“I just KNOW he was preaching about us!” Bill said as his wife Edna fixed his tie.
“You’re just being over sensitive,” she soothed. The thirty-something mother of three heard the baby cry and hurried to pick him up.
Edna came back into the bedroom, carrying three-month-old Jake on her shoulder.
“The pastor calls people like me irresponsible,” Bill grumbled. “I slave 38 hours a week at that darn meat factory, and the only reason it’s not 40 is they’re too stingy to pay overtime. So I have to moonlight at Prestolex. Not to mention you doing part-time at Frickerson’s, clipping coupons, selling Pickwick Products door to door. But we’re STILL in debt for Debbie’s new braces! To think I used to be a bigwig at Fendigger Finance, and you could stay home and take care of the kids.” Bill looked like he could cry.
Edna smiled sympathetically through sunken, tired eyes. “It’s not your fault J.K. Fendigger’s firm got liquidated by the Feds. HE was the one convicted of money laundering.”
“If my luck gets any worse, Edna, I’ll be arraigned along with Fendigger! Ever since I started tithing, life has been lousy!” Bill groaned. “I’ve put in ap after ap but nobody wants to hire a 43-year-old has-been!”
“Please, Bill, stop being so negative! Remember, pastor teaches us all to focus on the positive, and…”
“Sure he does, Edna! But it’s easy to stay positive when you don’t have to scratch out your own living! Pastor’s forever griping about ‘our’ lack of faithfulness and how we could be giving and doing more to prove our love for Jesus. Which Jesus? The one who wears a Rolex and fleeces widows on Social Security? Just think! After all I’ve done for him, Pastor Bunker threatens to fire me off his business committee unless I catch up on our tithing arrears! Well, I’ve got a good mind to tell pastor I’m tired of being rear-ended by his sermons on arrears! They’re ringing in my ears! All that man does is moan, moan, moan! You work for free in the nursery. Carol coaches the choir. Sue does secretary work, for free, of course. Arlene arranges flowers. Dexter doctors pastor’s computers. Brenda babysits for pastor so he can spend time alone with his wife. We’re all unpaid peons!”
“We’ll get paid in heaven, dear,” Edna said sweetly.
“Sure, Edna, but pastor gets his in the here and now! We give him our time and talents, but he thinks giving only means money! Money is his definition of love! Pastor would have to pay through the nose for all these services if we for if we weren’t such soft touches. Just look how the top brass at church lives! Who do they think they are, anyway?”
Edna cautioned Bill about his blood pressure and said, “You know Pastor would be lost without you and all the other volunteer staff at church. He really does appreciate you, dear.”
“Yeah, I bet he does. He should! All I do is save HIM money by volunteering time I ought to be in bed catching up on my sleep! What more does the man want of me? Blood? I oughta give him a piece of my mind…”
Edna gave him a light hug. “I’m sure you’ll come up with a more constructive solution than hurting pastor’s feelings,” she soothed. “Just speak the truth in love.”
“Oh, I’ll speak the truth all right,” Bill muttered. “Once I figure out what the real truth is. I don’t know how much more I can take…or HE can take!”
One week later, the baloney factory went on strike. Now Bill had extra time at home. He had more important things to do than walk the picket line. Bill regretted the loss of earnings, but at least he was home to save Edna’s nursery expenses. Today the two older kids were at school. Edna was at work. Bill had just put the baby down for her nap. Armed with study materials, Bill began to research Scripture to separate the meat of the Word from the baloney of men. Bill kept this up until he had amassed all the info he needed.
Time for another church business meeting. Bill was ready, armed with a folder full of notes. Pastor Bunker opened with prayer, then grabbed the bull by the horns. “Tonight we’ll address the problem of unpaid tithes, and consider banning those who owe any arrears from serving on church committees.” Pastor Bunker looked slyly at Bill.
“That might seem a little harsh to some of you,” the pastor said. But God has called not only the leadership of this church, but those in peripheral positions of responsibility to lead by example. A few of you, and I WON’T NAME NAMES, have fallen behind in tithes and offerings. God depends on your faithfulness in this area. If you won’t pay Jesus money you owe, then why should He entrust you with greater treasures?”
A certain simple man in the back row raised his hand. An usher rushed up to him with a microphone.
“Yes, and may I have your name, please?” the pastor called.
“Festus Sanders. Brother Bunker, doesn’t Romans 13:8 say ‘Owe no man nothin’, but to love one another?’
“I suppose it does say something like that, Brother Festus, but what about it?”
“Seems to me like if you’ve gotta pay the leadership tithes every time you get your paycheck, that you DO owe some other man something besides love.”
“Brother Festus, if you’ll bother to read the second chapter of James, it will teach you that if you have faith, you’ll show it by works. Jesus NEEDS your tithe.”
“Well, pastor, seems to me if Jesus is up in heaven, He’s got plenty to eat. And if He don’t, He can sell one of the bricks in the streets of gold.”
The pastor was speechless. After a few hearty chuckles from the congregation, Festus continued, “Seems to me James was mostly talkin’ about feedin’ poor widders, and how he didn’t want poor folks to sit on the floor in church.”
The pastor coughed. There was an uncomfortable silence.
A hand shot up in the third row. “Yes, Sister Smiley?”
“Brother Bunker, we all know there’s a recession going on with people out of work, so maybe if we cut a few corners ...”
“Such as?” Pastor Bunker made a face.
“Well, we could cut our water bill by letting the church grounds revert to desert landscaping. We don’t need Kentucky bluegrass in Cactus Valley.”
“Not on your life!” the pastor said. “Don’t you realize how much it would cost to cover all this land in gravel and prickly pear cactuses? Any other suggestions?”
“We could run the air conditioner on 90 degrees instead of 78,” Sister Bev suggested. “Everybody could just fan themselves while you preached.”
“So you could stew in the pews and I could pass out in the pulpit? Sister, you want me to sweat bullets while I’m up here preaching? About the only use I could see for a hot church would be to illustrate my sermons on hell.”
“Well, maybe then you’d get a few more sinners saved!” Bev said enthusiastically.
Another hand went up. “Brother Bunker,” an elderly gentleman said, “we could cut back on ah…fringe benefits for pastoral staff. All in church leadership could contribute matching funds toward their own insurance policies. There could be a temporary freeze on raises for pastoral staff until times get better.”
The pastor snorted. “That’s appreciation for you! My Bible teaches that those who labor in the word are worthy of double honor, not double peanuts! If any of you have bothered to review our personal expenditures over the past fiscal period, you’ll know we’ve ALREADY tightened our belts. We’ve made it a policy to shut off all standby buttons on idle office equipment. We only run our sprinklers at night. The church canteen uses Brand B Sweetener instead of safer sugar substitutes. But we still need tithe money to meet the following expenses: Interior remodeling needs to be completed in my home. Our walnut woodwork needs polishing. We just paid for liposuction for the wife so she’ll look presentable by my side and be a good testimony to the church. We also need to be reimbursed for new household furnishings, including a fourteenth-century fresco of Noah’s Ark. Then there’s that newly built guest house we tacked onto the horse stables. Not to mention those gold-plated fixtures for the pool area. My wife’s hair stylist and wardrobe consultant must remain on the church payroll, so she won’t look like last year’s meat loaf. We just installed a brand, spanking new Automatic Tithe-atron Machine out in the vestibule to facilitate the transfer of funds into our bank account. We need to be reimbursed for that purchase through your faithful tithes and offerings. The property taxes on our home have shot through the roof. Then there’s the gas guzzlers we drive to conferences in the city, plus insurance and maintenance for the church jet. We just renovated the rest rooms. If anyone’s tithing has fallen into arrears, you must catch back up. Excuses won’t wash with us!”
“I know!” Brother Bentley volunteered. “You could rent out the church jet when it isn’t in use! There must be plenty of folks out there who’d rather borrow a private plane than fly commercially.”
The pastor rolled up his eyes. “You’ve been out in the heat too long, Brother Bentley. Seriously, would you trust just any Tom, Dick and Harry to borrow a million-dollar Airway jet if you couldn’t even trust them to return a paper plane in one piece?”
After a few more suggestions, the pastor said: “So we finally have a couple of decent proposals to put up for a vote. But first, Brother Bill Cook would like to address the assembly with several other suggestions.”
Bill took the podium as the pastor sat down, facing the congregation. “Brothers and sisters, first I’d like to make a motion that we adhere strictly to scripture as we make any further fiscal policies affecting this church, and I also request to be allowed to present all my points until I conclude everything God gave me to share with you.” Bill heard the pastor’s knuckles crack.
The motion was carried with no dissenters. This would surely be Bill’s final appearance as church business coordinator, the pastor thought. Might as well be nice to him one last time. Surely he OWED Bill that much. Who else would donate their business experience to the church free of charge?
Bill began. “Now for those who brought their Bibles with them, please turn with me to Numbers 18, verse 24”
“But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”
“Brothers and sisters, I looked up that word ‘inheritance’ as originally used in the Hebrew. “Inheritance” means a possession, or property which can be passed down from one generation to another. “Inheritance” usually meant real estate. The Levites of ancient Israel owned no land to bequeath to their descendants. Instead, they received tithes of AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE ONLY from all the other tribes in Israel. Levites weren’t even supposed to own their own land. But today we have men of God claiming to be “spiritual Levites” entitled to ten per cent of everybody else’s wages, while at the same time they own luxurious homes on privately owned real estate. Brother Bunker says he needs tithe money to pay his personal property taxes. Now isn’t that a contradiction of scripture, if Biblical tithe collectors weren’t even permitted by God to own real estate?”
“That particular qualification for collecting tithes is done away,” Pastor Bunker interrupted.
“Where in scripture is that qualification ‘done away’, Pastor Bunker, and why don’t people still have to be males descended from Levi in order to take tithes?”
“It’s just common sense, Brother Bill. If there’s no Levites left to do the job, God’s got to appoint SOMEBODY to take up His tithe.”
“Is THIS done away, Pastor Bunker? Everyone turn with me now to Deuteronomy chapter 14.” Bill read the passage which specified what the tithe consisted of, and what was to be done with it. “Wow!” Bill exclaimed. We read here about corn tithes, wine tithes, oil tithes, animal tithes, and so on. But where’s the money tithes? All of you can clearly see what items the Lord restricted tithe-collectors to taking.”
“That’s done away!” the pastor protested. “God keeps up with changing times! Now the Lord wants money, and ONLY money! Except for giving Him your heart, of course.”
“Where in Scripture does it say the Lord did away with what he wanted tithes to be collected on and substituted green money for green veggies, pastor?”
“I just know in my heart it’s done away,” Pastor Bunker replied. “God CONTINUES to reveal fresh secrets to His servants. Line upon line, precept upon precept. The church has grown out of its infancy, and for 2,000 years God has taught the church new things which aren’t exactly stated in Scripture per se, just strongly implied in various contextual settings. Taking tithes on fruits and veggies was God’s training wheels for tithing on monetary wages. If you see a tree there’s got to be a root underneath it, though you don’t exactly see that root. Tithing springs from an underlying ROOT PRINCIPLE of giving ten per cent of everything, although there is no express command from God to compel people to tithe on money per se. Even if you don’t read about first century Christians paying ten per cent of their paychecks, it doesn’t specifically state in the Bible that they DIDN’T do so. Plus, there’s every reason to believe God has modified tithing to adapt to changing times and customs and a more intellectually mature church. God is sovereign. He can add new rules and regulations any time He feels like it. It’s been 2000 long years since the Bible was written. You don’t think our Heavenly King stopped issuing new decrees from heaven 2000 years ago, do you?”
A seminary student seated in the second row raised his hand. “Brother Bunker, it states in Psalms 138:2 that God has magnified His Word above all His Name, so it seems to me His written Word should have the final say in every area of controversy. What you said about God reminds me of government legislators making up lots of new laws just to justify the salary they draw for their job. I seriously doubt God is like that. Also, what you’re saying sounds an awful lot like the Catholic doctrine of Continuing Revelation, where God keeps ‘revealing’ new doctrines not expressly stated in Scripture. This strongly implies that the canon of the written Word of God isn’t really closed, but is continually evolving to adapt to modern times. Isn’t that heresy?
“No, it’s NOT hearsay, Brother David!” the pastor said irritably. “It’s the truth, not idle gossip.”
“Well, what about Deuteronomy 4:2, where God warns people not to add to or take from God’s commandments?” David answered. “Don’t tithe collectors add to God’s commandments by enforcing monetary tithing, which is nowhere commanded in God’s written Word?”
Pastor Bunker looked mad. “Brother David, one more peep out of you and you’re off the Youth Fellowship Committee! You better watch your step, son, or I’ll get you expelled from Barak Bible School. I NEVER heard such an outrageous attack on our sacrosanct tithing tradition!”
Bill gestured for everyone’s attention. “If I may continue with my message, Pastor, we’ll take a fresh look at Deuteronomy 14, verse 26. This verse tells you what God wants you to do when your tithes pile up so much you can’t haul them to your place of worship. God wants you to sell those tithes, then guess what? God COMMANDS the tither to spend any money gained from the sale of those items on anything he himself wants to enjoy at his feast of rejoicing. It could even be wine or strong drink! So according to the Word of God, it’s a sin NOT to spend tithe money on yourself!”
“I object!” Pastor Bunker hollered. “That’s done away! God changed His mind, and it is a blatant SIN to spend tithe money on your own personal use!”
“Are you encouraging tithers to disobey God’s clearly stated instructions, Brother Bunker? I hope not. Now if it’s a sin for us to spend so-called tithe money on ourselves, then why is it okay for you to spend it on beauty treatments for your home and wife?”
“That’s MY business!” the pastor snapped. “Now Bill, I’m showing a lot of grace with you, but don’t push your luck!”
“With your permission, pastor, we’ll continue reading in Deuteronomy 14, verse 27, where the Lord Himself repeats that the Levite is to have no part or inheritance among the children of Israel. Anything God repeats must be important! I’d say you and your family possess much more inheritance in this land than the poorer worshippers of this church. And as for God changing His mind about what He states in His own Word, YOU’RE the one always challenging us to be true to the inerrant Word of God! YOU’RE the one who preached last week that God never changes, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
“Brother Bill, you’re out of order!” the pastor barked. “I don’t remember last week’s sermon, and it wasn’t recorded, so you’ve got no concrete evidence I ever preached that message! I make a motion that this meeting is adjourned at once!”
The motion was seconded by the assistant pastor, but when it was put up for a vote it was soundly defeated.
“Pastor,” said Bill, “we WILL go on until tonight’s business is concluded. I’m the one presiding over this business meeting, because you appointed me yourself. AND, I’m holding everyone, including you, to their promise to let me finish my message. Are you a man of your word or not?”
The pastor sat there, glaring and chewing his nails.
Bill said, with holy boldness: “Now we’ll continue with Deuteronomy 14:28: At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase in the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates. Continuing with verse 29: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat, and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
“Every three years the tithe was to go to feed the poor people of Israel, and that included the Levites!” Bill excitedly said. “Today’s spiritual Levites would put the real ones to shame, what with their walnut woodwork, swimming pools, planes, and jewelry! I did further research that proves that every seventh year the land was allowed to lie fallow so no tithes could be taken from it at all. That passage is in Leviticus 25:1 through 7, for those who are taking notes and want to look it up later. Therefore I propose to all assembled that from now on, we take up scriptural tithes only on garden vegetables or livestock. These tithes are to be eaten at a big thanksgiving feast in the church fellowship hall, with the remainder to be stored in our food pantry. Every three years ALL the tithe is to be used to feed poor widows, orphans and down-and-outers. AND every seven years, tithers get a whole year off from tithing just like they did in the Bible. If these guidelines aren’t followed to the letter, then the church stands in violation of God’s clearly stated rules on how to properly keep His tithing law! The Law of Moses is a package deal. You can’t just pick and choose just one law out of 613 ordinances and throw out all the rest. Galatians 5:3 taught me this: Pick one law, you pick it all, and you’re in debt to do the rest.
“Tithing is the last law mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, the book of the Law given to ISRAEL, not the church, by Moses, as it states in Leviticus 27:30-34. Church, if you don’t keep ALL God’s tithing rules, including observing the Second Tithe for the festivals, and the Third-year tithe for the poor, and giving ONLY tithes of what is grown or raised from the ground ONLY to men descended from Levi, you’ll bring the Curse of the Law down on your heads for imperfect Law-keeping! That’s what Galatians 3:10 teaches. Anyone under the Law is also under its curse. Since I started keeping the Law of Tithing I’ve had all sorts of bad things happen to me. But once I discovered the real truth and repented of keeping manmade traditions, a big weight rolled off my shoulders. The weight of all the 613 laws of Moses.”
“Tithing predated the Law!” the pastor objected. “Bill, you know your Bible well enough to know Abraham and Jacob paid tithes before Moses! And those tithes weren’t necessarily on food!”
“You’re right about one thing, pastor. Abraham’s tithe was on other things besides food. It was taken from other people’s belongings, stuff stolen from the wicked city of Sodom by kings who attacked Sodom and carried its people away into captivity. Abraham fought a hard battle to set his nephew Lot and other citizens of Sodom free. Abraham rescued their possessions as well. The source of Scripture’s very first tithe was wicked Sodom.”
A collective gasp broke out in the congregation. “You can find that story in Genesis Chapter 14,” Bill added. “Also, you’ll find further evidence in Hebrews chapter 7, verse 4 that Abraham’s tithe was not taken from his own personal property, but from the loot he recovered. No other incident of tithing is attributed to Abraham by Scripture. And, if you’ll read Genesis 28:16 through 22, you’ll discover that Jacob’s vow to tithe to God was CONDITIONAL and VOLUNTARY. Only AFTER God has done certain things to help Jacob will Jacob pay God tithes. Now if Jacob had been brought up to keep tithing as a binding obligation, then how could Jacob have been in any position to bargain with God with a tithe debt he already owed ?”
“Jacob was just restating his devotion to God,” the pastor said. “The fact remains Jacob HAD to have heard about the tithe from SOMEBODY, probably his dad Isaac. HE must have kept the tithing law!”
“There was VOLUNTARY tithing before the Law, pastor, but God did not make tithing a LAW until Moses gave it at Mount Sinai. Proof: In Deuteronomy 5: verses 2 and 3 Moses has this to say to the nation of Israel, the Israelites of his OWN time: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.” This covenant, which included keeping the written Law given by Moses, did not exist prior to Moses day, pastor. That law included tithing, as we discovered earlier. Deuteronomy 5: 3 goes on to say: The LORD made NOT this covenant with our fathers, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. Moses’ own statement proves that his forefathers did NOT keep tithing as a law!
“And as for Isaac, pastor, there’s not ONE example of him tithing to anybody, and if you’ll search your exhaustive concordance you’ll know it. As for tithing predating the Law, the same can be said of circumcision, polygamy and animal sacrifices. I don’t hear any preacher forcing THOSE things on Christians. Although we DO have serial polygamy here, what with all the divorce and remarriage going on, but I won’t name names…”
“That’s a cheap shot, Bill!” the pastor thundered. “That last divorce was HER fault! Lola let herself go to pot and looked like a sack of doorknobs! The Lord knows my frame, that I’m only dust.”
He’s got a lot of room to talk, Bill thought, looking at the pastor who ate out nearly every night. Bill simply said, “We won’t get into that, pastor. Let’s put a motion before the business committee right now: How many of you want to go back under the Law of Moses and have to keep animal sacrifices, circumcision, food regulations, and hundreds of other laws, and stand condemned before God for failure to keep those laws perfectly?”
“But Jesus set us free from those laws!” a lady in the fourth row protested.
“That’s just what I’m saying, sister,” Bill replied. The law’s a no-go area for us. Romans 6:14 tells us we’re not under law, but grace. Jesus didn’t die to set us free from all the laws of Moses except for tithing, the big moneymaker. It states in Colossians 2:14 that Jesus nailed the handwriting of ordinances, or the written Law of Moses, to His Cross.”
“That’s done away!” Pastor Bunker barked. “We’re STILL the spiritual Levites, and everybody else owes us their tithe money on ten per cent of their gross paychecks. Furthermore, it’s gross of you to appeal to Jesus to try and wiggle out of it!”
“If you’re the Levites, Pastor Bunker, then what are WE, that we owe you our gross filthy lucre?”
“You’re the sheep who give us the wool and the meat, like Paul the apostle asked for in I Corinthians 9:7. That means you’ve gotta pay your tithes, brother!”
“Pastor, I’ll give you a zillion dollars right now if you can show me just ONE scripture where Paul specifically asked for tithes from other Christians, or even if you can show me ONE scripture where Jesus sent His disciples through the crowd with velvet bags to collect tithes, or even freewill offerings, at His meetings. Can you find such a scripture?”
“Not exactly, but Paul MEANT money tithes when he talked about having the right to consume the products of the flock, and you know it!”
“How do YOU know what Paul was thinking, pastor? Paul said in I Timothy 6:8 he’d be satisfied just with food and clothing. In I Corinthians 9:4 he talked about eating and drinking, not fattening his big bank account. The only thing that affects us today is what Paul specifically stated in the Word of God, word for word, not what you speculate what Paul may have been thinking. Did you know, pastor, that the job description of modern pastors and preachers is much more analogous to the elders and prophets of ancient Israel, than to the Levitical priesthood? Prophets and elders of Israel did not have any right to take tithes from the people, only sons of Levi, as stated in Hebrews 7:5.”
“Be that as it may, we’re still the SPIRITUAL Levites who live under a far better covenant, so we have a right to take your tithe!” the pastor shouted.
“Let me finish, pastor. As I asked before, brothers and sisters, if the leadership of this church are so-called spiritual Levites, then what are we? Jesus didn’t die to turn us into cash cows to be milked dry, then bled dry, fleeced and skinned. Turn with me to I Peter chapter 2, verse five: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. And in verse nine we read: But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
“Peter says we offer up unto the Lord SPIRITUAL sacrifices. Today’s preachers want Christians to sacrifice money to THEM. New Covenant PRIESTS offer up spiritual sacrifices unto the Lord, just like Old Covenant PRIESTS offered up literal sacrifices. I’ll have you know, brethren, that EVERYONE present who truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is a member of God’s Royal Priesthood. Brother Bunker calls himself a spiritual Levite. Well, did you all know that the Levites weren’t the head honchos of the tribe of Levi? The Levites were SERVANTS of the actual Levitical priesthood. Old Testament priests did NOT pay tithes. Did you know that I Corinthians 6:17 declares that we are one spirit with Christ Himself? We are actual members of Christ’s Body on earth. Hebrews Chapter 8 speaks of Christ being the ONLY High Priest of the New Covenant. Christ’s priesthood is an unchangeable priesthood because He lives forever. We are spiritually joined to Christ by faith. So what right do professing Levites, servants of an obsolete priesthood, have to tax New Covenant priests ten percent of their wages? Even more importantly, if we’re members of Christ’s Body on earth, what right do preachers have to tax Jesus Himself? Preachers clinging to an old system have no right to tax the Lord of the New Covenant or any member of His Body! Old Testament saints who farmed or raised livestock HAD to tithe under the Old Law. But Old Testament saints were not members of the Body of Christ as we are, sitting with Him in heavenly places, as it states in Ephesians 2:6. We’ve been set free from the Old Law. Not just from most of it but ALL of it!”
“That’s done away!” Brother Bunker roared. “Bill, you might be up there in the air, but I’m bringing you back down to earth right now! I”M the only priest of Happy Chapel! You’re fired from our finance committee! I need greener bills than you in my pasture.”