Thursday, May 6, 2010

Can We Buy God's Goodness?

On Sunday I attended the 8:00 service at one of the mega churches in the area. The church has been home to our immediate and extended family for 50 years. When our kids were born we felt blessed to have the opportunity to raise them up with this strong Christian heritage. We all grew spiritually, thanks in part to the good teaching at the church.

Ten years ago we were forced to leave that church. Our hearts were broken. If you’ve never experienced separating from a church family, let me just say—it’s more devastating than the worst kind of divorce drama.

The church’s former pastor had led the congregation for forty-five years, but he retired two years ago. After a two-year search, the new pastor has finally been installed. I’ve been drawn back to my former church home.

Last week the new pastor tackled a subject that every church leader has to address now and again…giving. He taught from the old and new testament, and I thought the teaching was really excellent. The Pastor/Teacher brought the scripture into the 21st century and creatively taught the concept of first fruit.

And then…

Just before passing the offering plate (actually, it was a bag) he made the following statement: “I have always given the first ten percent to God—my first fruits. I want you to know that I have lived a favored life. I believe it is because of my faithfulness that God has blessed me.”

Seriously? Was the pastor saying that if we have experienced loss and bad stuff that we are somehow to blame? Maybe we weren’t faithful enough! And how, exactly, do you explain the Biblical story of Job? He was the most faithful and honorable man in all the land, but God allowed Satan to heap tragedy on his life.

We had always been faithful with our giving—our time, talent, and treasure—but we lost so much. We were forced into bankruptcy, lost our church family, and nearly lost two of our children to the ravages of drug addiction. Are we to blame for what happened to our family?

Pastors are people too, and sometimes they are going to put their foot in their mouth. But listen up…the idea that you live a favored life because you give money to the church does not represent who God is! I know this because I know God and I know His word.

So, dear pastor/teacher—get off the pew and take your foot out of your mouth. Biblical financial principles must be taught from the pulpit, but intimating that when we give to God we are somehow buying an insurance policy against pain? That’s ludicrous!

You bet God wants our first fruits. It’s all His anyway. None of it belongs to me! You painted God as a smooth talkin’ insurance salesman who makes backroom deals and outlandish promises. “Slip me a little somethin’, and I’ll see to it that you’re protected…if you know what I mean.”

Get out your Bible, read the book of Job, then get off the pew and encourage someone who has lost everything. God will restore. Now, get off the pew!

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