Updated: May 26, 2019
The last time we checked South Mountain Community Church’s Draper campus back in February, we didn’t have the Website Review portion of our review process established yet. Now that we do, and we’ve actually physically checked them, we’re writing up a Check-Up that will be posted by the end of this week.
In addition to posting a new Check for them, we’re going to address what appears to be a new Position Paper on their website regarding giving. If we try including it into the Church Check along with the plethora of additional information we’ve gotten on them this time around, we’ll end up writing a small ebook!
Instead, we decided to make a separate post. For those of you interested in reading everything we’ve written on SMCC, we’ll include links to every post on this church campus in the Check-Up later this week.
In the meantime, let’s check this Position Paper! If you want to read it over for yourself, here it is.
We’re going to refute every false argument and assertion made in this Position Paper that we can find using a contextual understanding of the Bible, and just plain ole’ logic, one sentence, paragraph, and section at a time.
“Why Should a Person Give a Tithe?”
The first section of this Paper is entitled “Why should a person give a tithe?”
Well, I can answer that one easily. No one should give a tithe. As we’ve already established in our post on tithing, it isn’t Christian. I suppose if you are Jewish and follow the Mosaic Law, according to your religion, you should pay tithing. As for Christians under the New Covenant of grace and liberty in Christ, however, you should not.
Their first paragraph in this section is as follows (emphasis & numbering mine):
“Jesus said that we cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24). This means that it is impossible to be committed to both (1). We are either a slave to God or a slave to money. Because money is an opiate that addicts as easily as any drug, its power to change us is comparable to the power of God. A good reason to give is so that we might break free of the stranglehold of money (2). Jesus also said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:21) (3) We can direct our heart by giving God's money back to Him, in worship (4).”
(1) It’s so hilarious and infuriating at the same time when churches try to use Matthew 6:24 to pressure Christians into giving or tithing as if it couldn’t possibly apply to THEM in any way, but it does. Ironically, by using Scripture to compel Christians to give to them, they are showing themselves to be slaves to money, rather than God.
(2) I wonder how much money SMCC gives compared to how much they receive and spend on frivolous and materialistic projects such as their buildings and their over-the-top indoor playground.
(3) Another verse that just as equally applies to the people using it as it applies to individual Christians. SMCC should look at where their treasure is. Is it in Christ, or their church?
(4) First here, we don’t direct our heart to do anything. God directs our heart through the Holy Spirit that dwells within every believer. Secondly, it sounds like SMCC is propping itself up to be synonymous with and/or equal to God by claiming that by giving to them you are actually giving to God in worship. Actually, any giving that a Christian does is by, for, and through Him, whether it be to their local church, or their local panhandler. All giving done with the love of God is for God.
Let’s move on to the next paragraph in this section (emphasis mine):
“Giving is first and foremost an act of worship. When a person worships they are demonstrating that God is worth everything they can give Him; praise, thanksgiving, honor, and gifts. It is normal for those who have been "filled" and "satisfied" and "forgiven" by Christ, to want to give. We see this as being true with the Magi (Matt. 2:11), the "sinful woman" who anointed Jesus' feet with perfume (Luke 7:36-47), and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus said that he "did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28) It makes sense that a believer who is becoming more and more like Jesus Christ becomes more and more a giver. Being a generous giver is simply a matter of becoming Christlike.”
I agree with this entire paragraph. The problem is that its truth is being used to pressure Christians into giving money to a local church. This truth doesn’t need to be told to a Christian filled with the Spirit. Explained to a non-believer who wants to understand Christian giving? Perhaps. But to a Christian in order to compel them to give? No. That contradicts 2 Corinthians 9:7, which tells us:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
This entire paper, their Give page on their website, and any/all statements made by them in order to compel Christians to give is in opposition to what the Bible says Christian giving should look like. “Not...under compulsion...”
Next paragraph…(emphasis & numbering mine):
“Another reason a believer would want to give a tithe is that he or she is to be a good "steward" or manager of what God has entrusted to them. God has given each of us a measure of time (Eph. 5:15-16), abilities, and resources to be managed in such a way that He receives glory. A good steward has given up his right to self-determination. He or she recognizes that everything they have is from God and to be viewed as a trust (1). From the New Testament, in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) we learn that Jesus expects us to manage well all that He gives us so that we will have something more to give to Him. If we understand that it all belongs to God and we are simply managers, we will be more inclined to ask; "How much should I keep?", instead of "How much should I give?" (2) The important lesson for a manager / steward to learn is that the amount of money given is not nearly as important as being found faithful. We all want to hear from Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (3).”
(1) Yes, more Scriptures being used to pressure and manipulate Christians into giving more money. What most people fail to think about here is whether or not these local churches are being good “stewards” or managers of God’s money that is literally given to them in the name of God. SMCC to date is not financially transparent from what we've found, and in fact states on their tithing envelopes that “Though reasonable efforts will be made to allocate receipts as designated, SMCC reserves the right to reallocate funds as necessary.” Is this what good stewardship looks like, SMCC?
(2) Yet another statement about giving that these local churches, especially SMCC, should be asking itself, rather than aiming it at Christian individuals. How much of what they’re given do they keep, and how much of that do they turn around and give back to God’s Church, or in service to God? And I don’t mean by building $2 million dollar worship centers. I mean by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and serving the church’s people, rather than it’s own materialistic interests. How many homeless people could have been given a home if SMCC had spent less on their building and more on helping the less fortunate?
(3) This is a manipulative statement that guilts Christians into feeling unworthy or less faithful if they fail to give more to their local church. Between you and me, I really don’t believe Jesus is going to find you unfaithful for not paying a tithe to your local church. Especially when that church brings in over $2 million a year in donations and refuses to be transparent with you in how they spend that money. I’m pretty sure He’s more concerned with your actual faith in Him than whether or not you're donating money to a multi-site megachurch.
So far, SMCC is trotting out Scriptures about giving that pressure, guilt, and manipulate Christians into giving to their church, but we haven’t seen any real reason for why an actual tithe is required of us.
And again, the fact that they’ve written up an entire position paper on it puts themselves in direct contradiction to 2 Corinthians 9:7 which states we should not give out of compulsion. This is compulsion, you guys. Straight up.
“The third reason a believer should be a giver of a tithe is because it is an important spiritual discipline (1). Spiritual disciplines are those activities (prayer, Bible intake, worship, fasting, solitude, serving, and more) that put us in a position for God to grow us. We cannot be godly by trying to be godly, but instead, by focusing our attention and energies on developing a relationship with God. When we give money we are in effect saying "no" to our natural tendencies to hoard or consume (2). And it is natural to want to put our security in saving more than we need (see Matt. 6:19-20). Giving is a godly antidote to these tendencies (3). It acts as a reminder that God is our security and the provider of everything we need.”
(1) Not only is tithing not Christian, but it’s definitely not an important spiritual discipline. Giving, maybe. Tithing, nope. It’s an Old Testament Mosaic Law that was fulfilled by Christ on the cross, and is inapplicable to Christians.
(2) This sentence begins with the correct assertion that we cannot be godly by trying to be godly (through our own efforts), but then contradicts that statement by claiming we can control and say “no” to our natural tendencies of hoarding or consuming by giving. This is an example of trying to be godly through our own efforts in the flesh, and it doesn’t work. The Spirit within us is what says “no” to our fleshly desires and tendencies, not our own efforts or outward works through obedience to laws and ordinances. It’s a legalistic view of giving. Additionally, once again, we have another example of how churches like to dictate how Christians should share and give without being consumerists while at the same time being consumerists themselves.
(3) Again, there is no human effort, behavior, law, or rule we can follow to control our own fleshly tendencies. The only way to control our flesh is through the Spirit. If we could control our flesh and say “no” to our sinful human nature by doing anything, we wouldn’t have needed Christ to die on the cross for us in the first place.
The further we get into this Position Paper, the more legalistic SMCC is revealing itself to be, using human efforts and giving as an “antidote” to our own sinful nature, rather than the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each believer and acts as the true antidote by the power of God.
Interestingly enough, with all the reasons given here for Christians to pay a tithe, nowhere do we see “Because Jesus said we should." I’m sure if that were true, they would say so. But they don’t, because it isn’t.
“How Does a Person Decide How Much To Give?”
In the next section of this paper, SMCC explains how they believe a Christian should determine how much they give.
Any bets on whether they refer to 2 Cor. 9:7 or not? I’m going to bet they don’t at this point. Just a hunch. .
“There are two types of giving described in the Bible. The first is called "tithing" and the second is called an "offering". The "tithe" is expected from all who believe in God. It was required of believers in the Old Testament and it is commanded by Christ in the New Testament.”
This is not true. The tithe is an Old Testament Mosaic Law that was required of the Israelites. Not Christians under the New Covenant. Again, SMCC is claiming that tithing is in fact required of Christians, but a simple understanding of the Gospel and the New Testament proves otherwise. The tithe is not Christian. It was for the Jews. The Gentiles did not know of it and were never taught to follow it. SMCC has yet to give a single New Testament reference to tithing that even applies to Christians at all.
But they do try to justify this misapplication by citing NT Scripture:
“A careful study of 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 is very important: 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 - “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? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1) It is important to notice that it is the "Lord's command" that we give in the "same way" (10%) to support our Pastors and our church (2). It is in that way that the Jews gave a tithe in support of their Priests.”
(1) Oh yes, a careful study of 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 is very important. You can start by reading it in context rather than the two verses they’ve cherry picked here to support their position. For a more in depth explanation of Paul’s statement here you can read our post on tithing where we address this specific Scripture at length. You can also listen to a verse by verse study through 1 Corinthians 9 that pastor Shawn with CAMPUS Church did last June here and here. For the time being, the summary is that Paul is not commanding Christians to pay tithing, but rather boasting in the fact that even though he could technically be paid for preaching the gospel, his reward for preaching the gospel is getting to preach it at no charge to others. He wouldn’t do anything to hinder the integrity of the gospel. Any pastor worthy of the title should agree with the Apostle Paul.
(2) Nowhere in 1 Cor. 9 are we told that the Lord commands that we (Christians) give in the same way that the Jews gave in tithing to support their priests. They have completely changed the implications and statements made here for the narrative they’re trying to push. Paul actually says “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” So first of all, this is stating that preachers of the gospel should receive their living from the gospel, NOT that Christians are commanded to pay to have the gospel preached. Secondly, it would be very easy to apply this command to all Christians today, since all Christians are now priests, with Christ being the High Priest, and all are preachers of the gospel. To take this single verse out of context and claim it is a commandment of Jesus Christ to pay tithing to a local brick and mortar church is far reaching at best.
“Jesus also said to the Pharisees: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint , dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23) No matter what we might think about "not being under the Law", it is clear that Christ expected those who believed in Him to tithe (1). Besides, if we consider Christ's words offered up in His Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that the standard for righteousness for followers of Christ is higher than for those "under the Law".” (2)
(1) Wrong. This is a clear misinterpretation of Matthew 23:23. Huge. Jesus was speaking to who? To the Pharisees. Were the Pharisees Christians under the New Covenant, or “teachers of the law” under the Old Covenant? The answer is right there in Scripture. Jesus was not speaking to His apostles or Christians under the New Covenant. He was chastising the Pharisees for neglecting the more important matters of the law as teachers of the law. He was not speaking to “those who believed in Him” at all.
(2) Yes, it is, but the fact remains that those who follow Jesus are righteous through their faith in Him and by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by outward works of the law or their own efforts. Once again, our giving is not dictated by a church or men, but by our own relationship with God and led by the Spirit.
“Giving faithfully a "tithe" to the Lord should not be seen as fulfilling a duty so that we can do what we want with the rest of "our money". Those who give out of a sense of duty should not think that they've done well. C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity that too often Christians think that because they have given their 10% they can now do whatever they want with their 90%. Duty does that to people. It ruins the spirit of love and grace that is to be present in all Christian giving.”
Yeah, so maybe churches shouldn’t be writing up Position Papers and 40 page ebooks on giving to turn the free and cheerful giving of individual Christians into a duty. This statement contradicts the spirit that they’re claiming to believe in here by turning giving into a duty and a legalistic commandment.
“The best guidelines for giving an "offering" (not a tithe – this is over and above a tithe) (1) are listed in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In these two chapters the Apostle Paul mentions five principles of "graceful giving":
• giving a tithe is to be regular and purposeful, but giving an offering is either in response to a need or an opportunity to bless the Lord. (9:3) (2)
• giving an offering is to be sacrificial (8:3) (3)
• giving an offering should be voluntary with joy, not out of duty or under compulsion (8:3- 5 and 9:7) (4)
• giving an offering should be in some way proportionate with your income and with how one spends their discretionary income - vacations, hobbies, clothes and other (8:11-12)
• giving an offering should be generous (9:6)”
(1) No, it’s entirely separate from a tithe. Again, Christians are nowhere told they must pay tithing in the Bible.
(2) 2 Cor. 9:3 does not say anything about tithing, and simply remarks that when it became necessary, people were willing to give cheerfully in support of the preaching of the gospel through the apostle Paul. This is Christian giving/offering, not on top of a supposedly required tithing at all.
(3) Yes, but not at the order or demand of men or their churches. As led by the Spirit (2 Cor. 9:7).
(4) By golly, they do reference 2 Cor. 9:7! Why they don’t see the irony here and the complete hypocrisy that this entire Position Paper practices by contradicting it, I don’t know.
“The way that the Tabernacle and the Temple were built was through the generous and freewill offerings of God's people.”
That’s true. And since Christians filled with the Spirit already naturally want to give cheerfully and generously, I’m not sure why SMCC is going through so many different methods of compelling, dictating, and guilting Christians into giving. They’ll do it of their own free will and generosity, SMCC. Lay off already, will ya?
“The new facility the SMCC is building will be built with the "free" and "willing" and "generous" gifts of God's people (1). This is over and above the tithe of God's people and brings much glory to God.” (2)
(1) Except the members of SMCC are heavily pressured into giving those “free” and “willing” gifts. If you have to convince someone to do something, it might still be free and willing in the end, but it was also compelled and pressured onto them by you. This appears very money serving to me, guys.
(2) Once again, tithing is being used and referenced as if it’s relevant to Christians at all. It’s not.
This Position Paper on “Giving” in no way, shape, or form actually shows us how tithing is at all Biblical for Christians under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. It misinterprets Scripture, cherry picks verses out of context to fit SMCC’s position on tithing, and completely ignores Scripture where it disagrees with them, such as all of 1 Cor. 9 that they don’t cite, and 2 Cor. 9:7 which very clearly states that Christian giving should not be compelled.
The manipulative language used that guilts Christians into giving by claiming we are not faithful to Christ unless we pay tithes and offerings is disgraceful. The overt and incessant use of the word “tithing” as if it’s even a legitimate word to use regarding Christianity is deeply inappropriate and never supported by Scripture.
SMCC’s 40 page ebook on giving goes into even more mental gymnastics to try and justify the preaching of tithes, but none of it actually leads to any sound Biblical support in the end.
For more information on tithing and whether or not it’s Biblical for Christians to obey today, here are some articles and videos worth checking out in addition to our own: