Are you a cheerful giver; or you give under duress?

We’ve probably all heard these common complaints and questions: Churches today only care about money. There are too many abuses of church funds. Why should I give? How do I know the money will go to a good cause?

Some churches talk about and ask for money frequently. Most take up a collection weekly as part of the regular worship service. However, some churches don’t receive formal offerings. Instead, they place offering boxes discretely in the building and money topics are only mentioned when a teaching in the Bible deals with these issues.
A story about an old granny from Prophet Magaya’s PHD church caught my attention this past week and inspired me to write this article.

So, an elderly woman spent a night queuing at the bank, so she could get $20 of which she gave half of that as offering.
The media reporting on this story said “Prophet Magaya learnt that Gogo Govera spent the night in a bank queue and was so moved by her faith and sacrifice that he gave her more than a thousand dollars describing her as a great giver.”

I have no qualms with that at all. My issue is with the way Churches are coming up with numerous strategies and ways to solicit money from the congregates.
These modern-day prophets and pastors are very cunning and manipulative.
I have been to a church where these so-called- ‘Man of God’ compel people to give money in church.

Some of you may relate to this. I have been to churches were an offering is called for not once but multiple times. I remember one Sunday morning when a pastor walked onto the pulpit to pass on a request for a seed.
“You’re all going to think I’m crazy, but God says give again,” the pastor said.
The congregation rose from their seats to march to the front as the praise and worship sung along to a soothing melody. As members of the congregation dropped off their offerings at the altar, the pastor urged them on with, “God says give everything; don’t hold nothing back.”

The praise and worship singers then picked up the tempo, and the pastor shouted, “God says run! Give, give, don’t rob God, give for your financial breakthrough give, give’ the pastor shouted in an instructive voice.
The offering ended with people surging toward the altar like music fans rushing a concert stage.

As I watched this drama unfolding there was one prominent question in my mind. Were these people cheerful or gullible givers? Indeed, are most of the congregates in some of these churches really cheerful givers?

Having spent some time in one of these churches I can speak with some level of authority on this subject. My take on this is that the majority are victims of the “Spiritual fund raiser schemes” — a phrase I coined for manipulative tactics pastors and churches use to get money from unsuspecting congregates.

Carrot cakeIf a Pastor, Prophet or church leader has ever told you that the Bible commands Christians give generously of their income; then proceeded to hit you up for multiple offerings during one service; made you march up front to give; asked you to donate to a mysterious “building fund” or give a “first-fruit” offering; or even given special recognition to big givers in your congregation, I have a message for you:
You are getting played.
These rituals, my dear friends, violate New Testament teachings about how and why people should give.
I appreciate that to some Christians quibbling over how churches collect money may seem trivial. But the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was sparked, in part, by outrage over how the Roman Catholic Church collected money.
Church leaders sold everything from “indulgences” to people who wanted their sins pardoned to holy relics of dubious value. And researchers say that today’s surge in people who claim no affiliation to the modern day prophetic churches in particular and Christianity in general, is driven by people who complain that Christian organisations are too concerned with money and power.

Contemporary churches are not just spiritual enterprises; they are businesses. They have budgets, staff, building repairs — they need cash and converts. And when the cash gets tight, some go into Spiritual fund raiser schemes mode. They start compelling congregates to pay into the various church schemes. (Appreciation seed, Prophets birthday seed, building seed some come up with fancy names like ‘The Miqdash Project’ and all sorts).

Pastors who are trying to raise money have two go-to scriptures: The “will a man rob God” passage from book of Malachi in the Old Testament; and the story of Jesus and the poor widow.

But guess what? Most pastors completely distort the meaning of both stories, some say.
Consider the “will a man rob God” from the third chapter in Malachi. The prophet declares that withholding tithes and offerings invites divine punishment because the stingy person is robbing God.

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However, I would argue that careful reading of that scripture will reveal that Malachi declared that God was angry at Israel’s priests, not ordinary people, for withholding offerings. The real thieves were greedy priests, but pastors have turned the scripture into a blanket condemnation of people who don’t give enough.

Indeed, unless you read the whole chapter, you won’t know. Cunning pastors “scripture hop,” they bombard parishioners with isolated scriptures to induce them to give more.
If the pastors going to get money from people, they can’t preach the whole chapter. They never ever preach the whole chapter.

Then there is the story of the Widow’s Mite in Mark 12:41-44. In this story, Jesus is watching rich people throw large amounts of money into the Temple’s treasury in Jerusalem when he spots a poor widow dropping “two mites,” or a bronze or copper coin into the treasury. He praises the woman because he says the rich people “gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”

The message is clear right? Even if you can’t pay your electric bill, God says give all you have. But I argue that pastors often miss the story’s meaning. Jesus wasn’t telling people to give all they have to the church: He was condemning the financial corruption of the religious system of his day for exploiting the poor widow’s generosity.

Consider the context, he says.
Just moments earlier in the story, Jesus had scolded religious leaders in Jerusalem for “devouring” widows’ houses to maintain their social status. As he watches rich people ostentatiously drop money into the treasury, Jesus warns his disciples that the great temple would be torn down.
Now he watches a widow get devoured — she is giving everything to a religious institution that he has already shown is not worthy of her.

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This is not a heart-warming story of a generous giver, in my considered opinion. This is a heart-breaking story of exploitation.
Some pastors don’t just distort a scriptural passage. They misuse scriptural phrases — such as the “first fruit offering.”
First fruit offerings were agricultural offerings that the Israelites gave to God in the Old Testament. Yet some pastors invoke that phrase to tell people that God commands them to give the “first fruits” of their financial bounty, which could mean someone giving everything from the first cheque of the year to the first cheque one received after a job promotion.

It’s a misapplication of scripture in my view. They encourage individuals that before they pay their bills, before they buy their groceries or do anything with their finances, many of them say ‘You have to take care of God first.
If pastors and churches are so cunning when asking for money, what can stop the manipulation? Enough said.

The modern-day pastors and prophets will find a way to use guilt somehow. They will go to any lengths to make the ‘Spiritual fund raiser schemes’ run smoothly.

Some say that using guilt isn’t bad. Shouldn’t people be shamed if they’re not generous? But how and why someone should be generous — perhaps that’s ultimately up to the person in the church.
So, when the organist hits those celestial chords and the praise and worshippers belt out those melodious voices to signal offering time or a smiling usher beckons you out of your pew, ask yourself:
Am I about to freely give — or is this a Spiritual Fund Raiser Scheme, to fund the opulent and salacious lifestyle of the prophet?