This tweet* came out of the ministry of a church in New Brunswick:
Ms. Lintner is not listed on the church website as a staff member, but her husband is one of the pastors. When other people on Twitter started questioning her statement, Phil Hutchings, the founding and senior pastor of the church, stepped in.
There were more instances of the pastor defending the horrible tweet, but this one is enough to show that this is a church that teaches the legalism of tithing (a law that does not apply to people under the New Covenant at all) and that questions the salvation of anyone who disagrees with their teachings.
But that’s not the part that has me shaking my head so much as the completely wrong focus in the original tweet.
When a church starts preaching the tithe, they’ve stopped preaching the gospel.
Caring for Others
If a child needs shoes, the church’s focus shouldn’t be on whether the family has given ten percent or any other amount to the church. The focus should be on making sure the church’s members are taken care of. So buy the kid a pair of shoes.
But instead, these teachers follow in the footsteps of the religious leaders Jesus criticized for making people follow rules without understanding God’s priorities.
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. …
You [religious teachers] give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:4, 23.)
Justice, mercy and faithfulness are an interesting trio. It brings to mind Micah’s call:
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8.7)
This is what we are to focus on, and it is what is missing from that original tweet and all the follow-up messages from the pastor (and there are many). All he can focus on is whether the church is getting its money, not the needs of a family to clothe their children.
Jesus spoke to that as well:
“I needed clothes and you clothed me … .”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you … needing clothes and clothe you? ”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:36-40.)
Yet the pastor says the family is to sacrifice shoes for their children in order to pay the church money. In teaching this, the pastor ignores this passage:
Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:7-8.)
And for those who are unable to care for themselves the Bible shows examples of the church providing for them, like this one:
And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:33-35.)
Nowhere does the Bible even hint that the Apostles required a showing that the needy person had tithed before distributing to them according to their need. It just says some people had much and others had little and everyone’s needs were taken care of.
So let’s have no more threats against parents who care for their children’s needs. Instead, let’s make sure the church is not focused on money and stays focused on Jesus and the people he’s put in our lives, both those in and out of the church.
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:8-10.)
Sowing to please the flesh in this instance is the New Brunswick church’s emphasis on money. (They even put tithing in their statement of faith, a topic I don’t usually see in such documents.) Doing good to all people would be to teach their members to recognize and see the needs of those around them who are unable to provide for themselves.
So I ask again, why doesn’t the church just buy the kid a pair of shoes? I’ll never know their answer. Shortly after tweeting that question, the pastor blocked me on Twitter.
*My thanks to Jonathan Bolton for posting the original tweet on his Facebook page.