I was stunned when I read this in Christianity Today. It appears that a church is offering a "money back guarantee" to those who tithe:
But LifeChurch.tv, a multi-site, media-intensive church out of Oklahoma City, encourages testing God. They not only advocate such testing, they back it up with an unorthodox guarantee.
Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel refers his congregation to Malachi 3:10, where God challenges His people to bring a tithe—ten percent of their income—to Him. "Test me in this," He tells Israel.
"It's the only place in all of Scripture where we are given permission to test God," says Groeschel. "If you want to test Him, we'll give you the chance."
LifeChurch.tv calls it the "Three-Month Tithing Challenge." Participants commit, via the Internet, to tithe to the church for three months. If at the end of the challenge participants are not convinced of God's faithfulness, they can get a full refund of all they have given. According to Groeschel, "If something didn't work out for you, you contact the church, we'll cut you a check for every penny you gave."
Pastor Groeschel initiated the tithe challenge 11 years ago. He is careful to tell his congregations, "I don't ever want anyone to hear the message that you give to get, because that's not why we give. But the bottom line is when you are faithful to God, He blesses you in ways that maybe are financial, or that are much more important than your finances."
Does it work? Ask Cathi Linch, senior executive of finance for LifeChurch.tv. "I love the tithe challenge. Over the years I've heard so many stories—great stories of how God came through."
The church of 20,000 gathers at 11 locations across the country, and a satellite video link provides each campus with Pastor Craig's sermon every week. While the tithe challenge is available for new givers anytime, a recent message about tithing inspired 550 individuals to sign up.
When the three months are over, says Linch, most people continue to give not because they have to, or because they've signed up for it, but because they have a desire that springs from the inside. "Giving is not a chore, but a privilege," she says.
Dave, a doctor in the church, had never tithed before. He struggled with the decision—not only had he never given that much money, he brought down a salary that would make 10 percent a big bite. But he took the challenge. When he sat down with his accountant to work out his taxes that year, his refund equaled the exact amount he had tithed.
Read it all here. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of tithing. The decision to tithe has worked very well for my wife and me. But the blessings that come from tithing are not material, but spiritual. Tithing reminds us of where our treasure should be when the first checks we write each month go to charity. I think that it ruins the spiritual value of tithing to suggest that we give so we can get--even if the promised blessings are not material. Indeed, isn't it pretty fundamental to our faith that our blessings from God are by grace and not a reward?