(Sigh)… Not too pleased…

I am very proud of my son. These past two months or so have been very busy for him. In addition to his choir rehearsals at church, he has also joined an area-wide church choir that practices Monday evenings. So in addition to going to school, completing his homework, and otherwise being a six-year-old, he is at church two Saturdays a month preparing to sing on the third Sunday and now every Monday evening for the district-wide choir. They sang together for their first actual performance on Sunday, and did a WONDERFUL job. Seeing all of those babies up there (okay, some of them were teenagers who were bigger than me, but to me they are still babies) singing praises to the Lord brought tears to my eyes. THAT is what these kids should be doing, not Keeping Up with the Kardashians or developing anorexia from constant exposure to unrealistic and unhealthy depictions of women, or emulating some stupid rapper or walking around with their pants hanging off their behinds (I HATE that! The worst is when they have a belt on the pants but STILL have them below their butt–it is absolutely the stupidest fashion fad ever and I 1) will be glad when it is retired and 2) will NOT let my son do it).

Whether or not their behavior on Sunday reflects their behavior at school and at home, I do not know. Of course I would like to think that it does. I do know that I sent up prayers of thanks for everyone who coordinated and participated in the effort. There were countless adults who put together the rehearsals, secured the locations, prepared the programs, lined up speakers, secured necessary funding and transportation… and let me not forget to mention the directors, who were steadfast in their effort to make 50 or so developing voices sound like one harmonious masterpiece. I do hope they are content with the effort they put forth for God, and I hope the kids understand the magnitude of their ministry. I hope they understand that they are ministering!

In the midst of their singing, I hope the adults in the congregation got into the words of the songs as well as the beauty of the singing. The lyrics, like any good song, spoke directly to my heart and how I should think and live:

“Every praise is to our God…” Not to the president, not to any celebrity, not to money, not to my husband, as much as I love him, no. God.

“I found joy, peace, deliverance, favor… all my sins, forgiven… my past is over…” Who else do you know will not look at you any differently if they knew all of the wrongs you have done over your lives? When I think about how much I’ve sinned over these past 31 years, and even today, it amazes me that as soon as I confess and ask for forgiveness, I am given a clean slate. There may be chastening, but it is always done with love. There is no one capable of that kind of love except the Author of Love! I’ll use myself as an example. The people I love the most are my husband, my children, my parents. Let’s just say I sat them down and told them everything I have ever done wrong. Every lie, every deceitful action, every curse word, every drink, every sexual encounter, every inappropriate thought, etc… I highly doubt they would have the exact same opinion of me. But God is long-suffering, and with His Son sitting at his right hand interceding on my behalf, I’m good to go! No, I should never willfully sin, but every Christian knows (or should know) that simply being a Christian does not mean we are sin-free. We will NEVER be sin-free down here!

“I can’t go back, won’t go back, to the way I used to be…” God forbid. I was a MESS. A disrespectful, reckless, emotionally-removed mess.”

“The cross was for me that day… He did it for me…” ‘Nuff said. Jesus did not go to the cross for Himself. He did not need to. WE needed Him to do it.

Along with the singing, there was a group of phenomenal praise dancers. I must admit, I am usually not too impressed with praise dancers. It is something I had to open myself up to, and only after studying the Bible and reading about how our beloved David danced right up out of his clothes!!! This evening, I was completely sold. On Sunday, this group of young ladies, taught by a very dedicated, spirit-filled young lady, gave a great performance, and their second performance this evening was proof positive that that first success was no fluke. These ladies are good. The songs were great. The choreography is POWERFUL. The execution was not perfect, but it was delivered of the spirit. I could tell that these ladies were feeling it, and that to me was more important than getting all of the moves right all of the time.

Although I always try to take the good as being more important than the bad, with the understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect church, since churches are filled with imperfect people, there was something about these two services (that took place at the same church) that I could not ignore. Each time during the offering, there was at least one reverend, and at the service tonight, two, who requested a specific amount from each adult for the offering. In my opinion, that is offensive, tacky, and inappropriate.

The Bible does not give reverends that authority. Instead, it tells us not to rob God, but to instead be cheerful givers (Malachi 3:8, 2 Cor. 9:6-7). The Old Testament provides us with our first acquaintance with tithing. “Tithe” means “tenth”. We find in Leviticus that the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of their produce, flocks, etc. to the Levites, the priestly tribe, who then gave a tenth to the high priest. Although the New Testament does not give specifics as to the amount Christians are to tithe, this is one aspect of the OT that is considered applicable to Christian life today.

Maybe I should repeat that:

The New Testament does not give specifics as to the amount Christians are to tithe.

And offerings are from the heart.

Now, here is my opinion…

Do I think that Christians should stick with the concept of tithing ten percent? Yes. Have I always? Absolutely not. One of the biggest tests of faith occurred after years of unemployment. I had gotten a big paycheck and had already made plans on how I was going to spend it. It was during the time I was trying to get back in good standing with God after years of apostasy, and that little voice–I think it’s safe to call that the Holy Spirit–reminded me that I needed to dole out that ten percent first.

What does that ten percent support?

The reverend? It shouldn’t. Of course the reverend deserves to be compensated for his very hard work, yes. But the expenses related to the church and the work of the church come first. That includes things such as making sure the church’s bills are paid, purchasing food for the feeding program, purchasing materials for outreach, etc. Most people, when there is transparency at their church and they know where their money is going, have no problem paying what they can pay, which may not be ten percent.

So here is where my internal battle comes in. If I only make 100 bucks, for example, and have to use that to get gas, food, etc., ten dollars may seem like a lot to let go of. That is why tithing is one of the biggest tests of faith. You have to look past your immediate, physical, earthly needs and trust that if you give that ten bucks, God will give you fifty. It is a hard test, very hard. I have failed that one plenty of times.

But here is the problem when reverends, leaders of the church, get up in front of an entire congregation and specifically state that they expect “X” amount of dollars from every adult:

1. The people who have already determined how much they were going to pay may be offended and withhold their money.

2. Babes in Christ may find this distasteful. All it takes is one bad encounter and some people never return to the church.

3. The people who honestly cannot afford the ten bucks are going to feel guilty and… may not come back.

I have a strong enough spiritual character to know that it was inappropriate for the reverends to do this, but for those who are not, this may be what keeps them from coming to revival service tomorrow–they may not have the “fee”! Reverends have to approach the concept of tithing and offerings with care. They cannot let people think for a second that they are in the fundraising business when they are supposed to be focused on saving souls. When they make a big show out of money, it casts shade on their purpose. Are they really interested in the spiritual condition of the people, or their own financial condition? It makes immature Christians and unsaved people wary. Heck, it made me wary.

That is enough of my tithing rant. I do believe we should tithe ten percent, but I also don’t think we should feel guilty if we feel like we cannot. And when it comes to an offering, give what you want to give. It disappointed me that even after acknowledging that most people had already been to two services by the time we got to the first performance on Sunday, the reverend STILL requested a specific amount of money, even though he knew that most people have already gave money TWICE. As for this evening, some people had been to the revival service the day before, and had probably given money then. SMH. I think it is a matter for each person to pray over! I have done it. Lord, please help me to be able to trust you with every part of me and my life, including my finances! If you are not in a situation that will enable you to tithe ten percent, guess what–you can tell God that too! He knows I have been praying to him about my situation for a LONG time… No I do not have a permanent job yet, but I have a roof over my head, clothes (albeit too big now that I am losing weight), a car to drive, food to eat, a great husband, beautiful kids, and awesome parents, which is more than others can say! Lord, you know my situation and what I have asked for. If it be your will for me, please steer me toward the job you would like for me to have. If it is not meant for me to work, then I pray you will guide my husband in the direction we need to go for financial stability! Regardless, I will be careful to give you all the thanks for the blessings you have already bestowed upon me, in the name of Jesus!

I wondered how other people felt about the reverend’s request. If any were offended, I wish I could find out so I could speak with them. I often feel bad that I do not have more to give. It would please me to do more financially for God, but I just cannot. I’ll bet there were a lot of people in that church this evening that felt the same way, and looked down at the two or three dollars they had clutched in their fists and felt like failures, or felt unacceptable because they could not honor the request of the man of God (supposedly). Unless a reverend is correcting sinful behavior, he should never make it a point to offend people, and unfortunately, that is what happened this evening. I am sure it is not the last time. They have it wrong. A person can only be a “cheerful” giver if he has made up his mind on his own accord, with no outside influence (2 Cor. 9:6-7). Unbeknownst to these reverends. God does NOT want us to do something for him simply because we were told to do it. He wants us to serve him out of LOVE. When the reverends make these types of announcements, it leads one to question who, or what, it is that they really serve.

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