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Robbers in the church?

Few things grab the attention of local church members like the annual financial report. Each church presents the financials to the congregation in a form that complies with their particular custom and constitution. Some report weekly, monthly, or annually, either in the bulletin or through the mail. It is important to keep the membership aware of the money flow.

In the churches where I served as pastor, the church treasurer stood before the congregation at the annual meeting, and presented an accounting of the last year by means of Power Point and handouts. After the verbal report, members could question the income and expense figures.

At one meeting, years ago in another city, a question was asked that quieted the congregation. After the report was given, the treasurer was asked why the various programs, salaries, and maintenance costs were so expensive. The questioner said, “I thought Salvation was free!”

Without skipping a beat, our feisty treasurer said, “Salvation is free. But it is very expensive to have it piped to you.” Yes, I did have numerous phone calls the next week asking for the theology behind his answer.

Churches generally depend on the free will offerings of the congregation. However, since many attendees rarely give anything in the offering, churches have to rely on yard and bake sales, bingo, raffles, cookbook sales, pancake suppers, and many other fundraisers, just to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, some churches have even started the practice of charging $500 for children to be baptized! Really? A friend of mine had a family member die of cancer. When she approached her minister about having a funeral, she was informed that there was a six-month waiting list, and that the charge was over $1000! This is when people get upset with their church, and say that they are just out for the money.

In my early years as an assistant pastor, it was often my responsibility to take the offering in the service. I changed my approach after an elderly lady told me that I reminded her of the bank-robber Jesse James. She said that each week I came to the pulpit to “take” the offering. She said that she felt like I was robbing her!

Since then, I do not “take” the offering. Instead, my attitude is to “receive” the offering. In both the Old and New Testaments, worshippers were expected to bring an offering to the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Therefore, as the pastor, I simply give the congregation the opportunity to respond to the command of the Lord by bringing His tithe, and their offerings to the church.

Bottom line: There may well be a robber in the church, and it is not Pastor “Jesse James.” Malachi 3:8-10 NIV, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How are we robbing you?” In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

The real robber is the one that gladly receives the blessings of the Lord of good health, a steady income, inheritances, raises, bonuses, sales and commissions, interest income, discounts, capital gains, rebates, gifts, tax refunds, scholarships, finding money on the curb, etc., but do not honor the Lord with tithes and offerings. So sad to see people cheat a generous God, just to satisfy their own selfish pleasures.

The local church would never have to have fundraisers if their congregation simply followed the basic Biblical principle of bringing God’s tithes and personal offerings to the church. Each Sunday, I place my offering in the plate, and whisper my sincere gratitude to God that I have something to give. As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give, than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

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