Church Giving – Compulsion Or Choice

Feature Article Church Giving – Compulsion Or Choice
SEP 18, 2011 LISTEN

Church giving remains a dividing issue amongst the believing and unbelieving. A number of people have their own entrenched views on the subject matter. I shall use this platform to attempt a scrutiny of the matter from an objective position.

Critics may advocate that I refrain from discussing subjects like these so as not to equip detractors of the faith with supportive arguments. However, I disagree with this view on the grounds that such subjects deserve attention, particularly if both sides are given a fair hearing. Hopefully, the arguments will act as a prelude to changing public opinion.

Considering the extreme views on the subject matter, I am quick to admit that this article would be in no position to address all of such views. The premise here remains whether church giving is an act of compulsion or one of choice. Most people's views on the subject have vacillated in the past on whether it is a form of 'compulsion' or one of 'choice'.

Proponents of the view that church giving is by choice, have grounds to argue as such. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 KJV that: “6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver”. From the preceding text, one can see a clear choice for people to sow sparing or bountifully with both choices having attendant results. Paul goes further to argue that giving has to be according to one's freewill. It is up to you to purpose what you wish to give. Being rightly a choice, there should be no grudges in one's willingness to give. Right from creation, God has given human beings a choice and church giving would be expected to form part of these choices.

Another notable portion of scripture can be found in 2 Samuel 24:24 KJV: “And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” [Repeated in 1 Chronicles 21:24]. In these scriptures, David had a choice to give to God and he chose the option of giving something valuable and precious. There was no compulsion of any kind, just freewill giving.

Further argument of why church giving may be perceived as being a choice is provided by Proverbs 11:24 NIV which declares that: “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty”. Additionally, Exodus 35:29 NIV makes an interesting observation. It records that: “All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do”. It is worth pointing out that although they had been commanded by God to give, this was a freewill offering. Notice also that those who were willing were those that gave, further corroborating the view that they had a choice. [See also 2 Corinthians 8:3-4 and Exodus 25:1-2].

If the argument can be sustained that church giving is a choice, then one wonders why many are made to feel that they are under a form of compulsion to give at all cost? The use of compulsion in this article is one that embodies the act of compelling, constraint or coercion to do something which may be deemed as contrary to one's will.

For some, Paul writing in Galatians 6:6 AMP that: “Let him who receives instruction in the Word [of God] share all good things with his teacher [contributing to his support]”, suggests that one is required to give for the upkeep of his teacher as well as the church. This should hopefully cater for the needs of the church to ensure that those that are labouring in the Lord's vineyard are adequately rewarded for their efforts here on earth. Having said this, others argue that the strategies adopted to collect money in church at times leads one to doubt whether they really have any choice as far as giving is concerned. For some, churches focus too much on giving, leading to some members claiming to suffer from what can be termed 'giving-fatigue'. Scriptures which have been used to assuage such 'malady' include Galatians 6:9 NIV: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” [Shorter version, 2 Thessalonians 3:13 KJV: But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing].

A valid question that may be asked is whether it is because of the blessings that members would receive from giving or the personal enrichment of those that compel them, which explains why giving is very much drummed up in some churches. Moreover, this has led to a difficulty in differentiating genuine passion for the flock's prosperity from the desperation of those that want to line their own pockets. The motivation for such 'drum-up' can be best described as being abstruse.

To avoid Paul and his associates sending some members into 'giving-fatigue' , they worked with their own hands leading him to write in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 NIV that: “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you”. However, in today's world, it would be a demonstration of ignorance to make a requisition of all ministers to work. The ministry as Paul puts it is truly a noble calling (see 1Timothy 3:1).

The main threat that some ministers of the gospel perceive as being an obstacle to giving appears to be fear. People are sometimes made to feel that fear is what has made them 'stingy' and that if they can overcome this fear, they can give any amount. A typical session to stimulate giving would therefore be targeted at dealing with fear issues.

One may also find him/herself in services where they are being compelled to give either for a prophetic word or just to fit in. It has almost become a form of competition or a show off. If one refuses to swim with the tide, they risk being stereotyped. There is pressure to keep up appearances, even in church. It so happens that pledges are always an option for the congregation. Unsurprisingly, a number of these pledges go without being redeemed.

Stories abound of how some ministers promise the amount of money they would raise whiles negotiating how much they would charge for a ministry appointment. This places pressure on them to say the right things to ensure they hit their target. How reprehensible for members to be wheedled into parting away with money so as to enable ministers to get a good percentage for their 'effort'.

Even today, people are required to sow a seed before they see a man of God. It has almost become a form of 'exchange', where you give money for the ministration of the anointing. This has been justified with scripture from what Saul said to his servant in 1 Samuel 9:6-8 KJV: “6And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go. 7Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?...8And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.” The issue though remains that should this be made a pre-requisite for such consultations, there could be a potential exclusion of the have-nots.

With the collapse of some well-known banks and the financial meltdown, many church members do not trust banks, the news media or any government. Believe it or not, people would always want to find somebody or something to put their trust in. This makes some people an easy prey for wolves in sheep clothing to promise heaven on earth. The only requisition is for the use of their 'faith' embodied by how large a seed they can sow. It is sad that believers who should be wary of such predators have rather abashedly provided the environment for them to peddle their flagrant obsession. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul warns undeniably about false apostles, observing that they are only imitating Satan himself. How depressing to know that such are still having a field day in today's world, laughing all the way to the bank.

Further, some people have a convoluted notion that they can please God by their actions. Throughout history, people have tried to 'buy' God's approval. Considering a popular translation of Karl Marx's best-known quotation to the effect that religion is the opium of the masses, one can argue that if that is true, then nothing in religion works better than church giving. Clearly, some believers have forgotten about Hebrews 10:6 and Psalm 51:16, and 'give' to appease God for their actions. Unsurprisingly, today, people in the secular world also give to charity as a 'guilt-silencer'. It remains unclear who is influencing the other.

It may well be that ministers of the gospel need to evaluate the strategies that they use when asking people to give. They may do well by avoiding compulsion manifested by placing undue pressure on the flock, while allowing them to exercise their God-given right of choice.

I shall return with Politicians – Machiavellians or Messiahs.

Dr. Frank Robert Silverson
Email: [email protected]