We Put the "Give Way" to the Test
The WCG's literature promised us that by following God's Laws, we would be blessed more than we could ever receive. We were told that not only would God provide our needs, He would shower down such abundance that would overflow to the point where we couldn't hold them all. We simply had to walk in faith and diligently keep our end of the deal (meaning all 3 tithes plus various offerings), and God would keep His end of the deal (He was obligated). Surrounded by the beautiful furnishings in the minister's home, they convinced us that God's Way truly worked. They lived in a large home, drove a nice car, and their kids wore nice clothes and went to good schools. "You can't outgive God!" was a common saying by long-time members. We were challenged to put God to the test.
After a decade of diligently "keeping our end," we found ourselves living a strict, frugal life in order to survive. We were never wasteful with our money, so we knew we weren't at fault. When we questioned about "God's part of the bargain," a bait-and-switch was performed and we were told that the blessings were "spiritual." We were told that we should be grateful for finding "the Truth" and being part of the "true Church" and what more could we ask for? Being young and gullible, we blamed ourselves for "wanting worldly things" and for "lacking faith" and "being thankless for what we did have." So we continued living God's Way, telling ourselves how "blessed" we were, while deluding ourselves over our stressful financial struggles.
When we questioned others about third tithe year, we were told things such as "God will bless you with either a new home, a new car, or a new baby." Of course, none of these claims can be found in Scripture, but we were already convinced that God's Church had direct access to God's Throne, so we never challenged these claims any further. What we failed to perceive was that the "new car-home-baby" blessings were nothing more than typical events that would happen to people during their lifetime, whether they were inside or outside of "the church"! When we thought about all our friends, relatives and neighbors who didn't pay three tithes and who also obtained new homes, cars, and had babies during our stint in the WCG, it finally dawned on us. Was God holding us up to one standard, while holding our unconverted friends to a lower standard? Why was God blessing us equally? Weren't we His chosen people? Here we were, faithfully paying 3 tithes, and faithfully keeping the Ten Commandments, but not receiving any more blessings than the average person outside of "the Church"!! In fact, they were even more blessed than we were. Because of triple tithing, offerings, building funds, SEP, etc., we couldn't afford a nice (let alone "new") car, nor could we purchase a decent home. We settled for less because we were going to flee to the place of safety at any moment, so "Why waste our money on earthly things?" we were told.
In all the years we were members, the promised blessings in Malachi never materialized to the level purported by church's literature, nor the illusion of prosperity portrayed by the ministry. Remember, the blessings mentioned in Malachi were to be tangible, physical (temporal) blessings. Take a good look at the vehicles in "the Church" parking lot. Do the majority of the vehicles look new? Or is the opposite true? Now take a good look at your family. Can you truly say that they are more blessed physically now than you were before you came into "the Church"? Are you straining to pay your bills even though you tithed faithfully? So where are the blessings that were promised in Malachi? When we finally read the verses in Malachi in context, we were amazed at what it actually said, instead of what "the Church" said it said. Let's look at this oft quoted verse (emphasis added):
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer [insects and plagues] for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 3:10-12).
We can clearly see that the promised blessings in Malachi were agricultural blessings! He is clearly speaking of food (crops).1 Nothing more, nothing less. God promised ancient Israel that he would prevent pests from devouring their crops and their vines from having rotten fruit. He plainly states that other nations would call them blessed and that the land would be delightful. Period. So how did these verses get so twisted around?
After leaving the WCG, we learned that abusive churches promote the "you can't outgive God" philosophy, promising members health, wealth, and prosperity if they follow the rules of the organization (disguised as "God's True Way of Life"). Yet, when they do, and the physical blessings don't materialize, the members are blamed for being "carnal, worldly, lustful, and greedy" for expecting them. The physical blessings of good health, and financial prosperity are switched to "spiritual blessings" accompanied by a "shame on you for wanting more than you have" attitude. Abusive churches will also promote "Armageddon around the corner" so members give beyond what is required. Malachi is often misquoted to give the organization's requirements for money some type of biblical legitimacy.
During our years in Worldwide Church of God, we were told repeatedly that "God loves quality." Is that true? Does God really love quality, or does He simply love us? Does He really need expensive buildings erected to "do His Work," or does He merely want us to ask Him into our hearts and lives? God wants us--not our "stuff"--and better yet, He wants to give us something: eternal life. And it's free for the asking!
Exit & Support Network™
October 5, 2003
NOTE by ESN: Even today, members of the offshoots of WCG continue to be focused on material blessings, which were given only to the nation Israel under the old covenant. In contrast, the N. T. church has been promised spiritual blessings. "...who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" Ephesians 1:3
Understanding the Tithe (In this excellent study, Aaron Budjen explains why the tithe has no application in the Church today. The first message covers using religious extortion in order to coerce people to tithe. Covers the history of tithing; Malachi 3 and Hebrews 7 are also addressed; 8 MP3 messages; free download) [offsite link]
Footnote by ESN: