Disclaimer: I'm not bashing any churches or church goers. I'm just sharing my experiences.
I often joke that finding a church home sometimes feels like finding a spouse. Only, it's not really a joke. For me, it involves a lot of listening and paying attention to what's said and unsaid. When I had not done those things in the past I felt misled, and that's the last thing that I want for my family and for myself.
As a result, Sunday feels like the loneliest day of the week when it should be the happiest. God's message of renewed hope and faith through fellowship should feel like an energy shot after attending service. But it hasn't been that way for me.
Part of the reason why I feel this way is because of money. I think the hardest part about looking for a church home is finding one that won't put all of its energy on the subject of tithing. Every week.
I get the importance of it, but what I don't get is why I'm expected to treat a tithe like an "instant wish." I can't count the number of times my husband and I sought spiritual help from our church, only to be told that we must "tithe our way to a blessing" if we hit a rough patch.
I'm not saying that I won't tithe, and most churches usually ask for 10 percent of your income anyway. But I would like to imagine that God wants me to be a cheerful giver, instead of a depressed woman with life problems who keeps blindly throwing cash into a collection plate, hoping that this will be the week where my problems are supernaturally rectified.
My problem was that there was never any emphasis on solving my issues, whether it was attending a class or a special counseling session provided by my church. For example, several years ago I ended up saving my marriage after watching pastors Jimmy and Karen Evans' immensely engaging Christian marriage advice YouTube series, Marriage Today. While watching their videos, not once did they tell me to "tithe my way to a blessing," but they did ask for an offering to help keep their program funded (yes, there is a difference between a tithe and an offering). My question is why did I have to go to Jimmy and Karen Evans for something that I would have rather gotten at my church home?
It's frustrating because when it was all said and done, my issues weren't spiritually guided, and I ended up walking out the door with them instead of having a church leader give me the tools I needed to solve them. I'm sure some will disagree with me, but in my experiences, some issues can not be prayed and purchased away without faith and work (but mostly work, and a ton of faith).
I could never explain it at the time, but "tithing my way to a blessing" never felt like good advice. Perhaps I'm incorrect in my thinking, but I can't reconcile with treating my God, who has saved my butt time and time again, like a debit card - if I need a blessing, all I have to do is pay for it and I'll receive it. What part of the game is that? Why should I expect a blessing just because I put money on it? I'm pretty sure that tithing with the expectation of a blessing in return is not how it's supposed to work.
Lately, the topic of restoring my search for a new church home has been on my mind pretty heavy. Perhaps it's God's way of telling me not to throw in the towel, and to quit looking elsewhere for spiritual guidance. Whatever the case, my curiosity on the subject landed me on a blog called. "Should I Tithe or Pay My Bills."
While the original poster was speaking specifically about money, they had some valid points that applied to my situation as well. I found myself agreeing with the poster when they said that tithing without actually helping someone in a tough situation find a solution is unspiritual and apathetic. They wrote,
Someone who advises a saint in urgent need to “keep tithing and trust God to provide" is no different than the person in James 2:14-17 who sees a brother or sister in need and says “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well" and doesn't help them. What good will such advice do? Faith without good works is dead. It's not good enough to talk about faith if we don't show it with our actions....“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' “Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' “And he will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." (Matthew 25:41-46)
Unfortunately, I'm not the only person in the world who has had an issue with churches that puts too much emphasis on tithing. The reality is that some churches have turned what was supposed to be an extension of God's work into the greatest hustle ever sold, which makes me even more apprehensive of blindly tossing cash into a collection plate. Back in 2015, David Lee, author if Sunday Morning Stickup described how he attended a service where congregation members gave all of their valuables after a third request for tithes. He told CNN,
"It was pandemonium. They weren't just giving money, but shoes, watches and diamond rings...There were people dropping alligator shoes on the altar."
Were these people cheerful or gullible givers? For Lee, a church elder who spent 30 years marketing and selling church products, they were victims of the "Sunday morning stickup" -- his term for manipulative tactics pastors and churches use to get your money.
"They bypassed their common sense...One lady took off her wedding ring and dropped it of on the altar. That's how charged the atmosphere was. People got caught up."
I could list more examples of churches who lost the trust of congregation members, especially my own, but there are too many to list. Either way, my waking and spiritual life matters, and I refuse to put it in the hands of a leader, or a congregation, I can not trust to guide me at the most basic level. #SorryNotSorry
In the meantime, I
can't won't treat a tithe like an instant wish, but I will make sure that I am helping other Christians who are faced with the same adversity I've faced, and trust God to lead me on the right path, whether I'm in a pew or on the street.