Crown Financial manipulation
I just got home from church, and felt I should write about this. Recently, our young couples' Sunday school class has been going through lessons on how to manage your finances. First of all, let me say that I am a firm believer in giving a full 10% tithe to your local church. Off-topic: People that define tithe otherwise are misleading, because tithe literally means ten percent.
Crown Financial Ministries, on the other hand I do not agree with. They subtly push their agenda by over-emphasizing finances at the expense of keeping the message of the gospel message unaltered. While I do not doubt their sincerity, I think they need to re-visit their curriculum with a fine-toothed comb, and fix some of their nuances and verbage.
It's funny because when we were at seminary, my wife and I had signed up for a series of their on-campus classes, but we had to stop attending because of our busy schedules. Now that I'm seeing what we would have been paying for, I'm thankful that we missed out.
Embellishing the Gospel
One of the first things that stuck out to me is the way they use their supporting scriptures. The first DVD we watched touched on the principle of buried treasure. Incidentally, the Bible doesn't say it was buried necessarily. The Greek word krupto just means concealed. Anyway, that's not my point so let's assume it was buried. Now, I'm not talking the chest of gold from the movie Pirates of the Carribean. They presented this story…
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
— Matthew 13:44 (KJV)
This is all the Bible has to say about that, just one simple verse. Perhaps the good people at Crown felt this wasn't interesting enough, because they added to it a few more details. First, they said the man was on his way to an important meeting in a nearby city. Secondly, they said he went "skipping" away with glee (yes, skipping). While this could have very well been true, we have no way of knowing it. So, they have just put words in Jesus' mouth.
The implications are this: If the man had been on his way to a meeting, but stopped to dig up treasure, and then went immediately to find the owner of the field, then this makes him seem irresponsible. What about his "important" meeting? If I'm watching this video as a layman, I might incorrectly assume that following God excuses me from corporate responsibilities.
One of the things emphasized in seminary was to not read more out of the text than is present, and certainly never add your own superfluous thoughts and opinions to the text. Somehow, we turn a blind eye to this principle just because the curriculum is widely, and wildly popular.
On several other occasions, the man in the video says things like "Giving of your money benefits God." This is theologically incorrect. God is infinite, and therefore cannot benefit from recieving temporal things. Logically, think of it this way:
Infinity + 10% = Infinity. The spokeman should have, and perhaps meant to say "Giving of your finances pleases God."
Paying it Forward
Another thing that did not sit well with me is the way Crown emphasizes "investing" in the Kingdom. Yes, I tithe. I do think it's very important to financially support the Church. The way they talk about it though, you'd think we were playing the stock market. One phrase in particular stood out:
You cannot take money with you when you die, but you can send it on ahead… When you get to heaven, all that you have invested will be waiting for you!
— Crown Financial Ministries
Pardon me for saying so, but when I get to heaven, money will not be a concern. I do not expect for the pearly gates to part, only to reveal a garbage heap of all the temporal things I gave to the church during my earthly life. Although, I might inquire as to the mysterious missing sock that my dryer always seems to eat. The whole point of giving is not to stockpile heavenly rewards. That is no more altruistic than seeking tax shelter here on earth.
The supporting passage of scripture used is Matthew 6:19-21:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Notice here that Jesus is talking about two entirely separate realms: This temporal world in which we now live, and the life to come, in which everything will be made whole. There are no hints at pre-paying for salvation. The issue is of the heart. Yes, God wants a "cheerful giver," as referenced in 2 Corinthians 9:7. However, he doesn't need money. The whole point of giving is so that we will be emotionally and spiritually invested, and our hearts will be tied to the work of ministry. This is not some glorified 401k plan.
Here's another funny phrase that they used: "We are investing in God's stock." Great, so should I try to get a 51% controlling share? See, their analogies just have so much worldly connotations attached that they're not even effective. Our Sunday school class laughed through most of the video.
I realize the point they are trying to make, that my earthly wealth (or lack thereof) can be put to good use with eternal effects, aka - helping someone know Christ. Their terminology, while aimed at trying to communicate with business lingo, has the reverse affect, and tarnishes the purity of the point.
Getting to the Point
I do not fault our local church for choosing to use the CFM educational materials. From a time and management standpoint, it makes sense. Many churches don't have the time or dedication to write their own curriculum. If I'm a local church pastor who needs to do teaching on tithing, and there is a pre-packaged way to do it, it's a no-brainer. Perhaps therein lies the problem. By making it easy for churches, are we undercutting their ability to think objectively about what is being taught? Hopefully Crown considers this.
In summary, I am not opposed to the underlying message that Crown is trying to convey. Rather, I simply do not much care for the manipulative way in which they present their supporting information. It could just be that I do not fit into their uninformed target demographic. Since I have a Biblical background, I'd much prefer a pastor saying a simple one-liner from the pulpit. So, that's what I'll do here: Don't forget to tithe! Just don't do it because you're having loads of guilt put on you by some shark in a suit.