Occasional editorials written since 2001 

Passion yes, aggression no. Harry Potter All roads lead to God?  
Value of a soul. Homosexuality Passion of Christ
Islam and Christianity  Love not the world Persecution coming
Biblical or secular worldview? Freewill offering Letter or Spirit?
Faith The scared and the non-sacred Test your self
Discernment The gospel of me Repentance
Sinking sand That awful four letter word Sin

 

Freewill offering.

God looks for, and delights in, our freewill offerings. Freewill means what it says.

Given of your own free will.

It does not mean something that has been demanded out of you, embarrassed out of you, or given because guilt or condemnation has been placed upon you. It does not mean something that has been given for fear of the consequences of not giving it.

Freewill means freewill.

And it is precious because it is a true indicator of our heart's condition.

Again and again and again and again we read of the term freewill offering in the Old Testament. We read of it because it is foundational to understanding God's heart.

Here are a few examples

Exodus 35:29 The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.

Deuteronomy 16:10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you.

Ezra 3:5 Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD.

 

Eason's Commentary explains freewill offerings as follows

Free-will offering - a spontaneous gift (Ex. 35:29), a voluntary sacrifice (Lev. 22:23; Ezra 3:5), as opposed to one in consequence of a vow, or in expiation of some offence.

 

In other words an offering given to the Lord freely, spontaneously, willingly, voluntarily abundantly and plentifully.  Freely, joyfully and generously might sum it up.

In the New Testament Paul spoke so highly of those who though not wealthy gave generously of their own free will to further his ministry.

2 Corinthians 8:2 - 4 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

Note that Paul did not manipulate these gifts from them. He did not pressurize them blatantly or subtly. These were gifts given freely from God honoring hearts.

Paul made it clear that he demanded no fee for preaching the gospel.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?

2 Thessalonians 3: 7- 9 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

Paul did not want to have collections but asked people to set aside money for the saints so that he could take their gifts to the work in Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.

Before proceeding along this line of thought let me declare what this is not about.

It is right that Christians support the work of the Kingdom. Like many others I tithe on all monies that I receive and bring that tithe to the church. (On top of that there are what scripture calls alms to the poor as the Lord might lead)

Abraham tithed long before the law came in through Moses. In the opening book of the Bible we read..

Genesis 14: 18 - 20 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: " Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all.

Then in the closing book of the Old Testament we read..

Malachi 3: 8 - 9 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, In what way have we robbed You In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me.

In the New Testament Jesus did not withdraw that command to tithe but stated that it was only a part of the whole as regards one's heart for the Kingdom of God

Luke 11:41- 43 But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

So bringing your tithe to the house of God so that there may be food there is something God asks for and for which He promises a blessing

Malachi 3: 10 - 11 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,? 
Says the LORD of hosts, If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.
 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,? says the LORD of hosts;

I am talking about freewill offerings that go towards another person's ministry to the saints. And there are many such ministries. Christian Restoration in Ireland is just one of thousands raised up by God.

Now if God calls I believe He supplies by His hand. He does not need my hand or my oratory skill or my years of successful experience in advertising and marketing to manipulate the people in order to see the ministry supplied. If there is a famine I need to seek the Lord's face urgently as He is the supplier.

From the study on charities on this site you will learn that I will not submit the ministry God has given me to the world system in order to get money back from the government. I will gladly render unto Caesar what Caesar is due, but I do not look to Caesar to help fund God's call on my life.

Radical perhaps. However, when I see some of the alternative means of acquiring ministry funds I would settle for nothing less than radical trust in God to provide for what He has asked of me.

Let me give some examples of the alternative. And I will not name Ministry names that perform negatively in this area as that does the Kingdom of God no credit. (except where links make it obvious) 

But I will set down what I understand to be, clear, God glorifying, Kingdom principles and use a variety of examples to show that we need to be aware of certain unsatisfactory fund raising practices and not be intimidated by them.

A young Ukrainian called Vitaly was employed on Christian work for one year in the United Kingdom. He got board and lodging and £13 per week spending money. At the end of the year he returned to his home country.

Some months later mail arrived for him but the ministry he had worked for had no forwarding address so they opened the mail to see if there was anything of importance.

One letter appeared to be signed by the hand of a well-known ministry leader himself.

The beginning and end of the letter read as follows..

Dear Vitaly

When I was reviewing the 2004 annual giving receipts, I noticed your receipt was missing, I thought this must be a mistake. When I investigated, I discovered that you hadn't made any donation in the year 2004. Please consider giving a gift to save lost souls..

..Vitaly, please don't miss an opportunity to sow seed into fertile soil. Give a gift now to reach souls in this new year! Give and it will be given to you.. for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38)

Now one can sense all sorts of pressure and manipulation at work here. The ministry in question is reputed to receive $40,000,000 a year which would mean many many thousands of 'receipts'.

Not for one moment do I imagine that this man was personally as he declared - going through tens of thousands of receipts and noticed that Vitaly's little amount was missing, and presumed it was a mistake, only to find out - after he investigated - that he had sent in no donation to that ministry all year.

Sadly the media have had much feeding on the money raising antics of Christian ministries.

One such painful documentary looked into the fund raising behavior of television's then largest ministry. It was estimated to be bringing in $80,000,000 per year.  Like many such ministries it encouraged people to send in prayer requests. When people are desperate for help and send in a prayer request or to receive something free they often enclose money as a thank you

This ministry had the responses sent directly to their bank, where the letters were opened, the money removed, and the prayer requests dumped in a waste skip out side.

The documentary team looked in the skip there were envelopes slit open, the money removed and the prayer requests still inside the envelopes.

Ten years ago a friend of the family was dying of cancer. A family friend wrote to one of the big TV ministries asking for prayer. She got a letter back noting the request for prayer and asking for a donation to be sent to the ministry. The distraught woman came to my sister with the letter to ask how much she should send for the prayer. Wisely my sister gave her the best answer she could by tearing the money request in two and binning it.

I am glad to report that that particular ministry does not do that anymore, but it seems that the practice stopped only after public outcry.

Another example, and a common one.

First a bit of background. A well-known Christian speaker was visiting Belfast and I felt led to attend his one night meeting. I thought the leading was so that I would be blessed by learning something new about the Kingdom, but sadly it was to learn about much that was wrong with the Kingdom.

First the music was noisy and repetitive, more about exciting the soul emotions rather than ushering us into the presence of the Lord. But I could live with that. Then the bandleader told us that he had been blessed that week by a pay rise and the purchase at a low price of some acoustic equipment that he had wanted for some time. Then he asked us all to stand and turn around to face the back of the hall, which we all obediently did. Then we were told to place our hand on the shoulder of the person in front.

Then he prophesied over us that as we were all facing the way he was facing the blessings that were upon him would now move from him to us in the next few days.

Young Christians showed some excitement, but older Christians knew it was piffle and embarrassing piffle at that.

Then the host for the night explained to us that getting in touch with God was like groping along heavy hotel curtains looking for the opening in order to get through to the Throne Room, and that every time the opening was in a slightly different place.

I thought that the veil had been rent from top to bottom and that we had access to the Throne any time day or night, same yesterday and tomorrow.

So far not so good.

The speaker then came on and said that a collection was going to be taken up and we were to ask God what was on our hearts to give. A quick check in my spirit and there was nothing I wanted to give. That was my freewill choice.

But I hadn't bargained on the subtle manipulation.

There's an envelope on your seat the speaker said. Put your cheque or your money into it please.

Naturally I did not reach for my envelope.

Then he asked everyone to hold their envelopes up in the air so that he could bless them

Suddenly I stood out in the crowd as the only one in my row who was not holding up an envelope. The hands were kept up for quite a while as he spoke.

And suddenly I cracked. I quickly reached into my pocket for paper money, put it into the envelope and rather embarrassingly joined everyone else in the row.

Minutes later I was so annoyed with myself for being so easily manipulated. The evening got worse and later I quietly left.

As I sat in the lobby of the large hotel confused as to why I had felt led to attend that night I felt the Lord speak into my spirit and say, I wanted you to see what is going on in my Name.

I remember talking to a vulnerable Christian man in Northern Ireland who had given and given and given to television ministries until he was in financial difficulties. He said the speaker announced that God told him never to come before Him without a sacrifice, and so this man started sacrificing his meager income.  Another television ministry has used this.[8 promises]  [7 blessings]

The true sacrifice is Jesus, the Lamb of God, which is why we come before God in Jesus' Name. Through His sacrifice. Nothing to do with our money.

Another vulnerable Christian in Southern Ireland told me in ministry that he was financially broke as he had given so much away to television ministries.

Sadly he was trying to win God's favor, not understanding that he already had God's favor through Jesus work on the cross.

He had also been told again and again by those on TV that what ever he gave would be given back to him, pressed down etc, so he gave and gave, eagerly waiting for God's exorbitant financial return.  Such an investment attitude while based on truth is in the wrong spirit. Akin to investing in shares that are guaranteed to only go up.

There is truth in the seed and harvest theology. But when financial manipulators begin to play with that theology it becomes merely another marketing tool.

There are many vulnerable Christians out there, and these 'spiritual' appeals can be devastating in their effect.

Even open collection plates can be a subtle form of manipulation as the person on either side of you can see what you put on the plate and the pressure is then on to be seen to be generous and spiritual.  Clothe bags and plastic buckets allow a measure of privacy.

All ministries need finance as fuel. Amazingly, God knows this when He raises up a ministry.  If that ministry walks in obedience it will not fail through God's weakness or forgetfulness. If He needs our carnal manipulation to achieve His ends we have a problem.

Making needs known occasionally, or asking graciously now and then is not unseemly.

Selling 'product' is fine.  Books, CD's, seminars, conferences etc. 

People have a choice. 

However when there is high pressure or prolonged pressure, when there is emotional or spiritual manipulation, then I believe we cross the Kingdom line.  We are now trusting in the arm of flesh.

Not only that, but if the only way a ministry can operate on a day to day basis is to relentlessly harass and manipulate Christians into giving, then it is time to step back and accept that somewhere along the way you have lost God's leading.

Asking people to pay for a teaching course or conference and then asking for more money during the event is fine as long as it is done without the subtle pressure of your giving - or should you choose - your non giving, being clearly seen by everyone else as the plate is passed round, as most people (sadly me included) often crack under that subtle but strong pressure and give whether we wanted to or not, and whether we can afford to or not. The true cost of the course is thus more than was advertised.

God honours our freewill choice. That is why promises from God begin with 'if you...'

In fact that phrase 'if you' is used 354 times in the Bible.  From Genesis 4:7 through to Revelation 3:3

I attended one meeting some years ago where a visiting speaker spent fifteen minutes soulishly exciting the crowd about the miracles God continually worked through him in his home country, and the miracles that he was certain would take place that night. Before the evening's promised miracles he asked for a collection to be taken and I recall putting all that I had with me into the basket. Then he announced that he had been asking the Lord for a £3,000 movie camera to enable him to film the miracles in his home country and he believed the Lord was telling him that we were the very people chosen to provide that, so he announced that he would immediately be taking a second collection.  It was too much and I quietly slipped out of the meeting.  There were no miracles that night.

If you sign up for a Ministry Newsletter or make a purchase from a large ministry you run a more than reasonable chance of  receiving regular requests for donations. In some cases this pursuit can be relentless and because it is accompanied by verses of scripture and the veiled threat that souls may be lost if you do not deliver, the more vulnerable keep giving, either in case they are offending God, or to win some favour from God.

A member of our prayer ministry team is literally plagued by one ministry that he contacted just once many years ago. He receives two to three emails per week, year in year out, pleading for money. Apparently great crusades may not be able to take place unless he makes a last minute donation. Somehow they always do take place, and it is no surprise that the leader lives in stunning luxury that has attracted much media attention.

On a more positive note, when he purchased something from John Bevere's Messenger International Ministry nearly ten years ago he was told at the time that he would never receive a begging letter and he never has.  They even sent him a free CD for no apparent reason, with no strings whatsoever attached. He felt well blessed. Well done Messenger International for setting a good example.

But the worst, oh the worst, is reserved for some of the antics on television.

Fund raising for God's work enters a new dimension here.

Last week (as I write this in April 2009), we were back again to selling blessings for money.

The Protestant church was born out of the revolt against the church selling spiritual blessings.

Friar Johann Tetzel was the church's most able raiser for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He was a German Dominican preacher remembered for selling indulgences and for a couplet attributed to him, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory springs.

The belief was (and still is in the Roman Catholic theology) that indulgences are merits acquired by Jesus' sacrifice and the virtues and penances of the saints. They are granted for specific good works and prayers.

Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses that triggered the Protestant reformation were in the main a reaction to the selling of blessings

So with that background in mind let's go back now to the selling of blessings by the Protestant church.

The man with the microphone, was talking loudly, excitedly, sweat dripping profusely from his brow on to the shoulders of his suit.

For those who sent in $77 dollars the following blessings would be theirs..

Sickness would leave their home, an angel would be dispatched to them immediately and they would have all the days allotted to them.

The message was continually repeated on wording that ran along the bottom of the screen

Angels for $77. There's a bargain.

I assumed from Hebrews chapter 1:14 that angels were ministering spirits sent to serve (all) those who will inherit salvation and that they are with us to carry out that task. Others are sent in request by prayer or in times of great need or danger.

Not for sale at any price.

A digital board at the side of the screen displayed the growing numbers of people who were phoning in with their 77 dollars. It was at number 16 when I switched over, ashamed of what I was seeing yet again.

A little research showed that this was not the first time he had used the number 7 to extract money with promises of blessings from God.  He has also used income tax as a leverage.

Last year I listened in shock as another preacher blatantly misused scripture to raise money.

The excited non stop talking speaker would have a chapter number and a verse number which would then equate to the amount of money that should be donated in order to receive the blessing of that verse.

The clear impression was that the Holy Spirit was leading the ministry fund raiser this way.

An example sounded like this.. I'm getting Psalm 145 verse 14. Whoever sends in $145 dollars 14 cents will receive the following blessing..

A Christian leader told me of the horror he endured when one of his fellow platform speakers at a major conference announced that he would be giving personal prophetic words in exchange for certain amounts of money.  The selling of blessings again.

He was too embarrassed to intervene, but afterwards deeply regretted that he had not used his authority as one of the platform speakers to stop the abuse.

The end might seem good, to provide money for the promoting of God's Kingdom, but such means are an abomination. An abomination. And it brings shame on the Body of Christ.

So bad is the Christian reputation for 'money grabbing' that a non Christian acquaintance, when we occasionally talk on the phone, starts imitating TV evangelists shouting "God loves you, now give me your money"  He thinks it is hilarious. It just saddens me.

Imagine God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and the earth that the thousand hills sit on, and the galaxy that the earth sits in, and the universes that the galaxy sits in, needing such cheap manipulating tactics to get money to build and to maintain His church.

So let's retune into God's heart in the area of freewill offering.

If God calls us to ministry He can move hearts that honour Him without our manipulating skills.

I must give mention to St Saviour's Church in Guilford.  I have never been there but my sister and many friends have. Always a place of blessing. There is a collection plate at the door, where people who have can put money in, and if any have need can take money out.

Oh savor the beauty of that as a declaration from God to a greedy world, set against some of the money hungry television tactics that they see.

When Jesus is truly the Lord of your finances, rest in that, and trust Him to lead you gently and wisely. Do not let clever manipulation, social embarrassment, false guilt or greed for 'an increase' lead you. Do what God asks in the right God honoring spirit and He will bless you in whatever way He sees fit. He is no man's debtor but He will not be manipulated by you or by anyone else. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

If you start raising money in the flesh to keep your ministry afloat then deep inside you know that you must maintain it with the flesh and your activity in this area increases, rather than decreases.

This ministry, and I can only speak for it, has never taken up a collection, never demanded a fee (though graciously received such as given freely) and has never sought to manipulate money out of people.

For instance at our Prayer Ministry school, the delegates are told that there is no charge for notes or the very welcome tea and biscuits afterwards. If they feel led, and only if they do, they are free to put money in a basket outside the classroom where no one will see them and where neither I nor anyone else on the team will know if and what they gave.

Whatever is there we know has indeed been a freewill offering, and all glory to God.

All I can say is that to date (15 years this month) this ministry has never had debt. Every need has been met. God has provided.

The best example of truly trusting God for the fuel of finance that I have yet encountered on my travels are the Evangelical Sisters of Mary founded in 1947 by Mother Basilea Schlink within the framework of the German Evangelical Protestant Church.

They ask for no money but through prayer rely on God to know and supply all their needs. If the supply dries up they come together and look for sin in the camp, and when it is found, confessed and repented off the supply returns. Their 50th anniversary was 1997. They invited 1,100 people who had been a blessing to them to a celebration at their German headquarters. Everyone was put up in nearby hotels. Everything was free and there was no offering asked for or taken up.  Yet when they opened the freewill offering boxes in the centre there was nearly double the amount needed to cover the celebration. Isn't that challenging faith?  It certainly challenges me.

I also admire the well known South African farmer called Angus Buchan. He has a worldwide ministry, seeing thousands come to faith, and seeing many miracles of healing during his crusades. His annual men's event on his farm attracts up to 200,000 men. He has a simple child like faith that touches me deeply. He never takes up an offering and yet every time God provides the necessary finances.

Church, we have much to learn. Much to grow into. So please let's get back to trusting the hand of God rather than the arm of flesh.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added on to you.

God really is good. And able.

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