Tithes Untapped: The Potential Economic Power of the Church


I recently read Jordan Ballor’s new book, Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness, and I plan on posting a full review in the very near future.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight a small piece from the final chapter on “avenues for reform.” Among other things, Ballor discusses the ecumenical movement’s tendency to lean on government action rather than church solutions, questioning whether this an acceptable (i.e. Christian) approach to serving the needy.

First, it is important to get a sense of what motives should driving our giving. As Ballor notes (and as I have discussed previously), the apostle Paul provides great assistance in directing such motives:

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

As for the topic at hand, “under compulsion” is probably the most valuable piece when it comes to identifying whether government programs can serve as Biblical generosity. Has paying your taxes ever made you feel “cheerful”?

But what if we as a society were to rely on non-compulsory generosity and “cheerful giving”? What if the church actually lived up to its Biblical calling by at least giving tithes on a consistent basis (there is certainly more work to be done)?

To give us a sense of what this would look like, Ballor pulls some figures from theologian Ron Sider, who is quoted as follows (from this book):

[I]f American Christians simply gave a tithe rather than the current one-quarter of a tithe, there would be enough private Christian dollars to provide basic health care and education to all the poor of the earth. And we would still have an extra $60 to 70 billion left over for evangelism around the world.

We can agree or disagree on where such tithed monies should go and how they should be used — and to be honest, I’m not sure how this data was collected or what is meant by “education” and “basic health care” — but the general implications of these numbers are encouraging, albeit frustrating given the current lack of impetus.

The main question: Why doesn’t the church just do what the Bible says at a minimum?

To conclude, here’s one suggestion from Ballor:

Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church’s Social Witness, Jordan BallorRather than focusing on advocacy toward various governmental bodies, the ecumenical movement would be better served to focus on the significant potential economic power of the church itself.

The outsourcing of charitable responsibility is nothing new, but it is truly unfortunate that the promotion of such an approach has become such a proud and advertised staple of the ecumenical movement.

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  • http://twitter.com/clibpress/status/31026052360835073 CLP

    RT @RemnantCulture: If all Christians tithed, would we need government assistance programs? Nope: http://bt.io/GdEg @JordanBallor

  • http://twitter.com/jordanballor/status/31038844807675905 Jordan Ballor

    RT @CLibPress: RT @RemnantCulture: If all Christians tithed, would we need government assistance programs? http://bt.io/GdEg

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    RT @CLibPress: RT @RemnantCulture: If all Christians tithed, would we need government assistance programs? Nope: http://bt.io/GdEg

  • http://twitter.com/sredden/status/32245781155024897 Stephen Redden

    “@chrishorst: RT @josephsunde: If all Christians tithed, would we need gov't assistance progs? No: http://t.co/Iyx9tME // Great insights!”

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    RT @josephsunde: If all Christians tithed, would we need government assistance programs? Nope: http://bt.io/GdEg

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    RT @RemnantCulture Tithes Untapped: The Potential Economic Power of the Church http://bt.io/Gg29

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    RT @CLibPress: RT @RemnantCulture: If all Christians tithed, would we need government assistance programs? Nope: http://bt.io/GdEg @Jord …

  • Reyjacobs

    Interestingly I was reading a book about CONSTANTINE earlier this week. You know CONSTANTINE. The Roman Emperor who made the Roman Catholic Church the official religion of the empire. Yeah, that guy. Well his big plan was to make the church super-wealthy so that the wealth of the church could be used to feed all the poor in the empire. And what was the result????? The FEUDAL society of the middle ages where everyone was a SLAVE to some Catholic prince and forced to be a Catholic with no access to read the Bible. Yeah, you guys have a great plan with church-based welfare system. A new dark ages. Great idea.

  • Br. Perry

    “CHRISTIAN TITHING” IS A DOCTRINE OF DEVILS
    Tithing is of the Law. Law and Grace are mutually incompatible. The law replaces the Holy Spirit guiding the believer in his giving and is a curse (Gal 3:10-13).

    What is the verdict of the apostles concerning Christians and the Law? Read Acts chapter 15.

    What does the New Testament teach about giving? That giving is a personal thing; that you are to give when and as the Spirit leads you, and as you are able.

    Indeed, when you look at the instances of giving in the New Testament, the only thing the apostles expected was HOSPITALITY; that is to be allowed to eat at the believer’s table, a change of clothes and a place to sleep.

    Indeed, Paul said “with food and raiment let us be therewith content”(1Tim6:8).

    We Christians should give disaster relief for Christians going through hard times if the poverty be no fault of their own (Acts 11:27). Even this should not cut into your budget as to keep you from paying your bills and putting food on your own family’s table. Every man should give AS HE IS ABLE, not forgeting his own debts so being a good steward of the household money. Otherwise, he is STEALING from his family and his debtors – and he’s giving this to God? And expecting to be blessed for GIVING MONEY THAT HE STOLE TO GOD?!

    In addition to disaster relief for the church, we should extend the same honor that we give to the apostles (food & raiment) to widows(1 Tim ch 5) and orphans(James 1:27) of the church. Even widows must pass certain tests or they are not worthy of our offerings (1 Tim ch 5).

    Regarding pastors. Why should any pastor expect his flock to supply him and his family with regular payments of large amounts of cash so that he can buy private house and church property? This is found NOWHERE IN SCRIPTURE. And this goes double for all that other stuff – radio/TV broadcasts, etc.

    I believe that a more scriptural, sensible way to support a pastor might be for the wealthiest member of the congregation to build a so-called “mother-in-law” wing onto his house and invite the pastor and his family to live there for as long as the pastor wants. Other members should also contribute as God gives them surplus. And if the congregation is so poor that they are all struggling, living hand-to-mouth, then the pastor must “make tents” as Paul gave the example.

    When God is ready for the pastor to quit “making tents” he (God) will supply the resources. That is, God will bless the church with new members who have surplus enough to support the pastor (Acts 2: 42-47).

    I find no reasons for giving mentioned in the New Testament other than those mentioned above.

    And remember, the reasons for giving that are stated in Sacred Scripture are for food, clothing and shelter, NOT big ambitious “kingdom-building” mega-projects.

    Stay free in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Br. Perry

    nzfree2b@gmail.com

  • Rey

    “And remember, the reasons for giving that are stated in Sacred Scripture are for food, clothing and shelter, NOT big ambitious “kingdom-building” mega-projects.”

    Also, Paul’s collection was “till I come.”  Surely Paul already came and collected it.  Why then, do we still have a free standing collection that serves no legitimate purpose?

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/125261557784522753 Remnant Culture

    When it comes to giving, why doesn’t the church just do what the Bible says, at minimum? http://t.co/uB0OoQtR

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/125261650780635136 Remnant Culture

    When it comes to giving, why doesn’t the church just do what the Bible says, at minimum? http://t.co/K1gKimce

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/155024197792444417 Remnant Culture

    Our #9 most-read post of 2011: Tithes Untapped: The Potential Economic Power of the Church. http://t.co/aCneKFru @JordanBallor

  • http://twitter.com/jordanballor/status/155027989879472129 Jordan Ballor

    Our #9 most-read post of 2011: Tithes Untapped: The Potential Economic Power of the Church. http://t.co/aCneKFru @JordanBallor

  • http://twitter.com/clibpress/status/155028312635351041 CLP

    RT @RemnantCulture: Our #9 most-read post of 2011: Tithes Untapped: The Potential Economic Power of the Church. http://t.co/oZdat9Pg

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