 support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
Sarah: Thanks for the Scriptural reference. Regarding 1 Corinthians 9:14, it seems strange to me that Paul would say the Lord has actually commanded preachers of the gospel to receive their living from the gospel and then immediately following that statement say that he refuses to charge money for the preaching of the gospel (v. 18). And then in 1 Thess. 2:9 how hard the disciples worked to avoid being a burden on their brothers and sisters. It seems to me these contradictions, in addition to the fact that Jesus is never shown to have commanded this of us, it would indicate that this isn’t the true meaning of 1 Cor. 9:14.
But besides all that, it says “preachers of the gospel”, not “pastors” of “churches”. Aren’t all Christians preachers of the gospel? Additionally, it’s more likely that Jesus commanded Paul and His Apostles of something like this to them personally at that time. If it was for us today, we would see it pretty clearly. Not to mention, the entire rest of the section of Scripture you’re citing gives us an entirely different message from Paul.
“15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.”
SMCC Draper: Obviously Paul did not wish to use what was his stated right as a minister of the Gospel personally. As was obvious from the beginning of this conversation, we will have to agree to disagree.
Sarah: His right, sure, but not a commandment, or he would have followed it. Instead he outright refused to, so it must not really be a commandment. We can agree to disagree, but I don't think it's fair to burden people with something and call it a commandment of Jesus when it's so highly debatable. Why not let people decide in their own hearts what they believe about this issue?
SMCC Draper: We don't think it's clearly debatable, based on the words of Jesus and Paul. And we wouldn't use the word "burden". We don't say that about other acts of obedience to the King. He gets our allegiance, and it should be in every area of our lives, even as imperfect as we are in surrendering to Him. You seem to have confused two things here as well...it's not a commandment to receive compensation for ministry, so Paul was free to do whatever he wanted. The commandment is on giving. But hey, even if you feel like you can look the other way in this area because 1 Corinthians 9 is not clear enough for you, hopefully you would look at Abraham and say "hey, what a great example, pre-Torah, of an honorable, sacrificial giver....I will use that as my standard as well."
Note: It was at this point that I became irritated. The suggestion that I find God's commands "burdensome" when I'm refuting that tithing is a commandment entirely, is the exact kind of language churches and pastors like to use to guilt and shame Christians into paying tithing and giving more to their church. This in addition to the implication that I am "looking the other way" when presented with Scripture (but not really) sent my fingers flying, so sorry for the extra long response, but it's how my pregnancy hormones reacted, people. Can't shorten it now! But first, Patrick's response and another one from SMCC.
Patrick: Give to the poor. Quit building your cooperates empire. Bigger churches, better stuff. Jesus taught about giving to the poor. Not to build a bigger church.
SMCC Draper: He actually talked about both. And we are happy to do both. The good news is that we don't have to pick and choose which parts of the New Testament to follow. We find delight in all of it.
We don't equate churches with buildings. The church is the people. The people need resources to both use and give away. We are thrilled to follow Jesus command to "go into all the world and make disciples." We are thrilled to follow what Jesus' brother James wrote, "care for widows and orphans in their distress." Through the generous investment of time, money and energy, SMCC is able to provide: Celebrate Recovery - SMCC Draper, Utah Grief Share Support After Suicide Divorce Care Jewels (serving those in the sex industry) Financial Peace University Support of the Rescue Mission Prison and Jail Ministry Support of Holding Out Help (serving those leaving polygamy) Serving churches and ministry efforts around the world (Haiti, Guatemala, India etc.)
This is just one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul loved to use the body as a metaphor for the local church. We need each other. We can't live the Christian life alone. We accomplish more for the glory of God and the good of people together.
Patrick: You missed my point completely. Never said we didn’t need each other.
Sarah: “we don't think it's clearly debatable.”
Oh, but it is, or we wouldn’t be debating it right now. You have one single verse taken out of context in 1 Corinthians 9:14 that might suggest that it’s possible that Jesus commanded that preachers of the gospel live from the gospel, but it doesn’t mention tithing at all, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Christians paying a tithe to their church.
We don’t have His words in Scripture saying that Christians must pay tithing, only Paul’s statement there that preachers of the gospel must live from it. Nowhere does Jesus actually command tithing to Christians. We also have Paul doing the opposite of what he was supposedly “commanded” to do, refusing to live from the gospel in order to avoid burdening his church and preach the gospel in vain. Then we have several verses that contradict that it could possibly be a commandment of Jesus, and nowhere else where it is even mentioned or suggested.
Additionally, it doesn’t line up with Christianity itself, the Gospel, or the contextual message regarding money all throughout the Bible, which teaches us that the love of money is the source of all evil. That the material things of this world don’t matter.
Why would Jesus Christ, who died on the cross not only to pay the debt of our sins against God, to reconcile us back to Him, but also to free us from the Law and give us liberty through Him, then command us to pay tithing? It doesn’t make any sense. It contradicts the Gospel, where there are no written laws or commandments except two: Love God, love others, and those laws are written on our hearts. We are no longer slaves to the law, and that includes the law of tithing. To reinstitute the law of tithing is in opposition to the Gospel itself.
“based on the words of Jesus and Paul.”
You haven’t given the words of Jesus. Only Paul. Jesus doesn’t preach tithing anywhere, and neither did Paul. All you have is a single verse taken out of context, which doesn’t even teach tithing. Just a gospel preacher’s right to live from the gospel.
“And we wouldn't use the word "burden". We don't say that about other acts of obedience to the King. He gets our allegiance, and it should be in every area of our lives, even as imperfect as we are in surrendering to Him.”
Putting an Old Covenant Law onto the backs of free Christians whose giving is to be done without compulsion or obligation (2 Cor. 9:7) is a burden, just as the laws of Mormonism and the tithing they command are a burden. Tithing is not a commandment of Jesus, and therefore it is a burden. The commandments of God, the real ones, are not a burden, and I would never call them that. Also, Paul called it a burden in 1 Thess. 2:9, so I agree with him.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“You seem to have confused two things here as well...it's not a commandment to receive compensation for ministry, so Paul was free to do whatever he wanted. The commandment is on giving.”
That’s not what 1 Cor. 9:14 says. When speaking of the “commandment of the Lord,” It says, “...those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” It’s talking about those who preach the gospel, not those who hear it. The commandment is for those who preach the gospel. Yes, Paul was free to do whatever he wanted, just as any Christian is.
“But hey, even if you feel like you can look the other way in this area because 1 Corinthians 9 is not clear enough for you,”
No, it’s not clear at all, and I’m not “looking the other way.” What’s clear is that you’ve taken one verse (out of context) to pressure, manipulate, and shame people into paying tithing to your church when it doesn’t even talk about tithing. Nowhere in the NT is tithing commanded to Christians, or even spoken of in the context of Christianity at all.
“...hopefully you would look at Abraham and say "hey, what a great example, pre-Torah, of an honorable, sacrificial giver....I will use that as my standard as well."”
Abraham is a good example of non-legalistic, freewill giving to God, and I would use him as a good example since it wasn’t in obligation or compulsion to any legalistic set of laws or rituals. In general, my standard for giving is what Jesus Christ and His Gospel teaches. It’s not about tithing a percentage of my income. It’s about giving freely when I’m led by the Spirit, not reluctantly or out of compulsion, but out of a cheerful heart and through love for God and others. That doesn’t translate to a legalistic law of tithing. I give when I can and how I can, and it’s between me and God, not me and you, or anyone else. (2 Cor. 9:7)
I’d also like to respond to some of the comments you made to Patrick. You said:
“he actually talked about both” in reference to building a bigger church. Where does Jesus talk about building a corporate empire “church”?
“We don't equate churches with buildings. The church is the people. The people need resources to both use and give away.”
Sure. But you do have a really big, expensive building, don’t you? A few of them. Do you really need a cafe and a bookstore, where you don’t give things away for free but charge people money for them? Do you really need to spend millions of dollars on your buildings, if the church is just the people?
“We need each other. We can't live the Christian life alone. We accomplish more for the glory of God and the good of people together.”
You can, and many people do, live the Christian life alone. Not usually by choice, but Christianity isn’t about needing other people. It’s about needing God. You only need Him. The Spirit guides us, Christ lives within us, and we are directly connected to God with Christ as the only mediator.
Having a good church and Christian relationships is a bonus and a privilege, but not a requirement or a necessity. We absolutely can live the Christian life alone, however, and we don’t need anyone but God Himself. God accomplishes glory to Himself through everyone individually. He can do that with a group of people, or a single person. It doesn’t matter either way. What's important is the individual's relationship with God.
SMCC Draper: Patrick, it appears you missed the point. This isn't a "corporate empire", it's a robust ministry model that allows us to serve the needs of as many people as we can, to see as many people as possible become fully devoted and delighted in Jesus Christ.
Patrick: It is a corporate empire when you need buts in the seats and money to keep your church model going. Evangelicalism is failing. Jesus alone will be enough!
Sarah: And what does it mean to be fully devoted and delighted in Jesus Christ? Serving the church? Giving money to the church? Thinking that you need the church in order to be a good Christian? Is that really serving the needs of the people, and does that really bring people closer to God?
SMCC Draper: When we talk about Fully Devoted and Fully Delighted we mean:
Authority: I find delight in submitting to what Jesus says.
Identity: I find delight in defining myself by what Jesus did, not what I do.
Activity: I find delight in loving others the way Jesus loved me.
SMCC Draper: We agree Jesus is enough. That's why our mission is to help as many people as possible take their next steps toward being fully devoted and fully delighted followers of Jesus.
Sarah: That all sounds wonderful, but I have a feeling that what you teach about Jesus (for example, you say He preached tithing) is not how i understand Him. *shrug*
Sarah: Sorry, just one more thing. I did some research on historical Christian interpretations of 1 Cor. 9:14, since I'm no Biblical scholar. My layman's understanding turns out to be too superficial. If you're interested, here is what I found:
http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id13.html. The most important thing I got out of it: "“Gospel” is the most important word in 9:14, not “live.” Those who preach from “gospel” principles should depend on “gospel” principles to sustain themselves. “From the gospel” means “from faith,” but not from law! This is yet another reason to exclude law-tithing from the formula for supporting gospel workers. They are not “law workers,” but “gospel workers!” The gospel, not the law, is “ek pisteoos eis pistin,” that is, it comes “out of faith” and goes back “into faith” (Rom. 1:17). The gospel contains no part of the law! It is purely of faith from beginning to end. Yet, it is astounding how many “gospel” churches correctly insist on basing every New Covenant gospel doctrine on post-Calvary texts—except tithing. However, God did not say that “everything in the gospel is from faith to faith—except tithing.” The disciples in Matthew 10 and the seventy in Luke 10 did not depend on tithing and principles of law for sustenance while they were ministering for Jesus. Instead they depended entirely on gospel principles and freewill offerings. The better they served God’s people, the better God’s people responded out of love and appreciation to them."
SMCC Draper: You think that Jesus sending out his disciples to survive on freewill offerings somehow negates his belief in the tithe? There were no formal bodies of believers yet to support them. Matthew 23:23 is pretty clear that Jesus saw tithing as a righteous good thing ("You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former".) 1Cor9 "in the same way" the priests were supported brings it forward. This looks pretty cut and dry, despite all this bobbing and weaving people want to do using grace/law arguments...as if grace means we shouldn't obey everything Jesus taught about living righteously...after all he said teach the nations to obey everything I commanded you. But as I said before, even if you don't agree, why would Abraham's prudent act of giving 10% not be a model for you, even if you don't think it is mandated in the church world? Big picture: instead of you guys trying to hammer churches that have a philosophy of ministry that you don't like, why don't you spend your efforts loving your neighbor, it's much more fruitful. We're addicted to seeing Jesus change lives around here, so we'll focus on that.
Patrick: We love you our neighbor enough to tell you the truth. Your keeping people in bondage.
Sarah: “You think that Jesus sending out his disciples to survive on freewill offerings somehow negates his belief in the tithe?”
That’s just one of the many things that negates the tithe. The fact that He never preached tithing would be the main one. The fact that none of the Apostles preached tithing is another one. The fact that Jesus fulfilled the law on the cross and Christians are now free of the law is another one.
“There were no formal bodies of believers yet to support them.”
Yes, there were. The church at Corinth, in Alexandria, Cyrene, Puteoli, Antioch, Iconium, and several more...churches were planted all over the place, and they did support them through freewill giving, not tithing.
“Matthew 23:23 is pretty clear that Jesus saw tithing as a righteous good thing ("You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former".)”
Jesus isn’t talking to Christians in Matthew 23:23. He’s talking to Pharisees and teachers of the law. Referencing laws that the Pharisees had to follow doesn’t mean He thinks they’re a righteous good thing. Interestingly, earlier in that chapter He condemns the very thing I was just talking about. Putting burdens on people:
Matthew 23:4 - 4 “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
“1Cor9 "in the same way" the priests were supported brings it forward. This looks pretty cut and dry, despite all this bobbing and weaving people want to do using grace/law arguments...as if grace means we shouldn't obey everything Jesus taught about living righteously...after all he said teach the nations to obey everything I commanded you.”
Who is bobbing and weaving? I’ve addressed 1 Cor. 9:14 in every way I know how, several times now, and it keeps getting ignored. It’s clear that Paul did have a right to live off the giving of his congregation, but this is NOT the same thing as tithing, nor does it call tithing a command for Christians. Plus, he wouldn’t take money for preaching the gospel because he was a good shepherd who would rather die than take advantage of the giving of others and preach the gospel in vain, like the shepherd spoken of in 1 Peter 5:2.
If it was a command, it was a command, and Paul had no right to ignore it. If it was a command to pay tithing, why 2 Cor. 9:7? Why 1 Thess. 2:9? Why all the criticizing of the Pharisees for “devouring widows’ houses” and speaking of greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing who extort people for dishonest gain? You can keep calling it a command all you want, saying it and believing it doesn’t make it so. There are over a dozen good arguments to disregard tithing entirely, and you ignore them all. You offer nothing but your one single verse taken out of context.
“But as I said before, even if you don't agree, why would Abraham's prudent act of giving 10% not be a model for you, even if you don't think it is mandated in the church world?”
Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek is not an example of how we must give a tithe because it was a freewill gift, not a tithe. He simply chose to give ten percent of his own free will. It was a one time event, it didn’t come from money or resources that Abraham had claimed for himself. So it’s a good example of how we should give freely and decide in our own hearts how much to give, just as Abraham did, but there’s no reason why I should legalistically abide by Abraham’s personal decision to make it a tenth. I can give more, or less. I’m free to decide as God leads me.
“Big picture: instead of you guys trying to hammer churches that have a philosophy of ministry that you don't like, why don't you spend your efforts loving your neighbor, it's much more fruitful. We're addicted to seeing Jesus change lives around here, so we'll focus on that.”
It’s not a philosophy of ministry “I don’t like.” It’s a philosophy that I believe is insulting to God and antithetical to the Gospel and Jesus’ teachings itself. The work we are doing in calling out churches that serve money and burden Christians with legalism and Law is all out of love for God and for our fellow Christians. It’s all for His glory and His people. I’m sorry you don’t see that, or maybe you do and you just don’t like being called out, I don’t know. Regardless, you can attribute whatever intentions you like to me, but I call out legalism and materialism in the church because I love God and I love His people. God Bless.
Sarah: You cannot serve both God and money. The harder you try to convince people that they HAVE to give more money to your church, the more you pressure it, and the more effort you put into getting more of it, the more money serving you appear to be. Not to mention you're not transparent with it. It all looks bad. We tell Christians to live a life free of the love of money, and yet our churches are crawling with it. Please. Just think about that.
Sarah: Now if you don't mind, SMCC/Paul/Rick, whoever we're talking to here, we should try to end this discussion. We're not getting anywhere. Most of my comments are being ignored. I love you, I don't think tithing is commanded based on everything I've said (2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Thess. 2:8-9, etc...), you think it is because of 1 Cor. 9:14. I feel like I've already refuted that a few times. You don't. We'll never find resolution here. Let's call it a day (or two). I will continue to study the Bible in regards to all of this. Please consider everything I've said as well. God Bless and good day.
SMCC Draper: The reason we aren't addressing every point you've been attempting to make is that the document we mentioned at the very beginning does a comprehensive job of addressing this issue. Whether we ever agree on tithing or not, its incredible presumptuous and insulting for you and Patrick to imply that this church is fleecing the flock and getting rich off of people's gifts. In actuality, people at SMCC hear more about being a growing giver than about tithing, and that is not very often a topic in a sermon. Everything that is done at SMCC is to see more people encounter Jesus and overcome challenges they face, or learn more about following Him. We also care a great deal that people have access to great Bibles and books by authors we respect, so we have a small bookstore where things are sold right around cost, and we care that guests can purchase better coffee drinks than the free coffee we provide, if they so choose. Nothing wrong with any of that, unless you're legalistic and think church buildings should never have anything in them but pulpits. Good day.
Sarah: Then I suppose I'll just have to read through the ebook more thoroughly. I'm sorry if you feel insulted by my implications, but the fact of the matter is you're not transparent with your church's financial information. What do you expect people to believe with so many signs of materialism and money serving everywhere?
You don't use the word tithing very much, but the language regarding being a growing giver isn't much different. It pressures giving. It may not be the topic of a sermon very often, but I know it's the topic of at least one sermon a year, you have an entire page dedicated to giving on your website where you have the ebook, the position paper, a video, and the many ways people can give to your church. You also call for giving at the beginning of every online sermon that I've watched so far. Then there was the Greater Things Fund. This all pressures giving heavily.
The reason we think there's something wrong with having bookstores and cafes in the church has nothing to do with legalism, but with what Jesus did when He found money changers in the temple. Businesses, which exist to make money, are money serving in nature. You can say you don't make money off them, but without financial transparency it's hard to believe that. It looks like you're trying to make money by selling books and coffee to the congregation.
If you're so insulted by the suggestions I'm making, you can prove me wrong, and get an apology by being transparent with your church's finances. I'm just telling you what it looks like. If you don't like how it looks, you can change it.
SMCC Draper: If you can't see the difference between providing affordable spiritual resources and cheap coffee drinks, and polluting the court of the gentiles with opportunistic money grubbers, I can't help you. I also can't expect you to understand campaigns that will expand our reach for the gospel in Utah, because apparently you think anything large-ish that asks people if they WANT (not HAVE) to participate in taking more Kingdom ground is ungodly. Giving is one spiritual discipline among many, one that you apparently don't think should be given much airtime. But in the end, it's not our responsibility to prove anything when people assume the worst based on their own presuppositions, nor would any church open their books to someone who has no vested interest in being part of the mission of that church. People who are part of the life of SMCC come to yearly business meetings, see budgets and ask questions.
Sarah: Plenty of businesses in the world are "affordable." They still make a profit, and they're still money making businesses. Without transparency your claims just can't be believed. If you don't care if I believe you, fine, but if that's the case then you shouldn't be insulted by what I think. I don't think reaching people for Jesus is ungodly, but preaching the gospel doesn't cost millions. Jesus did it, His apostles did it, and millions/billions of other Christians in history have preached the gospel with little to no money. You don't need a 2 million dollar building to reach people for Jesus. I believe strongly in giving to the needy, but not the greedy. I think that's what Jesus taught. I'm not assuming the worst, I'm just telling you how things look based on the facts. Nothing I said was untrue, and you refuse to prove me wrong because I have no vested interest in your church, but a few have opened their books to me without any idea what my intentions were. I'd share them with anyone that asked me for them too, whether they're a part of my church or not. It's just good stewardship as someone asking for money in the name of God. I've seen your yearly business meeting if I'm thinking of the right sermon. It's not fully transparent. All you disclose is how much people donate. You don't share where that money goes, how much the pastors make, or where else the church is making money, etc...If I'm wrong, great. I'll make sure to attend the next budget meeting :). I love you guys. I know you hate me for pointing this stuff out, but I'm just trying to tell the truth in love. Sorry for offending, but I'm hoping you'll think about it.
SMCC Draper: Nobody hates you. We have very different views on impact, effectiveness and sharing information. "How things look based on the facts"...all I can say is we obviously don't agree on the way resources are utilized to take more ground for Jesus. There probably is nothing I could say to convince you that certain things are appropriate, even if you were our accountant, because you operate from a different set of assumptions. We're reading the same Bible, your lens is different on some issues.
Sarah: We do have very different views. I'm not impossible to convince of things, but I do have some very strong convictions. In all honesty, when churches are transparent, I don't even pay that much attention to the numbers themselves. I'm just glad that they were willing to be transparent with me. It's the transparency itself that matters. Anyway, I'm not convincing you of anything either. Maybe another time. God bless and goodnight.
Who would have thought that a single verse could cause so much confusion and debate?
1 Corinthians 9:14. Does it teach Christians that they must pay tithing to their church, or does a contextual study of this chapter give a different message entirely, as Russ Kelly, Shawn McCraney and other pastors and scholars suggest? While some modern Christian churches and their pastors will apparently bend over backwards to try and convince us that it means we're commanded to pay tithing, theologians and Biblical scholars seem to think it says something else entirely.
As the discussion continues on (I'm not sure how many more comments will be added to this debate within the coming days), I will update the post. If you'd like to contribute to the discussion, please do by going to SMCC Draper's page here and scrolling down to the Bible Project video we posted at the beginning of this article.
For curious church checkers looking to learn more on this topic, check out these videos, books, and articles:
Russ Kelly's book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? -
Shawn McCraney's Heart of the Matter episode on tithing -
Our Post on Tithing -
Other great videos on Tithing -
Other great articles on Tithing -
For a contextual study of 1 Corinthians 9, check these out: