Q. Every time I turn on Christian television or radio recently all they are talking about is finances - how to get out of debt, live frugally, and of course "give" to them during this process. It bothers me because I think they are trying to get hurting people to give what they shouldn't be in these hard times. What do you think?
Spending Just Like the World
It irritates me, too. I wonder why pastors weren't preaching about the "virtue of frugality" when Christian believers were flipping properties and spending just like the "world?" Where were they when Christians were buying junk they didn't need and trying to compete with the Joneses?
What happened to "Do not covet what your neighbor has?" What about Christians buying ridiculously expensive homes, outlandish furnishings, luxury cars, silly vacations and expensive clothes - and of course tithing a lot to the church to "buy off" God's favor and blessings? Where were our bible-teaching American preachers back then?
Living like the King's Kids
Instead, we heard pastors preach prosperity and entitlement. They said we are the "King's Kids" and we should dress and act like royalty. We deserved Mercedes and McMansions.
This was not only evil but it isn't what Scripture teaches either!
Scum of the World
Listen to what the apostle Paul says about himself:
"To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless - and we toil, working with our own hands. When we are reviled, we bless, when we are persecuted, we endure, when we are slandered, we try to conciliate. We have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now" (1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NASB).
Preceding this passage Paul notes that he and his followers have become a "spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men" (v. 9)…. "we are fools for Christ's sake…you are distinguished, but we are without honor" (v. 10).
Here Paul is speaking with irony - contrasting the Corinthian's exultation of themselves with his own degradation and distress (Ryrie 1996, 1823).
Moderation a Virtue
Moderation in all things and frugal living has always been a biblical virtue. We just seem to have conveniently set it aside for a time. Now we need to relearn what we should have known before.
Proverbs 30:8-9 advises,
"Give me neither poverty
Feed me with the food
that is my portion,
That I not be full and
deny You and say,
'Who is the LORD?'
Or that I not be in want and steal,
and profane the name of
Contentment in all Circumstances
A verse in Philippians 4:12 reminds us:
"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity - in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
In all situations we are to learn contentment and reliance upon God for our daily needs. Furthermore, we are to learn to be contented if we just have the basics - food and covering (1 Timothy 6:8). That's a far cry from what we have learned the past ten years, isn't it?
Tithing to Maintain Crystal Cathedrals?
As far as tithing is concerned we must use good judgment. Would it appear right to you to generously support ministers who want to maintain McChurches or crystal cathedrals in today's world filled with people losing their jobs and homes? Would it be right to support the building of expensive properties when church members are struggling to put food on the table?
It is interesting that the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, was hundreds of millions in debt and went bankrupt.
Forced to support Holy Sites?
God does not ask us to do this. Just because a preacher teaches in a church structure does not make this church a "holy site." In fact, in some cases supporting the church structure may not be God's will at all. Neither is it His will to necessarily support pastors who live an extravagant lifestyle.
Share&Give Portions as Earned
Rather, we know that the Lord wants us to share and give to other believers as needed. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 tells us that although the Macedonian churches were very poor, they were also filled with joy and gave richly:
"For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem" (NLT).
Paul told early Christians to give as the Lord blessed them:
"Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God's people in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don't wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once" (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, NLT).
From these verses it seems clear that believers should set aside some of what they earn from their jobs for other needy people - especially for those in their churches. If a family has no wage earners I don't think God is asking them to donate large amounts of money to the church. What do you think? Perhaps they could share what food or provisions they have with others who are poor, too.
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV).
Kruis, John G. 2006. Quick scripture reference for counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation. 2007. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
Ryrie Study Bible, NASB. 1996. Chicago: Moody.