Church money gimmicks

Webster’s dictionary defines the word thing as “an attention-grabbing device or feature, usually superficial, designed to promote the success of a product, campaign; any clever or cunning little gadget.

Churches use financial gimmicks all the time. I do not like them. Not just because they are “fanciful,” but because they belittle biblical stewardship.

The Heart of the Bible stewardship is not complicated.

There are three main truths:

  1. God owns everything.

  2. Since God owns everything, He has all the rights as owner, and we operate only in the realm of managerial responsibility. Therefore, the question is not “God, what should I do with my money?” but rather “God, what do You want me to do with Your silver?”

  3. Every spending decision is a spiritual decision. God cannot be excluded from any transaction.

When it comes to giving, the Bible teaches about tithes and offerings. A dime is 10% of everything we earn, given to God through the local church we are part of. Offerings are those gifts that are given beyond these tithes in connection with special events, projects, or memorials.

The Bible is also full of wisdom about limiting debt, saving for the future, and working hard with our God-given time and talents to maximize our income.

The Bible also offers basic enforcement principles, such as the 10-10-80 principle where the wisest management of our funds is to give 10% to God through the local church, 10% to the savings and then live on the remaining 80%.

Those new to the Christian faith may find it difficult to adjust to the 10-10-80 principle, so my pastoral advice is always to start where you are. If you come to Christ and have financial realities that go against those plans, you should start with a mixture of realism and faith. Start by giving and/or saving 1% (even though it may be sacrificial), then 5%, working your way up to the percentages that will fully honor God and best serve your life.

God cares more about our heart and intention than a legalistic percentage. The amount counts, of course, but only insofar as it reflects a true barometer of our life. That’s why, for many of us, giving 10% is way too little.

(Legalism goes both ways).

This is the essence of biblical stewardship of our finances.

So where does the church money “stuff” lie?

They don’t.

But that hasn’t stopped leaders from using them as shortcuts to true discipleship. Here are four of the most common that I have witnessed:

Tithing refund

Many churches give in to the ploy of offering to “tithe back” if God somehow fails to provide for someone after they have paid tithing. In other words, the line is, “Tithe, and if God doesn’t provide for you on the other 90%, we’ll give you back what you gave.”

I understand. In Malachi there is a promise that the gifts will never exceed the supply. By using this gimmick, it is the church that stands up and says they are so confident in God’s provision that they will “ensure” your tithe. But that is not discipleship.

Jerry B. Hatch