The Bible speaks of tithing. This is true. The Bible does not speak of tithing as an “adventure” and neither does it promise a return on your money. This is the problem.
The Menlo Church is a multi-site congregation across the San Francisco “Bay Area.” It is pastored by John Ortberg, who is a graduate of Wheaton and Fuller Seminary with degrees in psychology (which he seems to be putting to use). He is also a protege of Bill Hybels, having served on staff at seeker-friendly flagship, Willow Creek Church in the Chicago area. Ortberg is currently on the Board of Trustees at Fuller and is on the board for the Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation.
Menlo Church and Ortberg have launched a new propaganda campaign for their congregants, challenging them to the “adventure” of tithing and promising them a “money back guarantee” that it will work.
The “Tithe Challenge” campaign reads – as an agreement between the church and its givers”
- I would like to test God’s faithfulness by accepting the three-month Tithe Challenge. I agree that for the three-month period I will give to God, through Menlo Church general offering, an offering of 10% of my income. At the end of the three months, if I am not convinced of God’s faithfulness to bless my life as a result of my obedience to his Word, then I will be able to request a return of the full amount of my offerings given to Menlo Church during the three-month period of my Tithe Challenge.
This notion is derived from Malachi 3:10, which is posted prominently on the challenge website:
10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
In order to take up the challenge, givers need to agree to the following terms, according to the church website:
- I understand that my three-month Tithe Challenge (Challenge) start date will start after this form is received by Menlo Church’s accounting team. Therefore, my Challenge start date must be today or a future date by August 31, 2018.
- I understand my household qualifies for participation in the Challenge because we have not been tithing for the past six months.
- I understand I cannot request a return of my offerings until the end date of my three-month Tithe Challenge period.
- I understand I cannot request a return of my offerings for any contributions made before or after the effective dates of my three-month Tithe Challenge period.
- I understand I must request a return of my offerings to Menlo Church’s accounting team within 30 days of the end of my Challenge period using the online form or in writing.
- I understand that any offerings not made online during the Challenge toward my tithe must be paid by check or in a completed offering envelope for tracking purposes.
- I understand that I must log in to my online account prior to paying my tithe online so that my tithe can be credited for tracking.
You can find the legal agreement HERE, which members can finalize by logging into the church website.
While this is an ingenious way to manipulate givers into contributing a tenth of their income to the church, it’s not Biblically supported. To be very clear, the Old Testament tithe did require multiple tithes, the New Testament requires cheerful, regular, sacrificial and proportional giving. While some are quick to say, “the tithe isn’t for the New Testament era,” I see no reason that the principle of ten percent given in the Levitical tithe (for spiritual purposes) can’t guide or inform us in deciding what proportion of income we give to the Lord.
While calling New Testament giving a “tithe” might require a number of asterisks for clarity, what should really be taken exception with is the notion that God is promising a return on money (either a financial return or any other kind – even spiritual – return). While the Malachi passage certainly contains a promise from God to those to whom Micah prophesied (concerning the tithes required by Moses), translating that to the New Testament church age requires real hermeneutical and exegetical gymnastics.
In the meantime, the whole thing is manipulative at face value. Who wants to be the guy who asks for his money back? Nobody wants to be that guy. And might I suggest that if he gave in order to receive, God doesn’t want his money anyway. But, I bet the church still does. Asking that people give under a guarantee of return is precisely the opposite of the worshipful, selfless offering that God desires of us in the New Testament.
We as believers are indeed required to give in the New Testament era, but never according to unbiblical “seed faith” principles like the guarantees offered by Menlo Church.
2nd Corinthians 9:6-8
6-Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7-Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8-And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;
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