The following article was written by me a few years after I left the organized church system in late 2001. I had just come out of a church that strongly, manipulatively and even oppressively (at times) emphasized the unbiblical doctrine of monetary tithing (and I had become aware of how widespread this same mentality was among so many churches all over). It won’t be too difficult to recognize my zeal concerning this matter and, while I may have softened my approach slightly since then (because of God’s work of love and grace in my heart), this is still very much the conviction of my heart and I do believe the Lord was revealing His truth to me in these things. I do not suppose I am any person’s judge where matters of money may interchange with Gospel work so I hope I will not be misunderstood here, but I think it’s good for us to “check ourselves” and invite the Holy Spirit to weigh our motives and direct whatever change He may desire in our hearts and lives. For some, this will present a difficult view to consider and some may even find this offensive. So long as it is man’s religious inventions that circumvent truth that are offended, then I say GOOD if those notions be offended. They have no place among the Family of God and ought to be discarded. I also understand that some will simply feel that my conclusions are perhaps over-zealous in their application. I always encourage every believer to weigh everything against the study of Scripture and the voice of the Spirit of God, who is the One that guides us into all Truth. I pray that this will challenge and provoke people to righteousness, not anger or offense. My sincere desire is that Christians flee religious captivity and error and embrace the full Gospel of Jesus Christ and all which He has purposed for the Family of God to walk in. If you don’t agree with me, I hope you will still love and pray for me… and, by all means, feel free to share your comments in response. God bless! -Dave
Matthew 21:10-13 (NIV) – When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were BUYING and SELLING there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
Revelation 13:16-17 (NIV) – He (the anti-Christ) also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell UNLESS he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
These two passages are curious aren’t they? The first one describes Jesus entering into the “holy place” and casting out all who bought and sold. This “holy place” had been turned into a marketplace. The business of religion was in full swing and money was the primary concern of the events transpiring here. In fact, regardless of all the other “legal” activities going on here, Jesus is at once consumed with this one thing that has literally ruined every other aspect of this place’s intended purpose! He does not softly speak about preserving the good and giving a little bit of advice about the rest… This is no minor detail to Jesus! John’s account of this event (2:5) says that Jesus fashioned a whip and drove the moneychangers (BOTH BUYERS AND SELLERS) out! He turned over their tables and scattered their money all over the place!
Jesus brought a striking word; this place, that was once intended for prayer, had been corrupted and was now a building full of merchants and consumers (peddling the wares of religion). So grievous was this picture that Jesus called it a “den of thieves”! Mark’s account of the passage says that all the people were amazed at his words and the religious leaders were so furious at His actions and teaching that they begin to seek for a way to kill him.
I realize that some authors have sought to make a parallel of this event to the money that is often such a central issue in modern day churches (I also used to lean on this perspective), but I do believe there is something more significant than that going on here (in this author’s opinion, that is). Those of us who understand the New Covenant and know a bit about early Christian history, know well that the early Christians did not have “church buildings” and there is no doctrine in the Scripture that teaches that the modern day “church organization” is the parallel to the Old Testament Temple. So it is wrong to assume too widely that this is a picture of Jesus showing how he hates the idea of money being involved in the organization of church, for to assume such requires that you first accept that there is a biblical sanction for something known as a “church building” (and that the church building is akin to the “Temple” of Scripture, which it absolutely is NOT). However; since God’s true Temple is comprised of individuals who follow Jesus (themselves being that Temple), we can still see some application in this regard – for often there are many of God’s people gathered inside the walls of modern day churches.
The point here is that Jesus regarded the literal Temple of His day as being primarily a “house of prayer” (at least that was its intention); In other words, a place for communing with God, the Father. These people had corrupted the focus from simple communion with God and placed something else in the center… and as we already noted, this something was so vile that it stained everything connected to it. Moneychanging has NO PLACE among God’s people where the message of Truth is concerned and it certainly has no relation to our communion with Him or how we propose efforts to share His message with others (either inside or outside of the Family of God)! To mix such with Christianity and even make it an essential part, is to take something God deemed holy (in this case our gathering unto Him) and designate it with thieving activity. I realize that’s a strong opinion, but it my sincere conviction and I believe it is a biblically defensible one.
But what is the mindset of so many of those leading (and even many of those following) today’s so-called “church”? Moneychanging is everywhere, is it not? Tithing, for example, is a very central focus in thousands of congregations. Some even tie it directly to salvation. At the very least, most churches tie membership to whether or not a person tithes. Often the kind of “service” a person receives by leadership and church programs is based upon their “giving record.” There are many other examples of moneychanging going on among today’s Christians. Preachers commonly accept their position for a guaranteed salary and many who find (at some point) that a congregation is not able to sustain their financial “requirements” leave to go somewhere else that can supply the wanted funds. Money is the chief interchange for all kinds of so-called “ministry” programs. If you want deliverance from something, you often need to pay a fee to join a program. I remember one such program in the organization I was affiliated with years ago, called Cleansing Stream. It cost a considerable amount to buy the books and an attend the class (those who could not afford it essentially could not “get free”). On top of the fees for the class and materials was the cost of the final deliverance conference. At the conference were, it seemed, a mile of tables selling everything you could imagine with the Cleansing Stream logo on it. Once you had completed the program, the advice of church leaders was to take it again and again and again to keep getting “freer” and “cleaner”. This is just one of countless examples of moneychanging in so-called ministry (not to mention the dabbling with unbiblical teachings that is present). The two are frequently intimately tied together. If you want to learn some biblical truth, you often have to pay a considerable fee for class materials and education. Want to go to a special conference? Conference fees are often incredibly expensive (not to mention the tables at these conferences are full of materials to empty your pocket book on; books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, trinkets, doodads, you name it). Crack open one of those Christian magazines sometimes and you’ll find conferences that charge over $400 sometimes! I’ve seen them near $1,000!
It is often believed that the Gospel cannot be spread without collecting weekly offerings from congregants. Then you have to finance buildings, staff, music equipment, pews, pulpits, crosses, communion cups and trays (along with the fancy carved wood table to set them on), altars, baptismals, tithe envelopes, choir robes, hymnals, and don’t forget the espresso machine in the foyer necessary for before and after service “fellowship”. Of course the pastor needs his residence paid for, a cozy office and a classy book rack for all his sermon guides, a nice car (complete with his own parking spot and a sign to designate such), a closet of suits, ties and slick shoes, and plenty of extra money to have available for taking out visiting ministers to dinner after service. Then you have youth fund raisers (and often see the youth selling various items out in the hall between or even during services), money, money, money – everywhere you look. The whole system operates and thrives on the exchange of money. It even occupies most of the sermons heard on Sunday mornings (more calls to tithe, give money to various funds, missions, programs, etc.). This entire religious system would utterly fail without money and this proves that money resides at the center of it all. Any pastor, priest or Christian who tries to convince you otherwise, tell them to stop giving money to their church and tell their pastor to resign his paycheck and see what happens. It’s a simple fact that most congregations will utterly fall apart without money to hold them together. This is an embarrassing thing to consider when you remember that it is supposed to be our connection with Christ alone that pulls and holds us together and that by the work of His Spirit. The Lord’s TRUE Church is not dependent upon money at all to live and thrive! And it is this bold fact that brings us to another consideration; If the Lord’s body is not the least bit dependent upon monetary commerce to exist and grow, then what system bears these attributes?
Now consider the second passage referenced at the start of this article, Revelation 13:16-17; It speaks of a last days organization that thrives (even depends) on buying and selling, only the members of this congregation bear an unholy mark that identifies them with the Beast. The intent of this article is not to speculate what that “mark” actually is (whether it represents a literal mark, a chip, or simply the fact of being identified with the Beast and his system), but the point is that NO ONE in this system can even participate in buying and selling WITHOUT identification with the Beast! This Beast System is mentioned several times in the book of Revelation. In fact, chapters 17 and 18 talk about a “woman” who masquerades as a “bride” and whom even some of God’s people are in union with. But this woman is a FALSE BRIDE and she is controlled by the Beast (the Beast is Satan himself). Oddly enough, these passages also speak of her ties to a commerce system. Revelation 18:3 says that “the merchants of the earth have become rich from the power of her luxury.” The very next passage issues a bold warning to God’s people who have found comfort in her system: (vs. 4) “Come out of her, My people, so that you don’t participate in her sins and suffer from her plagues. For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”
Think hard about all this for a moment! What group of people are likely going to find themselves in fear without this Beast’s system to support them; could it possibly be those who today center their concepts of life, fellowship, meeting, and church on MONEY (not to mention many other worldly luxuries and concepts)? If this be true, then whom do you suppose will stand strong in the midst of this false church’s destruction? Could it be those who have chosen to separate themselves from this mindset and serve each other from freewill and out of whatever they have; following only Jesus and the path He lays before them? Rest assured, this false bride will be destroyed by God and that is why God pleads to His people to leave her alone! The very word “church” used in our Bibles comes from a Greek word that means “the called out ones.” Are you seeing the picture? If you consider yourself a member of the Lord’s true Church, then what other “church” are you aligning yourself with? What other mindset surrounding money and ministry or other religious concepts tied to this “other church” organization are you identifying yourself by? The New Testament presents ONLY ONE CHURCH that is built by Christ Jesus. Are you a member of it? When you utter the words, “I go to this church or that church,” or say, “I’m a member of this church or that church,” what “other church” are you referring to? Do you have concerns with the teaching of men and women who profess faith in God while asking for money, who render “service” for a paycheck or “offering”, and whom even compel their hearers to seek money or exercise God’s precious gift of faith for the purpose of obtaining wealth? If you don’t have concerns about this, does that not strike you as peculiar?
It is this author’s opinion that today’s church system is running full speed ahead into a massive trap that will cause millions to be swallowed up by the very thing they all now preach that they will be delivered from. In fact, I believe that’s putting it too mildly. The trap has already been sprung and millions are already in its grips. This deception is widespread. The concern of this article is not eschatology or trying to figure when the rapture comes or who the anti-Christ will be or (as we already mentioned) what the “mark” will literally manifest as. The concern of this article is to cause us to examine how our lives – concerning relationship with God and each other – line up with what Jesus preached, lived and even that which His apostles after Him taught and even gave their lives demonstrating.
Revelation makes it completely clear that NO ONE can buy or sell in the Beast’s organization unless he/she is identified with the Beast! NO ONE!!! Why is that? Certainly because it is an effective method of control, but could it also be because this kind of commerce is part of the nature of his system to begin with!!! It involves control, greed, avarice, lust, envy, and all kinds of wicked things. Where money rests at the center it becomes the idol. It matters not how small it appears in focus, for if it is the foundation and the prime method, it works it witchcraft and demands the loyalty and love of all those who submit to its influence. Is it any wonder that Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their coveting it, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with much pain.”? Is it any wonder that the author of Hebrews (13:5) warns, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
Am I saying that anyone who uses money to buy goods or pool resources together to fund projects to help others are following the Beast? Not at all. There is, of course, a legitimate use for money (even in connection with Christian work) and one that does not touch the compulsion to serve it. Money, in and of itself, is not what is evil… nor is the use or exchange of it evil… but it is the love of money that is evil. When men manifest such great dependence upon the almighty dollar, their love for God alone (which demands obedience to Him only) can begin to be misappropriated and therefore corrupted. This is not a commentary against capitalism or the proper use of money among those who follow Jesus. I hope no one will misunderstand me in this. Jesus Himself used money and participated in the general commerce of the day; but He boldly shunned such practices in connection with vitalities of His kingdom!!! YOU WILL NEVER FIND A SINGLE EXAMPLE OF JESUS COLLECTING MONEY TO PAY FOR HIMSELF OR A MEETING PLACE NOR FOR ANY GOSPEL WORK AND NEITHER DID ANY OF THE APOSTLES ASK FOR MONEY TO SUPPLY FOR BUILDINGS, SALARIES, OR RELIGIOUS PROGRAMS. NEITHER DID JESUS EVER INSTRUCT OR AUTHORIZE ANYONE TO BLEND THE WORLD’S MONEY-CHANGING PRACTICES WITH GOSPEL WORK. “Freely you have received,” He said… “now freely (without charge) must you give to others!” (Matthew 10:8)
Today’s preachers say it’s biblical and good to pay them salaries for the work of shepherding a flock of believers, BUT JESUS SAID PLAINLY, “A HIRED MAN IS NOT A REAL SHEPHERD!” So who are you going to believe? Jesus… or the one standing behind the pulpit demanding your paycheck and manipulating the Scriptures to guilt you? Jesus identified Himself as the ONE SHEPHERD of His Sheep.
John 10:11-16 (MSG) – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him. I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own sheep and My own sheep know Me. In the same way, the Father knows Me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before Myself, sacrificing Myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize My voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.
Many people say, in argument to this point (challenging the “right” of ministers to take money for their “ministering”), “But the Scripture says not to muzzle the ox that treads the grain.” On passages like this they infuse mountains of tradition, presumption, and false teaching with biblical concepts and make the Scriptures seem to imply something that they clearly, when observed simply and contextually, do not at all! An ox indeed eats from the same grain it treads, but an ox does not tread all the time nor does he eat all the time. He only consumes enough to supply nutrition while engaged in his work. We should also note that the passage only says not to muzzle the ox; In other words, the ox needs to be free to eat what it needs to survive. Many preachers today, however, have abused this passage to suggest that they require more (MUCH MORE) than simple food and clothing to sustain life. They want a reasonably-sized salary and certain “benefits” associated. Paul’s instruction provided a right to freely receive gifts from others to meet basic needs, but lest it was not clear the intention of Paul’s logic here, he demonstrates that he also worked for his own living (AND FOR THOSE WHO TRAVELED WITH HIM)! Not only that, but he stated that our Lord COMMANDS that if ANYONE does not not work he should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6 & 10). Paul’s own example was to work for his own living. In addition to this principle, he also REFUSED his “right” to receive the freewill gifts of others that he ministered to. Instead he accepted poverty, weakness, and sometimes great hardship and the purpose was so that the Gospel would not be hindered (1 Corinthians 9:12). Isn’t it interesting that Paul was concerned that too great a focus on supplying his needs would cause the Gospel to be hindered? Sadly, many (perhaps even most) preachers today seem to make light of Paul’s repeated and magnificent example (not to mention the example of Jesus) and take as commonplace the “right” he spoke of. As I already stated, they go far beyond any “right” to receive from the loving charity of others and move to extracting it from them by distorting Scripture to suit their so-called “needs.” Where most of the examples of giving in the New Testament concern providing for the needs of impoverished believers during hard times (while even the “right” Paul spoke of applied only to traveling missionaries like himself), these modern preachers turn everything into a tithe and/or offering sermon (centered on giving money to them and to the church organization) and find any way possible to distort the text so they secure more money for themselves and their religious projects.
As a side note, it is my studied opinion that the “right” Paul spoke of, is better understood as a mention of those who have the “opportunity” to take financial advantage of others. This is, in fact, what the word as it is used in these passages means in the Greek. Paul recognized that he had the “right” (i.e. the “opportunity”) to use the Gospel to pay his way, but he rather choose to follow the example of Christ and freely give as he had freely received. Paul and the other apostles of Jesus demonstrated this behavior consistently! I really think that many teachers of Scripture have erred in their observation and presentation of the “right” mentioned in Scripture. But even if someone chooses not to agree with me that the “right” refers to “opportunity to take advantage of others”, at the very least it should be plainly obvious that Paul consistently spoke only of a right to receive, NOT to demand or charge! In other words, people who choose to give of their own free will is one thing, but being guilted into the practice (and using Scripture and manipulation tactics to do it) is quite another.
Many pastors like to compare themselves to Levitical Priests of the Old Covenant and their work in the Temple, for which they also received tithes as part of their compensation. But this is a misleading approach as well. In the first place, biblical tithes were ALWAYS FOOD and never money! The ol’ “bartering argument” (which suggests that “things were different back then and we don’t trade cows anymore we use money”) is a futile one (not to mention completely stupid). Even before the Law people used money in widespread commerce! People bought and sold. It is complete foolishness to suggest that tithing should now include money because we don’t trade in animals and crops anymore. The fact the substance that God required for the tithe (FOOD) still exists today! We still have farmers with crops and livestock. Just as only herdsman and crop owners were eligible to tithe because only their produce met the requirement God set in motion through Moses, still today (if we were to presume that tithing was still required) only herdsman and crop owners would have the substance meet for tithes and money would still have no connection to the requirement! Money was used before the Law, during the Law and after the Law was fulfilled by Christ. Even Jews who practice the Law today still use money (as they did thousands of years ago) for general commerce and even when Jesus spoke about tithing to those still under the Mosaic Law in Matthew 23:23, even then, HE IDENTIFIED THE SUBSTANCE AS FOOD – NOT MONEY. The “bartering” argument is foolishness and does not hold up to any teaching of Scripture!
Secondly, the Levites did not minister in the Temple week after week, year after year!!! They served but a few weeks out of the year! The tithes of food supplied not only the Levites but also the impoverished among the people of Israel. All of this remains a minor point still because of the fact that the New Testament not only states that ALL ORDINANCES OF THE LAW OF MOSES WERE CANCELLED AT THE CROSS OF JESUS (for incredibly plain examples read: Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:15; Romans 10:4; etc.), but Hebrews chapter 7 puts tithing under the Law in context and then plainly states that IT WAS CANCELLED (Hebrews 7:18-19) because of the better priesthood of Jesus!!! Every other reference to giving in the New Testament deals completely with FREEWILL and according to the believer’s financial ability to do so!
2 Corinthians 9:7-9 (NIV) – Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
And while TV preachers and all too many pastors lie from their golden pulpits telling you that the reason you should give is so that God can make you rich, the truth for free here is that God’s purpose in giving to us is so that we will consider (not church buildings and pastor salaries) but other people who are in genuine need. In turn, our generosity to those who have real needs will serve as a testimony to them that God is good and it is this FREEWILL kind of offering that flows from sincere love that demonstrates to a lost world that the Gospel is true and that Jesus loves them!!!
2 Corinthians 9:10-15 (NIV) – Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
In 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul reminds the believers that they had started a work to gather food and goods to help meet the needs of some of their impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ who were suffering in other cities. Paul clearly says that he is NOT COMMANDING THEM and that he is only giving his opinion and advice concerning the matter of giving; that they should not neglect to finish the work they start out to do. He also speaks even more clearly to say that they should only give out of what they can afford to give and not more than they are able. In this way everyone can participate in helping those in need and no one suffers because of it. The true Christian way of taking care of needs in the family is to supply others with what they need when you have plenty and then when you have need and they have plenty they may return this expression of love. It was this kind of behavior among the early Christians that caused the world around them to take notice of the great love they had for each other!
2 Corinthians 8:12-14 (NIV) – For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you do not have. Not that others should have relief while you have hardship. Rather, it is a question of fairness. At the present time, your surplus fills their need, so that their surplus may fill your need. In this way things are fair.
John 13:34-35 (NIV) – (Jesus said) “I am giving you a new commandment to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It is this author’s opinion that until Christians shed the Beast mentality of “church” and all connected with it, they will never experience the kind of life and joy the early believers knew and they will slide off base as it concerns matters of money with regular occurrence. I realize these are very strong (perhaps some will even consider them offensive) words, but they are no less offensive than the act of someone like Jesus entering the “holy place” of his day and cracking a whip, pushing over tables, shouting and driving out ALL those who bought and sold in the place that was intended for intimate communion with God! Jesus had the nerve to tell the most devout biblical legalists on earth and the religious leaders of His day that they were following their father THE DEVIL! Every preacher reading this who takes money for his “ministry” (which is really become his profession) needs to take heed of this word! I will not say that your father is the devil because only God knows what lies in the hearts of men. What I can challenge you with is this: Are your interests really that of Christ and His Gospel or are you trying to serve both God and Mammon? Remember, Jesus said that true shepherds are NOT hired men! Are you a hired man? Is “serving God” your profession? Do you think you can take what He gives you freely and then make others inadvertently pay for it? Weigh your hearts before the Lord. Some will disagree with this challenge. Some will get strongly offended. Hopefully a few will be encouraged to embrace the real call here, which is to follow only Christ. Money is a part of life and is not evil. My suggestion here is not to suggest any such thing. My hope is to convey the dangerous connection too many who call themselves Christians make between money and ministry. “Ministry”, biblically speaking, is not a profession or an office. It is simply a word that means to serve others. It bears in mind a humble position; one who waits on tables and even washes filthy feet, just as our Lord Jesus did (freely and with all humility and love). This was His example! Whose example do you follow? What Lord owns you? Which father are you a child of? There should be no need to argue this point with me through e-mail. My only hope is to set this challenge. The least I can ask is that you simply turn your heart to Him and let Him speak to you concerning these things. It is His voice that matters.
May God’s wisdom and mercy rest with you and with us all! May He forgive our errors and restore us to truth and the Way of Life. I know God is gracious; that He understand our frame and is long-suffering with us. Sometimes we do things out of ignorance and God gives mercy… but we should never remain willfully ignorant or seek to hold fast to anything that demands our ways above His, lest we lose His blessing and be given over to delusion and destruction.
In His grip,