Please bear with me, I'll try to be as brief as I can.
I'm trying to help here.
Pastors, please don't abuse your church members by ever insinuating that God is harming a Christian's family or their children because they are not "bringing the tithe" to your church each week. I'm not sure what to call this when you do this: it is maybe spiritual/financial extortion, or maybe it is spiritual abuse. But it is lying. And it hurts families. It damages your families. And you need to stop it if you're doing it.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about, so you know never to do this.
I'm going to use Tim Maynard, the pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church here in Jacksonville as my example. Tim is the elected president of the Florida Baptist State Convention. I have absolutely nothing against Tim Maynard or Fruit Cove Baptist. I have friends that go there, and I've never heard anything negative about the church or Tim Maynard. I've heard they are a very generous church and do a great deal of good in St. John's County.
But a member did alert me to this ridiculous tithing illustration/testimony/fable (take your pick, I'm not sure which one it is) that their pastor used very briefly this past Sunday, and once before in 2012.
Pastor Maynard spends his tithing sermon trying to convince his church members the standard "storehouse tithing" nonsense is true: Christians must give 10%, that none of the money they earn is theirs but it is all God's, that they must give it to the church because the church is the "storehouse", that they must tithe on the gross not the net, and that blessings or cursings of one's finances are dependent upon obedience to the tithe. Those are all lies and tall tales, but nothing out of the ordinary for pastors who push the tithing doctrine.
But my beef with Tim Maynard is how he closes out his sermon with this illustration/testimony/fable:
"There was a cattleman, he owned a lot of land in Montana, and thousands and thousands of head of cattle...he had been going to this pastor's church for a long time but had never given....he said 'I will be a tither in your church from now on.'Pastor Maynard is actually telling his people that the God he serves is a God who would actually harm this man's son and his relationship with his dad - that God COULD HAVE gotten his son back to him, but God was NOT going to do that until the man started forking over 10% of his fortune.
He said 'But pastor, would you do one thing for me? I have not spoken to my oldest son in ten years. Would you please pray that God would bring my son back to me, and back to himself before it's too late?'
The next Sunday, the rancher did as he promised. He tithed. He put the money in. It's hard. A big check. It's hard. The middle of the next week, the rancher got a phone call. The first time in ten years he heard from his son. His son said 'Dad, I'm broke, I've been wrong, and I want to know if it's OK that I come home. And I want to give my life back to God.'
Now here's the story folks: you can say 'what a great coincidence'. Maybe. Or maybe God was waiting for this man to fix this part of his life, before the other blessings started to flow.
The promise in God's word is if you will put God first in this, he will bless your work, he's going to bless the investments you make, he's going to teach you the joy in giving."
He actually says it: God was "waiting for this man to fix this part of his life"....before he would help the man restore his son to well-being.
This hurts families. If what Maynard says is true - and it is not, it is complete hogwash - but if the religious faithful in his congregation believe it, then here's what might happen:
1. What about that family that has a son or daughter with autism and they are suffering over the lack of development in their son? Perhaps God COULD help their son, but God WON'T help their son. Maybe God is sandbagging, waiting for them to get some area of their life right. Maybe they aren't tithing. Maybe they don't pray enough. Maybe they don't serve enough. If they would only perform to some level - the 10% financial level according to Maynard - THEN maybe God would help them.
2. Or, perhaps Pastor Maynard's closing story opens the door now for one of the family members to play the blame game. If what their pastor says is true, maybe the reason their son is on drugs, or their daughter was maimed in a terrible accident, or their son is now an atheist - it was the dad's fault. If only the dad had given more, or read his bible more, or had prayed more, or had stronger faith, or hadn't criticized the pastor's sermon - then maybe God WOULD have intervened and fixed things before they went awry in the family. Way to go, dad. You blew it. God has been waiting for you to fix your life; you didn't; now you're to blame.
I'll be optimistic and say most pew sitters know just to roll their eyes when Pastor Maynard tells the story, and smart enough to not fall prey to either of the above logical extensions from Maynard's tale. But some WILL. And it will harm their family. And sadly, all in an attempt to get people to believe the false notion that a tithe is required.
So Pastor Maynard, please don't do this anymore. I would hope that you would altogether stop the storehouse tithing nonsense and preach what the New Testament says: give according to the dictates of your heart, and be generous, and be happy about it. THAT will get the job done at your church.
But pastor, if you can't get away from preaching the storehouse tithe, at least stop harming families by painting a picture of God as a holy extortionist who will only come to your aid in your family's troubles if you fork over 10%.
And other pastors, please learn from this. Don't do THIS.
Thanks for reading.