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December 13, 2009

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I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this column in particular. I am not a great studier of the Bible, although I am a Christian. I often times wonder where certain Christian "traditions" come from, meaning, are they biblically based, or did they evolve from the organization of religion (read, long term "corporatizing").

As you might have guessed, I am somewhat cynical about certain beliefs, traditions, practices, and expressions of faith, that I don't believe they are biblically based.

This topic, giving to the church (lowercase) instead of directly to the persons in need, has been a sticking point. I am glad to see that the support of those being spiritual mentors is addressed!

Sometimes I think the organization of churches and their administrations has removed a real personal part of the expression/practice of religion. We now can outsource our works and not feel bad since we paid for it.

I have believed for some time now that when the Bible refers to the "church", it is referring to the collection of believers, not a building, or a local or national organization with elected leaders, regional heads, board of directors, administrative presidents, etc. Those are all corporate ideas, to help run a business.

I think Christians might be better off to stop thinking of themselves of members of a church, and think of themselves of members of The Church. Stop letting an organization get in the way of getting personally involved. But maybe that's just my experience growing up and seeing a lot of Sunday morning Christians?

A great post on where direct giving as Christians. I think many people struggle with this one and the excerpt does a good job of comparing giving to the local church, other leaders (Bible Studies, etc.), Christian ministries, and secular charitable organizations. I align with this article in my own personal giving as our family does focus giving to our church first and then try to stretch or giving further to a few Christian ministries. I'll be tweeting this one!

I think that's the longest Sunday post that I have read yet. I do have one question. Is the statement "we are called to financially support the needs of those who contribute to our spiritual growth" refer only to providing to other members of the church or could that mean the church leaders who are paid to teach?

I have no concerns with the interpretation of supporting the fellow saints, but would have an issue with paying a clergy. I attend a church that has lay clergy, meaning that they donate their time, talents, and service for others and lead the church as they are called to do so and not for money or for a job. I cant judge the hearts of those that are paid clergy, but I believe it would be terrible if ones intent was to make money off God.

Thank you for posting on topics like this one! I didn't realize you did Christian Financial posts. It's greatly appreciated.. thank you! :)

Where to give was a question I was asking myself few years ago when I was living in a big city. I was attending a rich church so I felt my tithes/love offering would be most helpful if I give them to my poor pastor friends.

But that's not an issue for me now because I no longer live in a big city and my church needs my tithes/love offering.

Anyway, thanks for this enlightening post.

Jose

Todd --

I believe he means all of those that contribute to our spiritual growth including clergy/pastors, etc. After all, they deserve to make a living too, right?

FMF - Deserve? I view that along the same line as entitled. I think that one of the arguments against organized religion is that there are those that seek to profit from the message that they share, and I dont disagree with that argument too much, although I do believe that there is an organized and structured church established on the earth today.

Does a paid clergy deserve $50K a year? Would a paid clergy deserve $650K a year? Using these two examples, one might suggest that one seems more reasonable than the other, but that may or may not be the case. The one making $50K could be over a congregation of 50 and the other over a congregation of 25,000, meaning that the one making $650k would seem more reasonable if more tithes are gathered. But I think that most would agree that the paid clergy making $650K is deserving of this amount is stretch.

I think we have to agree to disagree.

Great Post! Well written and enlightening.

Todd --

The amount is up for discussion (and we have discussed it here before), but in my opinion, pastors do provide a service and do deserve to be paid for it. If you look at scripture (including the verses above) I think you'll find that this notion is supported there.

Todd,
as a pastor, I have prayed a good bit about the appropriateness of paid ministry (I admire the Quakers and church of the Brethren that do have unpaid pastors). For me, part of the answer lies in the discernment of individual congregations. My congregation (and most Christian churches through history) have made the decision that they would like to have a person commit their time entirely on their behalf, and that those people would pay for that service. The theological question is simple: is the work of God is done more completely by paying someone to handle necessary administrative tasks of the church, focus time on the study of scripture, and organize evangelical efforts, or by the collective efforts of a number of people who volunteer their time as they are able? It is an open theological question, certainly, but I offer my services as a minister not to make money off of God, but because I have been called by many people throughout my life to participate in paid ministry in a local congregation as the best expression of my spiritual gifts.

While I donate to my church I am also passionate about helping the environment and don't believe churches do much in this respect (financially anyway) so I also donate to organizations like the Sierra Club and the Access Fund.

This book looks great! Found the author's blog at http://DollarsandDoctrine.com

Rabbi Bendory-

I need additional clarity of exactly when to tithe to the Levites based on the 7 year cycle. I beleive 2010 is the 2nd year in the cycle that began in 2009. Did we tithe every paycheck to the Levites(i.e Pastors) or do we tithe to them in the 3rd and 6th year? How is the tithing cycle structured? I am looking for more of a step by step guide for modern day beleivers, who gets what in which year with regards to the tithing process, not offerings.

Thanks and Shalom!

I think many people struggle with this one and the excerpt does a good job of comparing giving to the local church, other leaders, Christian ministries, and secular charitable organizations. I attend a church that has lay clergy, meaning that they donate their time, talents, and service for others and lead the church as they are called to do so and not for money or for a job.

The biggest thing I think people struggle with so much is concern over what is being done with the money. People often have trust issues with charitable organizations (including their own church) and are therefore skeptical about giving. But one thing I've learned is that our job is simply to give, not give and judge. So even if you are skeptical about what someone is doing with the money you're giving them, give anyway if your spirit prompts you. Leave the judgment to God and know that you did a job well done by simply giving.

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