How far do you think you’re going to get with God by trying to bribe Him into doing what you want? God demands submission from us. Bribing God is about trying to control Him, and controlling God is about trying to dominate Him. As long as you’re trying to dominate and control God, you’re a thousand miles away from submission, and that’s where Satan wants you to stay.
You can’t get saved without sincerely submitting to God’s Authority, and after you’re saved, you can’t mature without ongoing submission to Him. So if you want to keep unsaved souls on the road to Hell, teach them that God is some halfwit Santa Claus in the sky who can be pushed around by greedy humans. And if you want to keep real Christians stuck in spiritual stagnation, just teach them to go through life trying to control God. Bring on that prosperity gospel teaching: let’s all give to get. Let’s mortgage our houses, sell our cars, and drain our bank accounts. Let’s pour it all into the holy coffers at church because…why exactly are we doing this again? Because God commanded us to? No, actually, He didn’t. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell you that you must keep throwing money into the offering plate at church. Nowhere does He say it’s on you to pay your pastor’s salary or to finance every foolish notion your church comes up with. What He does say is that everything you have is His property, and that you’re supposed to be honoring Him with it.
So what does it look like to honor God with your money? Let’s start at the beginning. God has reasons for what He does. When He gave you money, it wasn’t some fluke, it was an intentional act. God has put you down in a world in which you need money to buy essentials like food and clothes. Buying things for you and your family is one of the reasons God gave you money. It isn’t evil to spend money on yourself and it isn’t righteous to go around impoverished. As always, heart attitude is what determines whether our actions are wrong or right in God’s eyes. WHY are you spending money on yourself? Are you buying stuff just to impress others? If so, that’s a lousy motivation. God didn’t give you money so you could try to make other people feel inferior to you. Are you spending money to feed your kids? That’s good, you’re supposed to provide for your family.
Now is everything you buy a necessity? Of course not. You probably buy plenty of luxury items—things which you could live without. But here is where we need to remember that God is not a miser. He enjoys blessing us. Maybe your son has his heart set on a pair of expensive shoes, so you buy them for him. Is this wrong? It depends. Is your son a snarky little brat who you are refusing to discipline in a godly manner? Are you just buying him the shoes because you don’t want to man up and draw boundaries? God doesn’t like it when we destroy our children’s motivation to mature by giving them everything they scream for. But maybe your son is well behaved and respectful and you want to surprise him with a special treat by giving him the expensive shoes. Bring it on—God loves to bless us.
Do you see how important context is? Each soul is in a different set of circumstances. Each soul is operating from a different set of motivations. This is why it is wrong for a pastor to stand up and say “Everyone has to give sacrificially to the church.” No, everyone should NOT be giving sacrificially to the church or to anywhere else. God does not want everyone living in poverty. He doesn’t use your bank balance to assess your devotion to Him. God wants each soul to come to Him for their own set of instructions in life. If pastors were doing it right, they’d be teaching souls to expect God to lead them in different directions. Whenever we get into one-size-fits-all philosophies about how to manage our material things, we’re straying off course. God loves variety, and He will always maintain differences among us no matter how hard we try to equalize things.
ALIGNING WITH GOD’S AGENDA
Things don’t happen at random in this universe, things happen according to God’s master plan. EVERYTHING that has ever happened in this world has only happened because God approved of it, wanted it, and caused it to be. So when you put money in an offering plate in order to help God or to try and control His activities in this world, you’re just being foolish. Many organizations encourage you to do this. “Give so we can stomp out hunger. Give so we can cure disease. Give so we can print more Bibles.” You might not want there to be any starving children or disease or poverty in this world, but God does. You might want every sick person to be instantly healed, but God does not. You might want human lips to spread the Gospel message to every corner of the world, but God does not. There are all kinds of things you want that God doesn’t want. You have your priorities, He has His. Clearly if there is going to be any unity between you and God, someone is going to have to compromise, right? Wrong. God does not compromise. He demands that you submit to HIS agenda. He demands that you back off and stop trying to tell Him what to do. God gives orders, He doesn’t take them. He created you to be His servant, not His assistant or advisor. If you want to really please God, you need to understand what His purpose was in making you. Then you need to embrace that servant role by fully submitting to God’s Authority, His will, His timing, and His methods.
We do not put money into the offering plate because we are trying to help God or because we’re trying to make our pastor happy. We only give God’s money away when we feel specifically prompted by Him to do so. Our motivation is to obey Him. But we don’t obey God because we think He depends on us. We obey God because we love Him and we consider it a great privilege to be involved in His work down here. This is a perspective which God must build into us—it isn’t natural. If you’re not there right now, then you need to be honest about this and ask God to get you there. When you don’t obey God out of love, you only end up in a mess. You end up bitterly putting money into the offering plate because you think God will punish you if you hold back, or you end up trying to bribe God into blessing you.
Now let’s talk about sacrificial giving. The idea here is to “give till it hurts”. Give beyond your means, give beyond what you feel is wise to give. Intentionally put yourself into a financial crisis in order to honor God. At least we pretend that we’re trying to honor God. But that isn’t what we’re really doing, is it? Because the folks who push for sacrificial giving are always dangling some carrot of major blessing in front of our faces. Material goodies, internal healing, restored relationships—we’re told that God will reward our generosity with some blessing of our own choosing. If you give sacrificially, then God will give you what is important to YOU: something that YOU really want, something that will make YOU feel good.
Remember our discussion about agendas? You have your ideal plan for how the world should run, and God has a different plan. The same is true for your personal life: you have an ideal plan for your life on earth. God has an ideal plan for you as well, and His plan looks different than yours. Now we’re back to a war of wills. Whose plan are you going to choose for your life: yours or God’s?
When we talk about giving sacrificially in the church today, we’re really just talking about trying to make God align with OUR agendas in life. When you blow off every internal alarm and dump your entire savings account into the offering plate at church, you’re hoping for a rather specific outcome, aren’t you? You’re hoping to make God come across with some particular blessing that you have your heart set on, be it healing from your addiction or getting a spouse or something else. This is nothing more than you trying to force God to align with you—to make YOUR ideal plan happen in life. When you do this, you are not submitting to God, you are trying to direct and control Him. Such an attitude is not going to take you anywhere good. God will NOT compromise. He insists that you align with HIS program. You are the one who must do all the adjusting in this relationship. God will certainly help you adjust, and He will break the adjustments down into small, doable steps for you. But God isn’t going to change to please you, no matter how much money you throw at Him. And once you really grasp that God doesn’t need you or your money to get His will done in this world, you realize that you are totally wasting your time trying to manipulate God like this.
THE HIDDEN AGENDA
Why is sacrificial giving so heavily promoted in some churches? It’s simple: humans are greedy and they want to get their hands on your money. Humans who are already rebelling against God have no problems using Him as an excuse to rob you blind. Laying on guilt trips, giving you a bunch of empty promises—whatever will get you to open up that wallet is what they will do. Once you fork the money over, they can do anything they want with it, and you can bet that they’ll be holding back quite a bit of the tithes and offerings for their own personal comfort. This is just standard operating procedure when you’re following false shepherds in life: they don’t care about pleasing God, they only care about pleasing themselves. You are nothing more to them than a gullible fool who they can use and abuse for their own personal gain. They don’t care about your soul. They don’t even respect you. To them you are just one more idiot who is all too easy to dupe into doing what they want. When you have nothing left to give, false shepherds will dump you by the side of the road, happy to leave you disillusioned and desperate while they find someone new to trample on. It is extremely detrimental to your soul to get tangled up with these creeps.
Here is an essential truth you want to get a hold of: you do not please God with your actions, but with your internal soul attitude. Why you are doing something matters way more to God than what you are doing. This is why simply giving money to the church is not going to get you anywhere. The only time it pleases God for you to give His money away is when you are doing it out of a desire to honor Him with your obedience. You can’t obey without a clear prompting from God, and your pastor is not God. It is the Holy Spirit who is guiding you in life, and He is the One you need to look to before you start writing out large checks to the church or any other ministry organization.
LEARN MORE ABOUT GOD & MONEY:
All About Tithing
Answers About Money: Guidelines for Serious Christians
What it Means to be Aligned with God