Looking at Giving Records

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Recently I came across John Kieschnick’s article found in LCEF encouraging the pastor to familiarize himself with the giving amounts of his parishioners. Since a person’s attendance in the Divine Service and Bible Study is public to all he goes on to reason; why not the tithe as well? To the pastor who is reticent about garnering such information Kieschnick candidly writes:

 While I would never encourage a pastor to violate his conscience in this regard, I would ask that pastors seriously consider the consequences of their attitudes. Members are influenced by the attitude and actions of their pastors, both negatively and positively. To the pastor who adamantly refuses to even consider looking at giving records, I say, “Why not?” If as pastor you are interested in the worship attendance of your members because you believe it is an indication of their spiritual health, surely you should be interested in how they are stewarding their financial resources. If you are interested in how they are cultivating their prayer life, why wouldn’t you be interested in how they are growing in the grace of giving? If you knew that a member absolutely refuses to open the Bible, wouldn’t you be a bit concerned about their lack of love for the Word?[1]

While I suppose there might be different views on this practice as evidenced by John Kieschnick’s article, I for one would not, and have not “investigated” what parishioners financially give. Why not? I know the sin that lurks in my heart. I am tempted enough seeing the cars people drive, their wardrobe, and how often they play my favorite pastime: golf. I would be deceiving myself thinking I would not be influenced by such knowledge and begin catering to the high givers. The epistle of James was written primarily to pastors[2] and so pastors do well to hearken to what St. James wrote,

 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (Jam 2:1-4).

The temptation to show partiality is minimized when the pastor does not have certain information. The Holy Spirit led St. James to write this that I, as a pastor, be cautioned as to the sinful impulses in my heart. I do not think that I as a pastor or as a Christian am alone in this condition. Certainly Jesus praises the widow’s mite (Lk 21:1-4) having given all she had. But it is only Jesus who knows what is in the heart of people (Jn 2:25). Church attendance can be objectively measured by the simplest of standards but how does one “measure” or investigate people’s attention span in the Divine Service or their devotional prayer life at home? That to me seems a slight overreach.

The Holy Spirit reminds us not once, but twice, that all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial (1 Cor 6:12a, 10:23). For those who would follow John Kieschnick’s suggestion I would ask whether the tithe sufficiently shows one’s spirituality. Would it not be better to measure the tithe based on the person’s gross income? This would give a truer picture as to their spiritual health.

Then we will arrive at more accurate understanding. “Oh! John is leading in congregational giving, but,… but the amount is only 2% of his gross income. Oh no, not healthy!” Every parish has individuals who give out of their poverty (2 Cor 8:2) and then there is the example of the widow’s mite (Lk 21:1-4). Now, there is a healthy individual!

Do you see where this is going? It leads to judging where we have no business judging for it requires looking at a person’s heart—a place we dare not go (Jam 2:4)! Yes, I am aware St. Paul says, “… I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Cor 8:8). The apostles’ had many prerogatives and spiritual abilities (2 Cor 12:12) due to their unique office. But an apostle I am not. I try to take to heart the warning: “… if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal 6:3). I too am a sinner saved by grace who the Holy Spirit has called into the Office of the Holy Ministry to serve Jesus’ lambs.

In Christ,

Pastor Weber

 



[1] John Kieschnick, “Should Pastors Know What Each Member/Family Gives?,” Leader to Leader: The Business of Ministry Lutheran Church Extension Fund: Our Mission is Your Ministry, http://blog.lcef.org/2014/01/16/should-pastors-know-what-each-memberfamily-gives/

[2] David Scaer, James the Apostle of Faith (St. Louis: Concordia, 1983), 32.

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