There is some irony in the timing of this article for residents of Jacksonville. While the paper reports on the front page that pastors are encouraging people to fork over 10% of their money to God during these tough times, the paper has also reported in the last few days of how the city of Jacksonville is going to hike our property taxes by nearly a tithe (9%) to fix the city's financial ills - while simultaneously cutting city services.
The church says "fork it over" because the Bible says so...the city says "fork it over", because, well, we have the right to take it. Amen? Amen!
As I have blogged here on this site over the past year, the doctrine of "storehouse tithing" is one that is not supported in scripture, and in my opinion is often misused by pastors to get people to fork over 10% of their money to their church. Instead of preaching New Testament grace giving, they teach Old Testament tithing.
In the article, Brumley cites an example of Mark Brunnell, the former All-Pro quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaquars, who recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of some investments gone bad. According to Brumley, even though Brunnell is experiencing "financial woes", he is tithing 10% of his $1.55 million salary to his Jacksonville church.
I think to be fair, readers of Brumley's article should understand just how dedicated the Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are to this doctrine of tithing. It's not just a recommendation, it is a rock-hard, biblical principle that must be adhered to by faithful Christians.
Here are a few examples that Jacksonville readers might be familiar with:
First Baptist pastor Mac Brunson has stated that Christians are absolutely obligated to give at least 10% to be in a right relationship to God and the church - that church members are expected to give a tithe when they become members. Just last fall Brunson has gone so far to say he believes our economy is in shambles precisely BECAUSE Christians are not tithing.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, has accused his non-tithing members of driving stolen cars, living in stolen homes, and sending their kids to school with stolen money. Gaines also said that tithing may be a requirement even for a person to get up and sing a solo, as he doesn't want "Betty the bank robber warbling for Jesus." Go to the hyperlinks, and hear it for yourself. One more twist: for your tithe to qualify as a biblical "tithe", it must be given "undesignated" to the church, according to Gaines. Ugh.
And there are others. This blog has examined the tithing issue very closely over the past year.
About tithing in difficult times: absolutely Christians should continue to support their churches financially. But it might be shocking to some non-Christians, that Christians would still be giving 10% of their income to their churches while at the same time they can't pay their creditors and must file for protection under the bankruptcy laws.
Is that really the Christian thing to do?
But this is precisely the advice given by Dave Ramsey, one of the premier financial experts and regulars on the evangelical church speaking ciruit, who when asked by a listener if they should reduce their tithe to get out of debt answered:
So the advice that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have heard from even Dave Ramsey: keep tithing, EVEN IF you can't pay your creditors. Pay your church and your pastor first, then pay your creditors.
"No, I wouldn’t stop my tithe. I wouldn’t reduce it. It’s a tenth. I tithed all the way into bankruptcy court and all the way out. These are a loving Father’s instructions for His kids."
I wonder if Mayor John Peyton and the city of Jacksonville will take that excuse when it comes time to pay property taxes:
"Sorry, I had to pay my tithe to the church first. And, oh, I needed to buy my Jaguars season tickets so we can continue to pay our athletes millions each year."