It might be hard to imagine requesting a refund on tithes, but one church’s three-month tithe challenge offers exactly that.
You’ve probably heard the message of Malachi 3. Whenever a church tries to pressure its members to tithe, that’s one of the top stories the congregation will hear. It’s the basis of a tithe challenge the nation’s largest church has launched, in fact.
The Edmund, Oklahoma-based Life.Church boasts a weekly attendance of 85,000 people. The church launched the Three-Month Tithe Challenge, which its website describes as “essentially it’s a money-back guarantee of sorts.”
Of sorts. Hmm.
Back to Malachi
In Malachi, the writer, suspected to be Ezra, describes, among other things, a church temple that is “underfunded because the people have lost interest in it.” In Chapter 3, God tells the people they are cursed because they have turned away from Him. The New International Version, one translation that many find easier to understand than the King James Version, has God telling people they are robbing Him in tithes and offerings that they are not handing over.
But in Malachi 3:10, he says this:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.Malachi 3:10
That “test me in this” is often quoted whenever pastors teach about giving to the church. The lesson is that you can’t “out-give” God. He will bless you more than you give to him.
Some of us feel a bit odd about giving to get something out of it. It feels even more off to give with the motive of “testing” God, which always struck me as a move of someone who didn’t have enough faith.
After all, you’ll recall that in Luke 4, when Satan tries to trick Jesus into throwing himself from a high place since he won’t be hurt. Christ responds, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Tithing seems to be the one way in which it’s “acceptable” to put God to the test.
Life.Church’s website states that if you tithe for three months and don’t see God’s blessings in your life, the church “will refund 100% of your tithe.”
I’d be curious to know exactly how that would work. Is it just up to the giver to determine whether they see God’s blessing as a result of tithing?
As the old saying goes, “some restrictions apply.” A completed entry form must be received the church’s “Giving Experience Team” before the tithing challenge begins. Households qualify for the challenge (and the guarantee) only if they have not been tithing in the past six months.
Refunds must be requested within 30 days of the end of the Three-Month Tithe Challenge. Refund requests can’t be made for contributions made prior to the beginning of the challenge.
I wonder how many people would request a refund. I suspect the pressure of possible scorn might be enough to prevent most people — other than those in the most dire of circumstances — to request one at all.
Still, it’s an interesting campaign to encourage tithing. Relevant Magazine, which reported on the tithe challenge, also reported only a small percentage church attendees regularly tithe these days.
Giving for the wrong reason?
I certainly understand the financial pressure churches are under. Nothing these days is cheap. On the surface, I don’t have a problem with churches challenging their members to challenge God as the Bible suggests.
Still, I wouldn’t want to give to motivate God to “bless” me. Aside from the verse in Luke about not putting God to the test, there’s another Bible verse that might apply here.
The verse 2 Corinthians 9:7, another often-quoted verse about tithing, tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” But look at that full verse:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7
If we’re giving because we feel “challenged” or “pressured” to do so, we’re doing it wrong. Likewise, so are those doing the pressuring. If you believe you are called to give 10%, your obligation should be enough to make sure you do so.
You shouldn’t do it to look good. You shouldn’t do it to defeat whispering in the church. And you certainly shouldn’t do it to see what “goodies” God might toss your way in return.
I don’t blame the church for offering such a challenge. It could be a great teaching moment for those who do choose to participate. Looking for the challenges implied in the text could be a good lesson; but I still don’t think that should be the motivating factor to taking part to begin with.