Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Grace, or your money back

LifeChurch's 3-Month Tithing Challenge:

I would like to test God's faithfulness by accepting the Three-Month Tithe Challenge. I agree that for the three-month period I state below, my household will contribute to God, through, a tithe equal to 10% of our income. At the end of the three-month period, if I am not convinced of God's faithfulness to bless my life as a result of my obedience to His Word, then I will be entitled to request a refund of the full amount of contributions made during that 90-day period.

I used to do refunds at Wally World, so when I heard someone talking about this, the first words out of my mouth were, "Do you need a receipt?"

But I have to say, I'm utterly appalled at the idea of getting a money-back guarantee on your tithing. I know, I know, they're just daring people to say that God didn't bless their lives. And quite honestly, how would you know? Greek translation this week was Romans 5:1-11, which includes the lovely thought, "We boast in our troubles, since we know that troubles bring endurance, and endurance, character, and character -- hope" (my translation). And it seems that every time someone in the Bible gets the full portion of God's attention, shit happens. Life doesn't get easy for you when your living by God's word; ask a prophet.

And yet, the person kept trying to convince us that if you give your money, it's your sign that you're giving your full trust in God. That you're honoring your blessings by giving of your firstfruits, which is harvested out of your bank account.

Bull. Oh, and shit.

Since when are our blessings only about money? Since when are our first fruits of harvest financial? Blessings in my life since I decided to trust in God and stop trying to control things are, actually, a lot less money, a lot more frustration, but a huge cracking opening of my worldview about myself and the world. And trust me that God gets 10 percent of that at least. My first fruits include my love and solidarity with all people, but especially those in the margins. God definitely will get 10 percent of that, if not more. Capitalist-driven christianity has got to go. I honor God with the things that mean things to me, and I tell you, money is pretty far down on the list.



Erudite Redneck said...

Wow. More "Christianity as a way to prosper" stuff. I know the blessing aren't explicity promised to come in monetary form -- but what are most people supposed to assume?


Plus, tithing is all O.T. Not new. GIVING is -- not extraction, and that is exactly what "tithe" means: the extraction of a tenth.

On the other hand, my daddy used to say that if he sold 10 calves and didn't tithe the value of one, then before long he'd find one dead out in the pasture. There might be something to that.

Give. 'Cause it's all God's in the first place. And God might see fit to break the lease we have on some stuff -- which might be the balance to the notion of give and it shall be given back to you X-fold, cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to you, etc.

What does "cast your bread upon the waters" mean anyway, histori-cultural-euphimistically-etymologically, anyway?

Kirsten said...

(Apologies is this ends up being a duplicate--Blogger is being wonky this morning.)

The phrase that first caught me eye was "test God's faithfulness."

Umm...I know I'm just a heathen unitarian, but isn't the point supposed to be our faithfulness?

Hapa, you say that you "honor God with the things that mean things to me," but it sure doesn't seem like the folks who wrote up that tithing challenge had honoring God at the forefront of their thoughts. Sounds more like a shaken fist to me.

HapaThealogy said...

ER: Not to cast aspersions on your daddy, but I wonder how often he found a calf dead in the pasture anyway. Priests and psychics (and often psychologists) work in the same ways. Giving, yes, is a good thing, but I don't doubt for a moment that I'm giving to the CHURCH and not to GOD when I tithe. Last time I checked God's savings account wasn't just linked to Pilgrimship UCC's collection plate, but went out into the wide old world as well. Do I not tithe when I give to the United Way? When I drop a dollar in the homeless man's cup? When I give my time to talk to a lonely woman or visit a prisoner? When I give water to a migrant in the desert? When I stand up and call unjust social structures down onto the carpet? Remember that those who are the most charitable have the least desire to change the status quo. The story about the widow's mite isn't about tithing, it's about what makes the widow poor and the forces that drive her to give up her last penny. It's utter arrogance that we think that everyone's so well off that failure to tithe is all about greed and less about survival.

"Bread upon the waters:" Ducks?

Kirstin: I really think that challenges like this one are about proving who's got control over God. They don't say it that way, but that's what it shakes out to, as I see it.

BTW: Yoga, very cool. :)

Kirsten said...

Oy. Trying to control God. What'll they think of next? ;-)

One of the reasons I like yoga so much is that the more I learn, the less I know.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

My wife and I struggled for years because we wanted to tithe - quite freely, out of a sense of faithfulness - but just "couldn't". The past couple years we have tithed, and our lives have just been abundant.

It's not about us. It's about God. Bull and shit, indeed, on the passage you quote. People like that - they're just awful human beings.

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "I wonder how often he found a calf dead in the pasture anyway ..."

Not that often. But then I reckon he rarely failed to tithe.

On the other hand, he quit readin' the Bible, he said, (and he read it and read it and read it), when he kept feelin' the call to preach. And he quit goin' to church, he said, when they kept tryin' to make him a deacon.

No more aspersions, please. He was what he was, and as a Christian, I think, he was a lot more honest about church stuff than most people. :-)

HapaThealogy said...

True that, ER, I'm sure. I truly didn't mean to be snarky, it just came out. The whole point of the blog is that I just hate people who prey on others, and the church has done its fair share. I'm mostly peeved about a church that would tell a person who lacks money but will offer time -- which s/he probably also doesn't have much of -- and presence that a contribution like that is less valued that filthy lucre.

drlobojo said...

The Seven Celestial Rules of Organizational Bugeting and Acqusition:

Rule one: Any Organization will always spend 15% more than it thinks it needs.

Rule two: At some time during the budget cycle of any organization supplemental funds will need to be secured. (a good CFO will pad the budget by 15% in anticipation of the need)

Rule three: All "fixed cost" will increase over time.

Rule four: About 20% of the memebership of any organization will provide 80% of the financial resources.

Rule five: That 20% who provide the 80% will not correspond to the richest 20% of the membership.

Rule six: Those in the richest 20% will provide the needed supplemental 15% if they can do it with public veneration and praise and get a plaque with their engraven name upon it.

Rule seven: That 20% who provides the 80% will be those who have their true hearts in the organization.

Hezikiah: 6: 1-7

If you are going to be a pastor of a church, copy this down and keep it handy.