Why do the churches of Armstrongism heavily stress the importance of tithing? It is a matter of self interest. The Armstrongist groups are not able to attract followers in large numbers, but they require large sums of money to operate. In order for their ministers to live without soiling their fingers with menial work, the churches of God must maintain large payrolls. For a minister to work with his hands is a fate worse than the lake of fire. In 1978, “Mister” Armstrong painted this grim picture of the fate of renegade ministers.
“In 1974, some 35 ministers left [the Worldwide Church of God]. They incorporated themselves as the ‘Associated Churches of God.’ But GOD was not in it — and it fell flat on its face! Tragically, a few thousand brethren followed after these men, who were seeking to draw away those already in the Church to follow them! Where are they today? I know many of those former ministers have had to take jobs working with their hands to earn a living. That is JUSTICE! (Co-worker Letter, July 30, 1978)”
Herbert W. Armstrong chose to live most of his life in poverty rather than work with his hands, and it was only when he discovered how to make religion pay that he began to live the life to which he desired to become accustomed. The Armstrongist ministry, always trying to emulate their apostle, emphasize tithing as one of the keys to salvation. They know that if the tithing doctrine is discredited, they will have to earn a living “working with their hands.” They try to scare their members into ever greater sacrifice. Tithe payers, say the ministers, will have everything they need in this life, and immortality in the next. Those who refuse to tithe will suffer poverty in this life, and hell fire in the next. “You can’t afford not to tithe!” is the slogan favored by Armstrong and his successors.
All church of God members and ex-members are familiar with II Corinthians 9:6-7:
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
This was the scripture of choice when ministers badgered the membership for offerings during “holy day” services. The meaning of this verse in the Armstrong belief system was that the members should give as much as they could scrape together. God would not look at you kindly if you held back. You had to give even if you had to do without. And you had to do it cheerfully. If you gave reluctantly, you wouldn’t find favor with God, even if you gave thousands of dollars. It was a difficult balancing act: the only way you passed the test in God’s eyes was to give so much that it hurt, and did so without any second thoughts. If you had the slightest hesitation or regret, you would not find favor in God’s sight. It was as big a sin to give reluctantly as it was not to give at all.
Does this scripture have another interpretation? A few years ago I heard a taped sermon by a minister who never had a connection with any Armstrongist group. He did not think the tithing command applied to Christians. In fact, he criticized the average Christian minister because although most of them claimed to follow the new covenant, they insisted on holding on to the old covenant tithing command. They were followers of the new covenant except when it came to money. He believed that II Corinthians 9:6-7 meant that Christians should give only what they were comfortable giving. If giving an amount created anxiety because it put you in a financial bind, you should reduce the amount you gave to a level with which you were comfortable, because God wanted you to be cheerful when you gave it. He doesn’t need your money anyway; and your family’s needs come before the church. Remember, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8).” In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus condemned those who neglected their families in order to give to the priesthood.
An alternative understanding of 2 Corinthians 9:7:
Christians should give only what they are comfortable giving. If giving an amount creates anxiety because it puts you in a financial bind, you should reduce the amount you give to a level with which you are comfortable, because God wants you to be cheerful when you give it. He doesn’t need your money anyway; and your family’s needs come before the church.
Of course, this interpretation will not fly in the churches of God. By encouraging members to follow rigid tithing and offering rules at the expense of their families, the Flurrys, Merediths, Tkachs and McCulloughs are teaching their followers to violate the teachings of Paul and Jesus. The various ministers simply don’t want to work with their hands because it is not in keeping with the station into which they believe God placed them. They believe they are entitled to the the income of their followers. They demand that tithe monies be turned over, and they accompany their demand with threats of damnation.
Among the many privileges church of God ministers enjoy is the financial support of the membership. The churches of God are not churches at all. They are ministerial welfare programs. Each minister lives on hand-outs, not on the fruits of his own labor. The ministers are on the dole, and they expect to be well taken care of. At the same time, they are the most arrogant and self-important bunch you’ll ever see. They believe that they are so important, the ordinary laymember should not call them by their first names. Most church of God ministers insist on being addressed as “Mister.” This is the upside-down world of Armstrongism, where the beggars are not only choosers, they are also the most highly esteemed and even feared members in their organizations. The ministers are the ones respected for their hard work and sacrifice, but it is the ordinary laymembers who actually do all of the sacrificing. Thankfully, this is becoming obvious to more and more people. The Armstrongist movement loses members every year. The plight of the tithe grabbers becomes more desperate. Hopefully, we shall soon witness the complete collapse of church-of-Godism.
Article by MAM. Originally posted at "Missing Dimension"
"Armstrong was a man utterly without honor, without principles, without a shred of genuine decency or patriotism. He was the ultimate exterminator of religious life for thousands, and the grand compelling creator of a vast army of atheists."
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