SACRIFICE IS NOT DESIRED BY THE SAVIOR
A very common teaching of all churches is the collection of offerings from its members. Although other churches give a deeper emphasis on this matter more than others, all of them teach that this act is a believer's obligation to God. It is also a fact that many churches collect different forms of offerings, and they are supposedly for different purposes, and it is evident that some churches have more collection schemes than others. Even many of them continue with the old commandment requiring their regular members to give based on the tithing requirements of the Old Testament - that is, ten percent of everything that they make.
BIBLICAL BASIS ON OFFERINGS
The common basis of all churches’ teaching on collecting offerings are the writings of Paul that seemed to encourage this act:
(2 Corinthians 9:7, 12-13)
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver… 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men…
15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Paul encouraged the giving of monetary sacrifices or offerings for the administration of this service in supplying the needs of the believers and for the continuation of the preaching of the gospel. And how can one disagree on this when he taught that supposedly 'God loves a cheerful giver' and that 'with such sacrifices God is well pleased'. These statements of Paul have become the foundation passages of all church groups' campaign to collect more offerings from their congregants.
In fairness, majority of today’s churches give high regards and value on the offerings of their members and have used their accumulated financial assets into noble charitable programs. On the other hand, there are churches who invested heavily in the building of worship edifices and temples, as they believe that this single act truly magnifies God the way He was glorified with the building of His temple by King Solomon. Their common basis on this work is the commandment given to God’s people of Israel prior to the era of The Christ:
8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord.
Many churches justify their collection of offerings by connecting this with their church building projects and teaching that giving priority on this work renders glory to God. Could this teaching be true?
THE LORD’S OUTLOOK ON SACRIFICES
While almost all church groups believe in the relationship of offerings and God’s delight as taught by Paul, does this truly reflect the teaching of The Lord Yeshua? This is how The Lord expressed His thoughts on sacrifices or the giving of offerings:
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’…
The Lord Yeshua declared that He is greater than the temple and further expressed His desire for mercy and not sacrifice. The sacrifice He mentioned could be categorized as physical sacrifices - i.e. penitence of the Catholic Church and all sorts of sacrificial devotions like some churches' ritualistic devotional prayers; and monetary sacrifices such as tithings and offerings.
In the time of Christ, the focus is not anymore on the physical temple or places of worship but on the spiritual temple in Yeshua-Christos:
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
That The Savior is greater than the temple is due to the fact that He is the spiritual temple. Therefore, there is no longer a need for one to be in the physical temple or any other edifices to perform worship to God as one only needs to be in the spiritual realm of The Savior to render glory, worship and oneness with God and His Son (Jn. 17:21-23).
IRRELEVANCE OF BUILDING TEMPLES AND WORSHIP BUILDINGS
The absence of The Christ's desire on sacrifice or offerings is proven by the fact that He did not command nor encourage His believers and disciples to build synagogues and other edifices for the same purpose. This is further proven by the absence of interest by His disciples to build such edifices. In fact, the first church martyr Stephen mirrored The Lord's lack of instruction concerning the building of synagogues or temples:
47 But Solomon built Him a house.
48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
This statement of Stephen was quoted from the Prophet Isaiah:
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
As prophesied by Isaiah, in the era of The Christ, the focus is not anymore on the physical temple or house of God but on 'the One who is poor and of a contrite spirit', the One who is greater than the temple, The Christ Yeshua who is The Son of God and man's Savior.
How was this prophecy fulfilled in the life of The Christ? The Savior invalidated the use of an edifice as the consecrated place to worship God:
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The location or place to render true worship - the worship in spirit and truth, is not anymore relevant as declared by The Lord. This fact is proven by The Christ when He taught that true worship to The Father will not be anymore on the mountain (where the Samaritans worship), nor in Jerusalem (where the temple of God is located) as commanded to the Jews. As the true worship is in spirit and truth, they can be done wherever a true believer or follower is situated. This is the single biggest reason why spending huge sums of money on church structures is not relevant in the time of Christ.
FINANCIAL ABUSES IN MANY CHURCH GROUPS
While many church groups have a strict process on the handling and disbursement of their financial assets and are conservative on their spending, there are some who lack the transparency of their financial status. Even some church leaders are known to enjoy a lavish lifestyle complete with unreal assets like luxury cars, mansions and even exclusive aircrafts amounting to millions or even hundreds of millions of extravagant purchases. This results because their church group have accumulated excessive financial gains, and thus some are tempted to abuse their groups’ resources. Some of these church leaders, ironically pride on the integrity of their financial handling and yet fail to provide an open book on its groups' financial status. In many cases, they have mixed the spiritual with the commercial. Does the Bible speak about such religious leaders? Yes, even in the prophecies of old it has already been spoken:
5 “Indeed, because he transgresses by wine,
He is a proud man,
And he does not stay at home.
Because he enlarges his desire as hell,
And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied,
He gathers to himself all nations
And heaps up for himself all peoples.
6 “Will not all these take up a proverb against him,
And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
‘Woe to him who increases
What is not his—how long?
And to him who loads himself with many pledges’?
7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly?
Will they not awaken who oppress you?
And you will become their booty.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
All the remnant of the people shall plunder you,
Because of men’s blood
And the violence of the land and the city,
And of all who dwell in it.
9 “Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house,
That he may set his nest on high,
That he may be delivered from the power of disaster!
10 You give shameful counsel to your house,
Cutting off many peoples,
And sin against your soul.
The prophet Habakkuk prophesied about this kind of leaders who enlarges his desire as hell and cannot be satisfied. The prophesied ill willed leader gathers and heaps up people from all nation, meaning he prioritizes converting people so that he can “load himself with many pledges” or incoming revenues in the name of faith. The prophet even warned about his creditors ‘rising up so suddenly’ because he will make loans on behalf of his people. He commits a crime of plunder to his people, and he will cut off or expel many people – this could be the people who question his financial abuses.
Even the prophet Isaiah also prophesied about this kind of financial robbery by some religious leaders:
21 The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake;
He will exalt the law and make it honorable.
22 But this is a people robbed and plundered;
All of them are snared in holes,
And they are hidden in prison houses;
They are for prey, and no one delivers;
For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers?
Was it not the Lord,
He against whom we have sinned?
For they would not walk in His ways,
Nor were they obedient to His law.
25 Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger
And the strength of battle;
It has set him on fire all around,
Yet he did not know;
And it burned him,
Yet he did not take it to heart.
The prophet prophesied about a people robbed and plundered. He spoke of the people of the prophesied Israel or The Christ whom the prophet referred as ‘Him who exalt the law and make it honorable, and has pleased The Lord God with His righteousness’ (verse 42:21, read also verses 42:18-20). He is the same prophesied covenant of God and the light of the Gentiles mentioned in this same chapter (verse 42:1-6). The punishment of this kind of leaders is that they will experience the fury of God’s anger in a prophesied battle, the same battle that is envisioned in the book of Revelation on the day of judgment.
The understanding of many church groups (based on Paul’s teachings) on how the monetary offerings that they obligate their congregants give glory to God is not aligned with the spirit and desire of The Lord Yeshua. In the same manner, the goal of some churches to build temples and buildings of worship is not anymore relevant in our present time. It is but a vain reimplementation of God's commandment that is specific only to His early people of Israel to build Him a temple during the reign of King Solomon, and to perform its repairs after its destruction by foreign invaders.
As prevalent today as well as in the past, countless abuses have resulted out of the excessive accumulation of wealth in many church groups. One reason why these financial abuses continued to be committed by some church leaders is the fact that most countries' revenue auditing agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service or IRS in the United States, cannot just audit churches due to the law of the land on separation of church and state. This have become the biggest reason why this form of financial abuse of public funds is underexposed. There are even those who diverted some of their church funds to finance lucrative business ventures, all the more adding to the possibility of more financial abuses. Despite some obvious church funds abuses, these kinds of leaders are able to encourage their parishioners and congregants to even become more supportive of their wealth enriching schemes as they also use the Bible in their constant barrage of sermons asking for even more contributions.
As most church groups may need some financial assets to thrive, however their only goal in collecting money should just be to cover their overhead expenses and not to enlarge their church coffers. And their financial accounting practice should be made transparent to the donors, for only in an 'open-book' fashion that the integrity and purpose of the church's funds be protected and cannot be squandered by anyone especially from among the leadership board. Most especially, they should stop from selling the concept that their financial contributions are offerings and monetary sacrifices sought by God, for such is a doctrine that counters the spirit of The Lord (Mat. 12:7).
Those church leaders who have commingled the spiritual with commercial activities have clearly forgotten the ill-feeling of The Lord against the commercial opportunists in the temple of God in Jerusalem as He drove them away and overturned their tables while in anger declared, “is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’ ” (Mark 11:15-17).
If there is another truly noble work that will require monetary spending that ties up with The Lord Yeshua-Christos' desire of mercy, it should be that of helping those who are less fortunate and are desperately needing help (Matthew 5:42 / 25:45). This is the true spirit of The Lord and He has done this continuously during His ministry on earth, which further showed His leadership style of being a servant-leader. However, extreme care should be considered when performing this nobility in such that they are not done as a way of propaganda, but as much as possible be done in secret in order to fulfill the instruction of The Lord Yeshua recorded in Matthew 6:1-4 – for this is the work of charity that is truly pleasing to The Almighty God.
This kind of service to those who truly need help is the mark of the true religion in Christ as taught by Apostle James:
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.