Tithing and Injustice-A Raw Update On Our Story For The Last Several Years Leading Up To Now
Did you ever hear that the pastor of today is equivalent to the priest of the Old Testament who received the tithe? Let’s consider the implications of that. Please, this isn’t about being against the church or pastors, I love the churches and have several pastor friends I love dearly and pray for. I believe in supporting ministers who give their lives to ministry. I have supported some ministries I believe in, and I want to do so so much more.
This is just about truth. And it’s a very brief overview of this aspect of my story since my early 20’s. I know even bringing up this subject will offend many people, but what I have to say can’t be ignored or brushed aside. Many of you guys are familiar with parts of our story but have not heard this part. I haven’t talked about it much for certain reasons, including the need to focus on encouraging people and highlighting what the Holy Spirit is doing in the church. I had to guard my heart as to what I was focusing on, because this was a very painful subject. But now I think I’m ready to share it, not with bitterness, but with sincerity and love.
Just Two Of Thirty-Two Questions About The Modern Tithe
Let’s start with a Biblical context of what the tithe was…in the Old Testament, a priest received 1/10th of the tithe and 9/10ths went to the Levites, who had roles such as worship leaders, gatekeepers, and public officials. The tithe was also shared with the poor, the orphan, the foreigner, and the widow. It’s reasonable to estimate that about a 10th of the people received from the tithe. None of it went to building or maintenance expenses. Seriously. Read the Bible through carefully, cover to cover, and you’ll find that temple building and maintenance was always funded in other ways.
- My aging mother in law, who relies on us to pay the expenses her meager income can’t support, saying “I can’t go to church tonight because I don’t have my tithe.”
- A man who took in 5 orphans with special needs, paying for their medicines and food at his own expense, disfellowshipped from the church for not paying his tithe.
- A widow who cared for dozens of special needs children and adopted over 20 orphans, a faithful tither, expelled from her house for being behind on rent. Why wasn’t she receiving from the tithe, rather than giving it?
Am I Honoring God If I Pay My Tithe But Not My Electric Bill?
Some of my closest friends reacted as if I was backsliding, although they knew my situation. I had honestly thought, knowing many congregations, that I was in the church most free from legalism and religiosity in my region. My friends thought I was backsliding, but I knew I loved God and wanted to serve him with all my life. All I’d wanted since I was 13 was to be a missionary. I’d felt a love that filled my whole soul and body and compelled me to give my whole life so that other people would know the same love.
This crisis came soon after a time of great glory, in which I had tangibly felt currents of God’s love flowing through my hands and mouth nearly every day. Was I now cut off from that joy and glory because I didn’t feel like it was right to tithe and not pay the electric bill, after having tithed “by faith” before and ending up with an overdrawn bank account?
I came up with a list of 32 questions about the tithe. Nobody could answer them, but a few people got really upset. My parents, who had taught me tithing, said “Wow, you’re right. We can’t support the idea that the tithe is for today, or that the Bible teaches anything for Christians but generous giving as we are able and willing.”
I was planning to start tithing again, not because I believed it was the Biblical standard anymore, but because I felt like I wasn’t doing my part. I’d been planning to go to Russia. But then I didn’t have money and everything was against me. I sought the Lord in the crisis, wondering if I’d really heard right to go to Russia, and was answered with a current of love for Russia and for the Russian people that I physically felt like electricity flowing through my whole body continuously from head to foot. Instead of paying my tithe, I went to Russia. It felt like an army of angels was with me there, and I experienced great joy in the middle of grief.
A Painful Loss of Fellowship
I had maintained a connection with believers when I was in the US, but I had very little trust for churches in Brazil and didn’t believe they would accept me because of my beliefs. (Which were and continue to be quite orthodox, but do not include tithing.) I continued to minister healing to neighbors and people I met, but I sometimes worried that they might end up worse if I sent them to a church.
After a few years, I started attending a small Baptist church that was marked strongly by sincere love with no manipulation. I felt like I could start giving there because the pastor was not teaching tithing, and I didn’t feel like I was only welcome if I paid my dues.
The Holy Spirit Lifting And Strengthening Me In The Middle Of Hardship
In 2015 and 2016, I started writing the books that God had put on my heart years before. As I wrote, I felt God’s glory coming on my body tangibly again. I wrote with many tears, and God softened my heart, bringing me back to a place of joy, restoring me to the commission he’d given me to encourage pastors. God brought me back to a place of thanksgiving for the church and focusing first on the work of the Holy Spirit in the congregations, rather than focusing on things that need to change. My focus turned from self-pity to living in love, and I saw an increase in miracles again, even over Facebook messenger.
I also started teaching weekly in a small group of people from different churches, and for about a year I got a word of knowledge for healing for about every new person that visited, and they were healed. I made friends with some pastors in Brasil, and I’ve prayed for them and wept and rejoiced at seeing what God was doing in their congregations. In the few times I’ve gotten to speak to groups of Christians here, more than once I was not aware of anybody who asked for healing ministry and left without being healed.
We took in Edgar, an old man who was being robbed, cared for him until he died, and faced death and kidnapping threats for helping him. Some of my Facebook friends rallied to help us care for Edgar’s needs during that time. I had to lift him by the armpits and help my father in law to bathe him, clean his poop, and to change his diaper. I vomited more than once because of the smell, but I had great joy in helping the old man. At times during the last few years, I didn’t know if I would live or die.
Wanting Prayer And Fellowship
When I was visiting the US in 2017, I met with the pastor of the church that had been my home congregation in the US. I had never stopped attending there until I moved to Brazil. I shared our difficulties and asked him to agree to disagree about the tithe, but to put us on the prayer list with the other missionaries. He said they couldn’t join with me in that way if I didn’t believe in tithing. I was working hard, risking my life and using my resources to help an old man, facing a kidnapping threat against my daughter, seeing Jesus heal people on the street, at the snack bar, in their homes, and in church, but often at the end of my rope. Yet he still seemed to think I was stingy, and I couldn’t persuade him to put us on the prayer list!
I know many of the people in the congregation would have loved to pray for us, and I’m so thankful for all the Facebook friends who prayed for us and helped us to care for Edgar. I even think that the assistant pastor would have had no problem praying for us as missionaries if I’d talked to him first.
How We Bought A Business And Fell Into Fraud
I just wanted to preach and strengthen the churches, but my job is mostly at night and on weekends. I barely even got to the Baptist church on Sundays, and many times I didn’t. I wanted my wife to no longer have to leave early, face highway robberies, and come home late at night. I wanted my daughter to have time with her mom. I wanted to prosper and have more to give to ministries I believe in. So we borrowed money, promising to pay it back with the sale of my house in the US, and opened a franchise here in Brazil. It was a kiosk in the mall.
As we were opening the franchise in late 2017, I was visiting the US and several people gave strong prophesies about financial justice. I thought it meant that God was restoring us with the business we were opening. Now I think it was because God saw that we were in the process of being robbed.
We had a great struggle to keep the business open and got more and more in debt to pay the bills. I hadn’t imagined this could lose money so fast! We took out loans to convert the kiosk to a store so as to offer more services. After over a year, some friends in the US prayed for us. My eyes opened, and I realized the kiosk was not viable when we bought it. The salesperson had lied to us.
I went to the shopping center and asked for the figures the business had reported to them before we bought it. Their figures were almost 10,000 reais per month lower than the financial statements the salesperson had shown me before we bought the business. The financial statements the franchise had given us showed a small monthly profit. When I saw this, I thought I had a solid case for criminal fraud, but apparently, Brazil’s legal system doesn’t work that way.
I started emailing the franchise with questions, and they soon sent me financial figures for the months before we bought the business–including months the salesperson had told us they didn’t have figures for, due to a robbery. Thus the franchise itself proved to me that their salesperson had lied.
I had heard the franchise founder was a Christian and a God-fearing woman, so I sent her a very respectful message on Facebook showing the evidence of wrong, such as differing financial statements, and asked her to meet with us in at their headquarters, a four-hour drive from our house. The franchise had also forced us to use an out-of-state architecture firm which did not send anybody personally to see the place in the mall they were doing a blueprint for. The blueprint was full of errors which had cost us many thousands of reais, putting us deep in debt and increasing the cost of the job about 50,000 reais over what was estimated.
I asked her to help us in view of the situation since the franchise itself caused us great financial damage. I thought it could very well be possible that she really was a God-fearing person. If so, she would certainly see that her salesperson acted dishonestly with us, and thus help us. We were already way behind on what we owed the franchise, with their people calling my wife all the time to collect on past-due franchise fees.
She responded nicely and said she would certainly be there, but she was not there when we arrived. We reminded them that we drove four hours to be there because the franchise founder had promised to be at the meeting, so they contacted her and said she was coming later.
We had the meeting, showing the evidence of fraud, showing the blueprint for the store which was all wrong, and playing an audio clip of the manager who was there before we purchased the business, saying the problem was always movement and sometimes the place only attended to one or two people a day. Her people’s eyes were wide when they heard the audio clip, but nobody responded anything.
Then the founder of the franchise entered. She refused to hear any of our complaints, although I had sent her the evidence earlier. She put all the blame on us and on our manager for the business’ failing, then promised very nicely to help us.
“Your Tithe Must Not Be Right”
At the end, she sent everyone else out to have a personal meeting with us, saying she was speaking no longer as a businessperson but as a fellow believer. The first thing she said was that she had been in the same position, and God showed her that her tithe wasn’t right and her relationship with her husband wasn’t right, and she would never prosper until she got those things right. And so she told us that we would never prosper until we got our marriage and our tithe right.
How did she know if we were tithing, or anything about our marriage? Do you see the depth of deception and self-righteousness? I believe there’s something to generous giving, and sowing and reaping that includes financial prosperity. (I loved Michael Van Vlyman’s books on this.) But one of the greatest deceptions in the church is that people’s standing with God can be measured by their financial position. This lady’s franchise defrauded us in the sale of the business and then caused greater financial damage to us than anything else with the blueprint, yet she assumed her financial standing was evidently blessing because of her tithe, and our struggle obviously must mean we were not tithing.
Her response, unfortunately, is all too similar to the response of many staunch tithers when I tell them that I believe the Biblical pattern is generosity that is not under compulsion or of necessity. It is immediate judgement, as if the only reasons one could not believe in tithing are lack of faith, lack of commitment to God, being a freeloader, or stinginess.
There is no serious engagement on what scripture actually says about the subject, or awareness that there are (and have been in history) many Christians who do not believe that tithing is the standard for Christians, yet who have given generously and risked their lives for the gospel. John Bunyan, who was imprisoned for his faith and wrote the best-selling Christian book of all time besides the Bible, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” did not believe in tithing. John Wesley, who led revival in England, said the tithe was for Jews and not for Christians. Yet he gave away 99% of his income.
Tightening The Noose
I recently confronted the franchise owner and someone else in her business more directly, calling out lies and injustices. We have been trying to sell the business for a low price to someone who doesn’t have debt, so we can pay our employees. But instead of helping us because our situation was unjust, the franchise just kept trying to make more money off the deal. One lady came to my wife, asking her if it was true that she was selling the business because she was moving to the US to get married! What a preposterous fabrication the salesperson told her! We had told the franchise we didn’t want them lying to sell our business and we had increased the clients enough that it could be profitable for someone without debt. But the franchise’s salespeople continue to lie and defraud others, and the owner still thinks she’s blessed because of her tithe and we must not be right with God because we are in financial straights..
How did she respond to my message which called out the lies and fraud directly and pleaded with her for justice? She blocked me and the franchised threatened more fines…
I don’t know what to do. I’m in a new city and don’t know Christians here, I still work nights and weekends, but want to be involved in the church. I miss my friend Pastor Jorge and other people in Rio. We have employees that haven’t received their full salary, and it costs even more to fire them. I thought I should have a solid case of fraud with the franchise, but my wife has consulted with lawyers and they say that I could actually go to jail and they could charge me with fraud. When I declared my assets as we bought the business, I apparently must not have understood that I was only supposed to declare a house as an asset if it didn’t have a mortgage.
How Do You Judge Generosity?
I still can barely think about Jesus healing people, or see a video on Youtube of someone ministering healing, without crying. I can never forget the love that gripped my heart, which I began to feel as currents going through my body, and which I wanted everybody to know. I’m still ruined for anything else than being a missionary. But it has been so hard lately to continue living outward and ministering to other people in the middle of what’s going on, even though that is how I find strength. It has been such a struggle just to deal with the anger I feel. Whenever things get to be just about me, I’m in a bad place and there’s no joy there.
Judge for yourselves. Am I in this position because of when I didn’t pay my tithe? Am I stingy? Do I just not know how to trust God? Or could it be that people’s hearts, love, and giving, can’t be measured by a percentage? Could it be that some people are rich because of fraud, and some people are poor because of injustice? Could it be that God judges by so much more than a percentage of your money, he sees our hearts, and giving could be risking your life to rescue an old man, then cleaning his poop and caring for him, not just money? It could be going to minister healing to people when you don’t have money for the trip but love compels you. It could be buying diapers and milk for a homeless mother. And it could just be going into a very difficult situation because love is driving you and you believe God sent you.
I just wonder why, at our wedding, every single person I knew to believe that giving is about so much more than tithing and cannot be measured with a percentage, gave twice the average wedding gift that the others gave? (Which, in a way, was also a missions gift before I moved to Brazil.) Maybe the assumption that people who don’t believe in tithing are stingy is a big error! (Of course, I was so happy to have every person there who attended our wedding, regardless of if they had any wedding gift to bring!) How have we forgotten that man looks at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart? And how have we forgotten that scripture gives us no right to judge other people’s giving, which is why Jesus taught his disciples to give in secret.
Neither tithing nor not tithing means anything, but the only thing of any value is the life of Jesus expressed through his body the Church!
Galatians 5:6 (NIV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.