But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
It’s that time of year again when many churches will be concentrating on the theme of stewardship, and using marketing schemes to sell financial management programs in books and on DVD’s. For example, the Southern Baptists are promoting financial management resources from Crown Financial Ministries. At their “It’s a New Day” conferences scheduled for March and April, the SBC will introduce pastors to the materials which include sermon outlines, small group study, and even Sunday school lessons.[i] One goal is to make Baptists good stewards of their money. Ashley Clayton, associate vice president for stewardship at the SBC Executive Committee, will be working with state conventions and churches for implementation of the “It’s a New Day” strategies, and he will also be promoting Ken Hemphill’s book Making Change which deals with personal money management and giving to support missions, and “the biblical laws of giving.”[ii]
The reason pastors are going to school on this, and every body else will be required to take classes when he does, is actually threefold. First, Clayton wants to “create an awareness of the dilemma that families are facing” who are struggling with debt to the point that it makes them reluctant to share their faith.[iii] Secondly, the stewardship programs are to enable Baptists to “become a giving people by biblical standards.”[iv] Lastly, according to Clayton, the stewardship program has an outreach component to the community at large, or the “world outside the church.”[v] It is to this outside, unsaved world that Clayton hopes to establish the authenticity of the church by the use of these financial management programs. Clayton claims:Â Â Â
Pastors and churches have a window of opportunity to give leadership to this pressing need in their church and community. Churches who respond quickly, helping individuals and families to get out of debt, will position their church as relevant and authentic in their community.[vi]
While the overly marketed to, debt ridden communities would probably benefit from some sound financial counseling, Clayton’s reasoning provokes some pertinent lines of questioning. It should be ascertained what causes Southern Baptist churches have had, if any, in helping to plunge church members into debt by misinterpretations of biblical standards of giving. Further, it should be determined whether it is doctrinally correct that the authenticity of the
Sermons that are preached using these select verses from Malachi are intended to strike terror in the hearts of God fearing, simple minded Christians; and they do. The tactic even works on the unsaved Christianese in mega churches who still subconsciously tabulate their salvation on a ledger of good works; where specific increments like the tithe tabulate conveniently.Â
It seems reasonably safe to suppose that the materials SBC will use from Crown Financial Ministries will interpret as a biblical standard for giving at least one of the Old Testament tithes. In their article “Finding Financial Freedom,” CFM states: “A tithe is the portion of our income that we give to God and to Godâ€™s workâ€¦. This is the amount most Christians use as a guide for tithing, but it really should be just a starting point for our giving.”[viii] Indeed, after accounting for collections for missions, building projects, and required purchases of materials for study programs,[ix] giving can easily exceed the tithe by another ten percent. The SBC is not the only Protestant denomination to demand ten percent of their member’s income, or the tithe; so do the American Baptists, the Assemblies of God, and many other denominations. While they use as their authority New Testament verses which do not specify an amount for Church giving, most churches that require a tithe from their members rely on Bible verses found in the Old Testament book of Malachi:
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:8-11)
Christians are told that if they do not give ten percent of their income to the church they are robbing God. Furthermore, they are told that God will respond by putting them under a curse whereby their incomes, or fruits of their labors, will be devoured by the Satan. No exceptions. Admittedly, these scriptures are the heavy guns in their arsenal, and are only wielded about once a year or so. The salvo is usually fired during some sort of stewardship series on giving. Because giving drops off precipitously the month before Christmas, or is about to over the coming summer months when attendance drops off, stewardship series are usually run in the spring. Sermons that are preached using these select verses from Malachi are intended to strike terror in the hearts of God fearing, simple minded Christians; and they do. The tactic even works on the unsaved Christianese in mega churches who still subconsciously tabulate their salvation on a ledger of good works; where specific increments like the tithe tabulate conveniently. This last effect is not the least in the crime and scandal of using these verses out of context[x] For by adherence to them the unsaved find justification in works, and are kept unto damnation by the very ones charged to deliver, and to deliver above all costs, the gospel of true reconciliation. This will no doubt be reckoned to their charge, and so will the debt they force Christians into under threat of curse.
[ii] Ken Hemphill, Making Change: A transformational Guide to Christian Money Management (
[iii] Roach, “It’s a New Day'”.
[viii] Crown Ministries, “Finding financial freedom,” 2007.
[ix] While the valuation of merchandise received offsets the portion of donations that are deductible, most of these authors consider themselves as ministries, and often the only real value contained in their merchandise is the scriptures they include in their work. Because they are prohibited from selling, or outright charging for, the word of God, or for ministry (Mat.10: 6-8); the purchase of these materials is rightly classified as giving.
[x] These verses, as with the entire book of Malachi, have absolutely nothing to do with the Church or Church finances. They pertain solely to the nation of