Nine Concerns about Church Members Who Withhold Their Financial Gifts

February 4, 2015
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The story is too common, but I hear such stories repeatedly. My most recent conversation was with a church leader where an affluent church member offered to make a large contribution to the renovation of the worship center. He had one stipulation: the worship center had to be named in memory of his late mother. The leader politely declined. The affluent member did not make the donation. To the contrary, he began withholding all of his gifts to the church.

Almost every pastor and church leader has some story about members withholding their financial gifts as an act of protest about the direction of the church and its leadership. I have never known such a situation that had any positive affect. Such is the reason I offer nine concerns about this practice.

  1. It assumes that we are the actual owners of our finances. That is unbiblical thinking. God gives to us everything we have. We are the stewards of these gifts. Such is the reason we use the word “stewardship.”
  2. No church is perfect. If every member protested about an imperfection in a local congregation, no church would ever receive funds. This selfish act is not the way to resolve concerns.
  3. This practice is divisive. One of the most precious resources of any congregation is unity. The withholding of financial gifts is an act of disunity and divisiveness.
  4. It is controlling. The church member who withholds financial gifts seeks to get his or her way. Such is not the spirit of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”
  5. It is self-serving. When Paul penned 1 Corinthians 12, he emphasized how we are to function in the body of Christ. Our motive for serving is for Christ and others before ourselves.
  6. It is demoralizing. Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “So we must pursue what promotes peace and builds up one another.” This practice has the opposite effect.
  7. It backs church leaders into a corner. Leaders have one of two options. They can yield to the church member and thus affirm a sinful practice. Or they can refuse to yield and continue the conflict that was started by the member. It is a lose-lose situation.
  8. If the church member truly has serious disagreements with the direction of the church, he or she should pursue other paths. They can address their concerns with leaders in the church directly. If members still have serious concerns and no resolution seems possible, it may be best to go to another church. It is much healthier to give to another church than to withhold from your present church.
  9. This practice never has a positive outcome. Even if the member gets his or her way, unity and trust are broken at many levels. The body of Christ is always wounded by this practice.

This topic is both sensitive and challenging. I certainly am not the fount of wisdom. Let me hear your thoughts and ideas.

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82 Comments

  • Eric Calhoun says on

    I’M seriously troubled by Deacons failing to contribute financially according to God’s word and I must exercise restrant from dismissing such men. As you probably know I’m a Pastor and truly need you guidance and assistance with this situation.

    I’ll commit this problem to the LORD in prayer however during the coming week I’m gonna draft a letter and express potential disciplinary action if behavior doesn’t change.

  • Quick question for Thom Rainer:

    I have seen your thoughtful articles and I wanted to ask your permission to print them in my church bulletins from time to time. I have three very small churches in central North Dakota. all together, I print only 200 bulletins for all three parishes each week. I would, of course, site your website for my parishioners and friends of my parishes.

    God bless your work! Let me know.

    Whatever your answer, I want to thank you very much for your helpful words.

    Pax.

    Basil Atwell, OSB
    Pastor, Church of St. Nicholas in Garrison, ND
    Church of the Immaculate Conception, Max, ND
    Church of the Sacred Heart, White Shield, ND

  • I would rather give to an organization like St Judes children hospital, the Shriners, cancer research etc. Do you want me to not use my God given discernment to know what is right or wrong when it comes to the fleecing of the flock. David Platt and A W Tozer are so spot on when addressing what the real church should be. If you want entertainment go to a concert. If you want to feel good about yourself listen to motivational speakers. If you want to honor the Father, son and holy spirit by being obedient to the gospel pick up your cross and follow Jesus. Listen to the Holy spirit. You will not hear him if you are not saved. God does not need our money but he wants us to be wise managers of it by going to him, (not your pastor) in prayer about where he wants you to tithe it

    • hi brother Danny,
      God does not stop you from contributing to all those organisation but you still need to give in the house where you feed from as regards the word of God. That Pastor or congregation prays for you, feed you with the word of God, probably run to you when you are in trouble…do not muzzle the ox that treads the corn. Cancer research will never pray for you or nourish you with spiritual food! that thinking is similar to what Judas had when Mary broke the alabaster box and poured the perfume on Jesus feet. he got angry and said that it would have been better if the perfume was sold and the money given to the poor, the bible is clear that he was not even concerned about the poor…And Jesus clearly told them them the poor they will always have. There comes a time in life when you begin to regret why you did certain things or why you did not do certain things. think about it my brother

  • No, we’re not under the law, but be careful! If a Jew under the law was willing to give based on the law, how much more are we who are under grace? Grace is much greater… Could it not demand much, much more of us than a tenth? I believe it does.

    Furthermore, I have learned that it is much easier to live on the “90” than it is on the “100.”

    Additionally, is it not God’s responsibility to deal with those who are not good stewards of what is His to begin with? Who are we to withhold His tithe and our offerings based on our own perceptions? For me, giving sacrificially to the local church is an act of worship. It identifies with Jesus giving Himself sacrificially for the same cause. And He gave the ultimate sacrifice for her…

    • Hill String says on

      Tithing is under the Law and we are not. There is nothing wrong with teaching the disciples to be cheerful and generous givers. But the How and the What are between them and Papa, not an amount dictated by the “Church”, whether that be the pastor, board or anyone else.

      I know of some who have nothing but time to give and give they do. Others have material goods by which they supply.

      But in all this, the giving is not for the “Church” but for the church, the people who are disciples of the Living God. I find it interesting that many of the more prominent “Churches” push for and expect their members and visitors to cough up cash with no accountability to the church. Yet, the idea of accountability is found throughout the new testament church.

      Too often, those who are charged with the responsibility of managing the finances do so by spending them on irrelevancies like refurbishments of “Church owned infrastructure” instead of looking after the needs of the widows and orphans, the unemployed, the sick, the hungry in the midst of the “Church”. Many justify paying extraordinary salaries to staff and pastors and yet forget that a living wage is all that is required.

      If the leadership cannot demonstrate a generous spirit, why does it expect the fellowship/members to be generous?

      We are to teach the disciples (that includes all of us) to live as Jesus would live in us, Whether we have much or we have little, our responsibility is to God not the “Church”. If He says that He wants you to give 40 hours a week to serving the needs of the disciples by cleaning yards and houses and cooking meals and looking after children and elderly and to pay nothing into the finances, then do that. If He says give $10 a fortnight, no matter what you have received in that fortnight then do so. In all this you are to do so cheerfully, no matter what He asked.

      You are responsible to Him and not any hierarchy. There have been times when He has said give and I give, and times where He has said hold back and I hold back. That is His choice and I try very hard to follow.

      Again tithing is not a requirement of discipleship, it is having a generous heart in the same manner as Jesus that matters. The “Church” is not the mandatory recipient of that generosity, The recipient is whoever God says, irrespective of “Church” policy or by-laws.

      A point of discussion that comes up in relation to the concept of tithing is that “Churches” have become businesses and not family, have become corporations and not fellowships of disciples. This is to the detriment of the church of God. “Churches” have become so tainted by the world that there is nothing to distinguish them from the world. The love of Jesus has disappeared down the cracks and all one is left with is a country club.

      We are no longer in the regime of the Old Testament, where God spoke to the High Priest and he spoke to the priests and they spoke to the people. We are in the New Testament and God speaks to each of us in a personal and intimate way if we are willing to stop and wait to hear what He says.

      If we cannot teach the disciples to stop and wait and listen to God and to do with a cheerful heart what He tells to do, then we have failed in going forth and making disciples. We do not have the right to force disciples into a mold (that we think is correct). It is God who changes them from the inside out and makes them a new creation in Jesus. We’re there as a privilege to witness this transformation and to praise our Glorious, Merciful and Loving God.

      Go in Peace in Jesus and Papa all the days of your life, always seeking His will and His joy and His love in all things.

    • watson Rosier says on

      hi, with all respect. can you please tell me where in the bible that God asked for a tenth? and when is the tenth started in the bible.

    • Absolutely true! My thought too

  • Eric Vaudt says on

    Glad I saw this today. I had a member of the church, who is on the finance committee, recently tell the committee that because other people in the church “are not giving their fair share” that he has reduced his giving. I was shocked to hear this, but this kind of statement reveals what I face as the pastor of this church, especially when it comes to the financial support of the church. I work tirelessly to teach, and lead, by Biblical principles, trusting that the Spirit will move us in the right direction. I will definitely share this article with my finance committee and church council.

  • John 10:27 King James Version (KJV)

    27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

    Be Led By the Spirit not by the Need in All things, including
    our Giving!!!

  • Hill Strong says on

    I have only just come across this particular post (through the My Christian Daily news summary). I find it interesting that many of you have forgotten that

    1. tithing is “Under the Law” and not a facet of Discipleship of Jesus Christ, and

    2. Giving is a matter between you and your Lord Jesus.

    In terms of giving, it is your generosity and wisdom that is being tested. There are responsibilities that you are required to fulfil and there are opportunities that the Lord places before you. To have the church organisation force you to give a specific amount and then give you no accounting of the stewardship of those funds says that the church organisation is not acting in accordance with the mind of Christ.

    In our own fellowship, it is the responsibility of the members to determine what they give by discussing this with the Lord Jesus Himself and not with anyone else. We give guidance only. We have a fellowship that consists of widows, pensioners, young marriages and young singles and teenagers. Most do not have any level of income that could survive any kind of tithing regime (no matter how well intentioned it may be). What we teach is that each of us is responsible to help each other when the need arises. Whether this is by helping with physical needs or appropriate financial aid or prayer, do what the Lord shows you to do.

    Our pastor is NOT paid any kind of salary or stipend. We do not have a church building or edifice. We do have a food bank that we as a fellowship pay for. This we supply the needs of those who fall through the cracks as Jesus shows us at no cost to them.

    I am not saying that this is the way for every church. God creates unique churches for His Glory and His Work as He deems.

    If you are NOT in the place where Our Glorious God has personally planted you, then find that place. If He gives you specific resources that He expect you to use wisely, then use them wisely. If He says give a specific amount, give that specific amount. But don’t let others know what you give or how you give. Remember the following

    Matt 6:3-4

    3 But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: 4 That yours alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret himself shall reward you openly.

    Be at peace in Jesus Christ, live by the Holy Spirit and be one with our Father.

    Truly, it is Holiness and Purity for which our Lord has called us.

  • My childhood church (which my parents still attend) recently had a situation just like this. The power couple of the church (both in leadership and financial means) was not happy with the way the denomination was going and threatened to without their offerings unless they voted to stop sending money to the conference. Needless to say, they voted that way (fearful of losing money). Two months later, the pastor suddenly resigns and a family that held many positions left as well.

    All of this could have been avoided if they didn’t initiate the threat. We should give to the Lord, even if we don’t personally like the decisions the church makes.

  • Withholding your gift is the wrong way to deal with a problem within a church. We’re commanded by the word of God to use our money to support the church. When contributing to your local church, you are investing in the kingdom of God. It’s something that people have to take very seriously. But, sometimes they are those who have been blessed by God who use their wealth as a way to influence how certain things should be conducted within the church. By the way, the church needs money to operate, and when for some reason someone has chosen to withhold his gift that simply means less money will go into the church.

    When you do that, you not only withhold money from the church but to Christ since the church is the very embodiment of His Kingdom. Let’s say if God were to do the same with such people by withholding the very things they need to survive?

  • I find it helpful to remember that I am giving to God and only indirectly to God’s channel, the Church. Do not withhold your giving to God.

  • Withholding your giving is petty, vindictive, and childish. If you have legitimate grievances against your pastor or your church, surely you can deal with them in more constructive ways than that.

  • Good article, and well rounded in general, and I don’t want to sound like the thorn in one’s side but … there’s just one left….Sadly the one that is always left out…

    This is when limited income doesn’t leave any room for regular tithing. I know several people on disability who could not budget a “tithe”.

    This is the one the church always leaves out, and forget that the early church members actually would sell property to help other members. Acts 4:32:35

    32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.

    I recently spoke with a very wounded Christian whose wife had cancer and went through chemo. In the United States, their health insurance only covered a portion. They are left with an $8000.00 bill with the hospital. They attended a church with a congregation that could facilitate full time pay for 10 pastors. The pastors were directly contacted by the husband, of his wife’s condition. Was their suffering as a result of not tithing to begin with? No, they were both well paid school teachers. Not one pastor asked if there was anything they needed or came to pray with his wife.

    Perhaps it’s an oversight with such a large church, but it is in times like this, when the real meaning of the “body of Christ” should be fulfilled. I realize this is an isolated situation and perhaps there are similar,… but I just wanted to share the other side of the story for many.

    I always tell people who say they have trouble budgeting a tithe, “then whatever he leads you to give to the Lord’s work, do it on purpose, from your heart.”

    • I encourage even the poor members to tithe and claim the promises in Malachi 3. That’s the only time in Scripture where God commands us to test Him. Please understand that I know what it’s like for money to be tight, and there were times when I gave in to the temptation not to tithe. However, I’ve found that my money always goes farther when I tithe than it does when I don’t tithe.

      If a person insists that he / she can’t afford to give ten percent, you might suggest that the person start with five percent. That’s better than giving nothing, and when the person starts experiencing God’s blessing from giving, he / she may be encouraged to give more.

      • >I’ve found that my money always goes farther when I tithe than it does when I don’t tithe.

        How cost-effective is it for the congregation, when the individual contributes something?

        Individual gets five hundred dollars a month for disability.
        They give ten percent — fifty dollars — as a tithe.
        Depending upon how they contribute, the processing cost of that tithe can range from quarter, to fifty dollars.

        How willing are you to sit down with that individual, and explain how they could alter their tithe, so that it wouldn’t be eaten up in processing costs?

        How many people outside of the finance committee even realize that the different methods of contributing, have different processing costs?

        For that matter, does the finance comittee even know what those figures are?

        Is it an excuse for somebody to not tithe, when they think/know that their giving will cost the church more than it receives?

      • I’m not sure what you mean by “processing costs”, but I stand by my statement: my money always goes farther when I tithe than it does when I don’t tithe. I don’t base it on anything I can explain. I base it on the promise of God (Malachi 3:10).

      • >I’m not sure what you mean by “processing costs”

        * The fees that the bank charges for cash/check/credit card deposits;
        * The fees charged by credit card/debit card authorization agents;
        * The cost of doing the paperwork required to fully comply with _all_ federal, state, and local regulations regarding donations;

        Note: I’m not saying that people should not tithe.
        What I am questioning, is whether or not the tithe benefits the church that receives it.

        Rephrasing:
        If you give somebody US$100, but they end up fifty dollars poorer than before you gave it to them, as a direct consequence of your gift, did you gift help, or harm the reciepient?

        They start out with one thousand dollars.
        You give them 100 dollars.
        Without spending money on anything but the direct costs of your gift.
        They now have 950 dollars.
        Did your gift help, or hurt them?

    • Whenever someone says they can’t afford to give, the first question that should be asked is what do they spend their money on. Do they have cable, a smart phone plan, do they eat out a lot or spend money on entertainment? There are often many superfluous things on which people spend their money because they think it’s somehow their right to enjoy those things. There is a man in town who regularly asks the church for money to pay water or electric bills. Come to find out, he was paying an extra $50 a month to the city for a dumpster. Having a dumpster is not a big deal but when you’re begging people for money I think you can do without it. It’s often the same situation when people tell God they can’t afford to give as they wright a $150 check for their smart phone. As they examine the things on which they spend their money, the next question should be, “What am I willing to give up so that I can be faithful to God in my giving?”

      • Alas, you are quite correct: many people do bring financial stress on themselves because of their wrong priorities and bad stewardship. Some years ago I received a call about a family that allegedly could not afford to buy Christmas presents for their children. I went to visit them. They weren’t home, but I noticed that their lawn was strewn with beer cans and cigarette packs. I don’t know how much a carton of cigarettes costs these days, but I know it’s not cheap. That same amount of money would buy a lot of Christmas presents.

    • > I know several people on disability who could not budget a “tithe”.

      I remember a preacher who worked amongst the homeless population, pushing them to tithe. If you got fifty dollars working at Labour Ready, you owe God five dollars. Furthermore, he based the tithe on the gross, not the net.

      It can be tough for those who don’t receive much money.
      It is incredibly difficult for people to live as if God will provide for all of their needs.
      It is even more difficult to have the faith that God will provide for all of their needs.

      One interesting statistic I ran into a decade or so ago, that when generosity was defined as a percentage of one’s gross income, the most generous demographic group was that which earned between minimum wage, and twice minimum wage. As income increased by a lmultiple of the minimum wage, their generosity decreased geometrically.

    • Jan Willem says on

      I know it is a bit of a side track of the blogpost, but Laurie mentioned a valid concern about tithing and the poor. If we look at how tithing worked under the old covenant and what it meant for the poor, we discover some basic facts that are rarely understood or talked about today, but have important implications for the poor.

      In the first place we have to conclude that tithing was not about money but only about what the land produced. Everything in the law about tithing speaks about produce of the land. The argument that Israel was an agricultural society in which money only played a minor role doesn’t hold up under further scrutiny. After occupying the land, a lot of people started to live in the conquered cities and earned money in various trades. Even the farmers received money by selling their products. Already in Genesis we can find various references to the existence of money, but nowhere in the law was it commanded to give tithes from monetary income.
      The reason for this lies in the covenant God made with Israel in connection to the land He gave them. As King of this land, He demanded 10% of what it produced. Nowhere is there even a hint that He demanded 10% of their income. This is a concept strange to the old covenant, which unequivocally places what grew on the holy land as the sole basis from which the tithes ought to be given. Money is nowhere mentioned as something you could tithe.

      The poor, who didn’t own land, were not subjected to a law to tithe. To the contrary, they were on the receiving end:
      Deuteronomy 26:12
      12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

      Another thing that needs to be addressed is the role of the store house. The assumption that all of the tithes were given to the store house based on Mal. 3:10 doesn’t hold up if we consider the following 2 points. First, it was physically impossible to store 10% of what the land produced for a few million people in the storeroom(s) of the temple. Secondly, the Israelites were commanded to give their tithe from the land primarily to the Levites. The Levites in turn were commanded to give 10% of this to the priests and as supply for the storeroom. (Neh. 10:37-39) This means that at most 1% of what the people gave went to the storeroom. The “whole tithe” that is spoken about in Mal. 3, is the tithe of the Levites and not the tithe from those owning land who were not commanded in the law to bring it to the storehouse.

      Interestingly to note is that the priests were not under a command to tithe. They didn’t own land just as the Levites didn’t, but they were not commanded to tithe from the tithes they received from the Levites. What could this mean for us who are all part of a royal priesthood? Even Jesus Himself and probably most of His disciples didn’t tithe as they didn’t own land.

      Those who put the burden of tithing on the poor, based on a flawed interpretation of the old covenant law, should also consider another law:
      Dt. 15:10 Give generously to them (the poor) and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
      Doing this resulted in a personal blessing in contrast to the promise of Mal. 3:10 which speaks to the nation as a whole. At that time Israel was under a curse. A major reason was that the sacrificial ministry of the temple ceased to function properly due to lack of food for those in its ministry, so they abandoned their work. Even if the tithes were brought to the storehouse, the promised blessings wouldn’t come to pass if the temple didn’t start to function again as commanded. The focus on a personal blessing or curse, depending on giving tithes, doesn’t do justice to this scripture. The promised blessing is a repetition of what is written in Dt. 28: 12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.
      But this was subject to the condition that was mentioned before in Dt. 28:1: If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:

      By changing the old covenant law of tithing from produce of the land to money from income, without biblical support, we’ve placed tithing as a burden on the shoulders of the poor. Besides this change, many times we leave out the laws that speak of support for the poor. There is a dangerous way of thinking that considers advising the poor to tithe the best way to get them out of their poverty based on the blessing of Mal. 3 which does not speak to the poor who were not obligated to tithe as they mostly wouldn’t own land.
      However this is all old covenant stuff. We as Christians do not live in a land owned by God but live in a Kingdom that is not of this earth. But delving into the consequences of this would be too great of a side track if this already isn’t.…….

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