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Why I Left Christianity: Money

Leaving Christianity – Part Five

I find it funny that Jesus commands his followers to pay taxes (Mark 12:17), but churches are tax-exempt.

I don’t find it funny that the president of the Bible school I went to lives in a mansion, owns several cars and has his own private airplane, while the students of his school can’t afford to buy groceries, nonetheless pay tuition. Meanwhile he teaches them that God’s will is for them to be financially prosperous, even rich.

Tithing is a frequently recurring topic in the church. The word “tithe” means “tenth,” so this is the doctrine that you should give a tenth of what you make back to God. Many Christians take this very seriously, and I was one of them. Every time I got a paycheck, I sent 10% of the money to the church right away.

But I was shocked to find out that tithing is not a biblical concept. For one, it’s not mentioned at all in the New Testament, and most Evangelical Christians will agree that we don’t live under the Old Testament law – the only rules that apply to us today are those given to us in the New Testament. Yes, there are plenty of New Testament verses about giving and generosity, and that’s good, but there are none about tithing.

Even in the Old Testament, the concept of a “tithe” is only mentioned briefly in specific contexts, and is not really referring to money.

When I searched online for Bible verses about tithing, I found this from Dave Ramsey:

“Because the custom of tithing is biblical, many Christians and Jews practice it as part of their faith. Leviticus 27:30 (TLB) says, ‘A tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s, and is holy.’ And Proverbs 3:9 (NIV) says, ‘Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.’ Those gardening metaphors may have thrown you off, but what these verses are really saying is to give a portion (specifically a tenth) of whatever you make back to God. And firstfruits is just a biblical way of saying that you should give first—before you do anything else with your money.” (https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/daves-advice-on-tithing-and-giving)

Dave Ramsey begins with the assumption that tithing is biblical. Then he gives two verses, both of which are from the Old Testament and neither of which specifically mention tithing. The “gardening metaphors,” as he calls them, are not metaphors at all. These verses are literally referring to produce and crops.

However, it’s been accepted that “tithing is biblical” for such a long time now that no one really questions it. The church benefits from teaching its members to tithe – it guarantees that people will give money. But at the same time, the church teaches its members that they don’t need a guarantee on where their money will come from. They just need to trust God that it will.

Now, I understand that churches need money to operate. I also understand that a lot of Christians very happily give tithes and offerings to financially support the church. There’s nothing wrong with that. But a lot of churches are also manipulating or guilting their members into giving, and a lot of them are mishandling their money.

The custom of tithing, the way it’s treated today, is not biblical. But, that’s not the point of this article.

At my church, we were told that tithes are not given, but paid. So, in that sense, tithes are obligatory. All Christians paytheir tithes. But good Christians give as well. That’s the difference between a tithe and offering. The 10% tithe is required, but offerings are encouraged.

I wanted to be a “good” Christian, so I gave more than 10% of what I made to the church. I eventually decided to give 20% of everything I made to the church. On top of that, I contributed to special offerings, and financially supported missionaries every month. When managing my budget, I paid attention to all of these things first – before I thought about buying groceries and gas for my car, or paying rent and tuition.

But I – along with all the other people who managed their money this way – had no problem with this, because the church also told us that the more we gave, the more we would get back. So if we’re generous towards God, He will be generous towards us. Maybe you’ll get a raise at your job. Maybe you’ll get an unexpected financial gift from someone. You never know how God will bless you.

But I did not get a raise. My job didn’t give raises, ever. I worked for the ministry.

The school that I went to was only one part of a very large ministry, which I was very involved in. I went to school there, lived in the student apartments, attended and volunteered at the church and worked in their maintenance department. I saw a lot of things that went on behind the scenes, and I knew a lot more than the average follower of their ministry.

Money was a hush-hush issue at work, which was weird considering how often the ministry taught about prosperity. Every single worker there was underpaid. Raises were not even a possibility. We were never allowed to work overtime. “The ministry doesn’t have money for that,” was the only answer we received. But I didn’t buy it.

I had seen several of the pastors’ houses and cars. None of them were hurting for money. I had seen a lot of the obscure buildings which the ministry owned, sitting unused, sometimes empty, sometimes filled with stuff no one had touched since the 90’s. I had even seen cars sitting in storage, which no one had driven in so long, they didn’t even run anymore. In short, I had seen a lot of money being wasted.

But I really began being bothered when the church started fundraising over a million dollars to redo the sanctuary.

The sanctuary was outdated, yes, and ugly. But it was one of, if not the, newest structures on the campus. There was nothing wrong with it except from an aesthetic point of view. Meanwhile, the floor of the maintenance building was cracked, the ceilings in the school offices were covered in mold, and every time it rained, my coworkers and I would be running around setting up buckets to catch the leaks and cleaning up the mess of the water dripping into multiple buildings.

The sanctuary was the last of the buildings which needed work done on it. But thousands of people started donating thousands of dollars towards it, and it frustrated me. These people didn’t see the other buildings around campus that were falling apart. They didn’t see how the pastors’ offices were always clean and well-equipped with expensive furniture and decorations, while the administrative offices were old, ugly and moldy. I remember the first time I went to clean the administrative offices and my coworker told me, “I hate working in this building. It feels like a morgue.”

Why did the leaders of the ministry want to redo the sanctuary, when there were so many other things that required more of their attention and money? I could only reach one conclusion: the sanctuary is where people come every Sunday and Wednesday for church services. A nice-looking sanctuary will attract more people. More people will give more money.

Now, I know that that’s an unfair and extreme conclusion. I’m sure that’s not the only reason why they decided to redo the sanctuary. But I’m also sure that it’s one of the reasons.

The fact remains that the ministry was not using their resources well. I couldn’t understand why there were multiple buildings, even houses, sitting untouched and unused, while there were 7,000 people sleeping on the streets in our cities. What if we raised a million dollars for them? What if we prioritized the lives of people over the aesthetics of the sanctuary? Or what if we just cleaned and rented out all the buildings that weren’t being used, and used that money to redo the sanctuary?

On top of that, I soon began to see how the workers at the ministry were not only underpaid, but mistreated. Things were expected, even demanded, from them which were not even part of their job descriptions. People were suddenly fired, kicked out, for things that weren’t at all their fault. Several people got fired with no warning and no explanation. Some of these people got replaced by relatives of the pastor. Other people weren’t replaced, and the remaining employees were just expected to pick up the slack, without receiving any raises or bonuses, of course.

Because of all of this I became disillusioned with the ministry I was involved in, and I left it long before I ever left Christianity as a whole.

Now I look back on the thousands of dollars I gave to this ministry and I wish I could get a refund! I’ve personally seen how this ministry and their teachings are damaging people. I remember so many times that I gave what precious little money I had to the church, because I felt like I had to, or I felt guilty spending it on something else.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s any problem with giving your money to organizations, projects and people that you support. But it should be money that you give willingly, not that you pay, or hand over under a sense of guilt. If we really want to be good stewards of the money we have, we should think very carefully about who we give it to and why.


To Christians: Do you “pay” tithes, or do you give? Have you ever given out of a sense of guilt? Do you give because the Bible says to, or because you want to?

To Christians who are questioning: No, you don’t have to tithe. You don’t have to feel guilty about not tithing either. If you want to give your money towards something, good! Do it. But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

To those who left Christianity: If you paid tithes before and stopped, enjoy having an extra 10% in your pocket. Go buy yourself an ice cream!

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3 responses to “Why I Left Christianity: Money”

  1. Well written! So sad your experience! Unfortunately, there are more stories like this than should be. I suppose that guilt piece really comes back to religion…which really is just a bunch of condemnation…and not at all what God’s heart is. Too bad we humans mess it up.

    I was thinking about the irony of this NT verse in what you wrote. Clearly Jesus is addressing harshly what you’re talking about here…and bringing it back to the balance that clearly was missed in your story. I’m so sorry.

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
    Matthew 23:23

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mt 23:23 Jesus validates the tithe, though it is the minor point of what he is saying

    Like

  3. Sadly many young Christians see behind the scenes of the church and get turned off. The devil uses this many times to discourage young Christians. Yes it is true much of what you say is a sadness mature Christians see and do not like. When God blesses a ministry somehow the leadership gets caught up in it and forgets it goals! But God sees this and will punish these in the end. Just remember God loved you and never forget that. Others will be held accountable for their wrongs.

    Liked by 1 person

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