God is not a slot machine.

Listening to many preachers, you'd think He was. "Just send me your ten or your hundred dollars, and God will open His storehouse of all the World's wealth and bless you," they proclaim. Some will even bellow, "He'll bless you ten, an hundred, or a thousand fold!"

This presentation of tithing implies that if you put your money in the preacher's pocket, it might payoff. It's more sure than the lottery. It's for a good cause, for the Lord's Work. And, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Even with altruistic intentions, this kind of charitable giving is conditional love. It is giving to get. It is not worship to the God of Israel revealed by Jesus. It is slavery to the god of mammon, the god of this world, the buck "that makes the world go 'round." It is an act of fear for physical survival and not one of faith in the Creator and His Son who knows all our needs - both material and spiritual - before we ask and is indeed amply able to supply them all.

It's an easy trap to fall into. Many sincere people do. The worst cases are those who may have experienced some kind of monetary blessing shortly after giving to one ministry or another. It may have been chance, or it may be that God did bless that person for giving.

Years ago, when I first began to give to religious organizations, I experienced such a pay-off, but I do think that I gave without any awareness that I was hoping for a financial blessing in return. Nonetheless, it is an absolute fact that the stories of rich pay-off were in my head, lodged in my subconscious.

Once I started to tithe - once I was hooked, I became afraid of what would happen to me if I were to stop. What curses would God rain down upon such a grasping, selfish, materialistic, money-grubbing excuse of a Christian who would stop playing the religious lottery? My brain could have done overtime if I had allowed guilt a free rein with my knowledge of Biblical vengeance. This fear was reinforced by the religious organization that I was supporting.

Obviously, I am not saying that God doesn't exist, or that He does not bless people materially. He does. But God does not payout indis­criminately like a slot machine. Only chance does. God has the "Big Picture" in mind for your life which includes how a material blessing might affect your spiritual life, and how you might use it.

I hope that you get the point of our naturally human vulnerability in this area of God and money. That is why Jesus made His famous statements about "God and mammon" in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew chapters 5-7)

These latent attitudes are exacerbated by our modem western social values. We live in societies driven by complex, sophisticated economies based on competitive trade and monetary exchange. Financial survival seems to be a constant struggle between inflation and high interest rates, the need to produce and the need to preserve the environment. If we aren't openly aware of them, these attitudes of mammon will unconsciously control our lives. That's part of what '''serving mammon" means. Deceptively, this enslavement can come in the guise of serving God.

Out of Context

Often the same ministers who proclaim the grace of Jesus also teach that Christians must obey the Law that was "done away" when it comes to tithing. In their opinion Christians sin if they do not tithe a full ten per cent to some valid religious organization.

The idea is that they, the preachers of the gospel, have replaced the Levitical priesthood of old. The "gospel Truth" of the New Covenant of grace is conveniently forgotten when it comes to the ministerial pocketbook.

Quoting Malachi 3:8, often out of context, many will go so far as to accuse their listeners of "stealing from God" unless they pay their tithes first - even before their taxes, if possible. "But if you do, then God will open the windows of heaven and rain a blessing upon you that will fill your house to overflowing."

This blessing is often subtly or blatantly represented as being material. If you the listener have tested a particular ministry by sending it your tithes and offerings but still failed to receive a payoff, then, "You, dear listener, are in a trial of faith!" Naturally, this type of trial can only be overcome by still more giving to this same ministry.

In effect what is happening from a secular perspective is that both preacher and supporting co-worker are playing a psychological depen­dency game in God's name. The preacher is counting on the fact that if enough people take the chance of sending him money, some of them will get a "blessing" and those who do will consider their "blessing" to be God's response to their donation to his church or television show. Logicians term this generalization from an unusual or atypical case the Fallacy of Converse Accident.

This book is not purposefully directed toward any individual or toward any currently popularized financial abuse by those who receive tithes and offerings in the name of God. Anyone claiming to be a teacher or preacher of God, who has caused others to stumble as a result of his own defamation of God's name through his sins, has brought judgment upon himself.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing: but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced them­selves with many a pang. (I Timothy 6:3-10)

Not Against Giving

I do not criticize the sincerity of the tither or giver.

What is wrong is the method of approach, the manner of teaching utilized by some who claim to preach the Gospel. Of course, many - probably most - people who give to religious ministries do so out of sincere motive. These people tithe as an act of worship and honor of God.

Their methods may be successful is extracting cash to fuel their evangelistic efforts, but that success is not proof that their methods create a balanced attitude of faith in the hearts of the givers. The state of your heart or spirit is God's primary concern, not the size and num­ber of checks you write in support of men who may honestly consider themselves to be His servants.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly: and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed."
(II Corinthians 9:6-8)

God has promised to bless if the attitude of the giver is right. It is the responsibility of the preacher to teach in such a manner that these right spiritual attitudes are encouraged and inspired.

Issues of Distortion

But God wants His ministers to teach the truth about what He really says. Too many preach what they think. He says and so mislead their audi­ences by distorting God's Word. It is conveniently beneficial to minis­terial monetary increase if listeners somehow hear the "gospel of pros­perity" in an evangelist's message, even if presented indirectly.

But conscious or unconscious distortion of the Biblical teaching is unnecessary. If a minister is faithful in his handling of the Word, then God has promised take care of him. The Bible is plain in stating that the Lord's ministers have a right to wages. However, if a preacher is not faithful in handling God's Word, or if his motives are wrong, then God will really take care of him. The Judge does not take kindly to the abuse of sincere peoples' generosity.

"Buyer Beware" is far more permissible in the business of trade than in the support of religious efforts. Open disclosure of economic records is critical. It is your obligation to know generally about how your donation to God is being used. How is money used in His work by those who receive your checks? This includes detailed expenditure records including ministerial compensation and hidden perks of bene­fits. It requires a little effort for those making donations to check up on how their money is being used, but it is the right thing to do.

Too many have taken the lazy way out of the dilemma by simply refusing to give any more.

How Christians are taught about giving is important because there are some people who give out of psychological compulsion. It may be out of fear, or out of a hope that they will be blessed with an easier life now and/or a reward in a life hereafter. Fear-driven donors are looking to the false god of Mammon, a better mortal life and not to God, the King of Eternity. Consequently, these people attribute emotional or psychos­piritual rewards in this life to monetary support of their favorite preacher.

Psychology describes this human interaction between giver and receiver as a variant form of operant conditioning. For the preacher the reward is consistent. It pays every time. If he can harangue enough people long enough and dramatically enough, some will always send money. Someone will break down and help him save his TV show, or as in one case, the preacher contended that it was his life that was at stake. The technical term for this behavior is continuous reinforcement. For these preachers, God is like a candy machine.

In the case of those who give, the technical term refers to a partial reinforcement according to a variable-ratio or variable-interval sched­ule. Unlike the preacher, the giver is rewarded after an uncertain number of contributions or at uncertain intervals of time after con­tributing. The rewards are occasional and unpredictable in time and amount of payout - just like a slot machine. It is addictive by the very nature of its uncertainty.

What Does the Bible Teach?

What DOES the Bible say about tithing? Is it commanded? If so, should we pay a full ten per cent? What does God really want from those who would seek to please Him? What should you and I give? The national average of one to three per cent?

With patience and an open mind, the biblical principles are not all that complicated. The key is to read each of the many sections of scripture that relate to money and God in their historic and cultural contexts.

Most misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches comes from reading it with a predetermined point of view or bias.

Our biases usually come from our parents, our friends, or the social group in which we live. Try to set aside your own opinions long enough to read this short book through to its end. Then pray and think about what the Bible says to you. Afterwards decide how you are going to incorporate what you've learned into your daily practice. Think it out for yourself.

As you read my comments, it will help if you also read along in your own Bible. Many verses are quoted directly in the text because the object is to clarify Biblical verses and principles. Don't rush it. You may have to re-read some sections because this is a journey into other times and places - cultures and peoples very different from our twentieth century western civilization.

Any difficulty you may have in understanding about giving will ultimately get down to the kind of relationship you have with God.

This is the part of the answer only you can provide. It is not possible to discuss people and money without getting into other basic issues. But learning what the Bible has to say about these subjects will help.

The objective of this effort is your personal growth towards a better life through a fuller understanding of God. I hope it is achieved. May God bless the time and effort you put into it. I hope you will share your growth with others.

Go to the top of this page.