Why Giving & Sharing is NOT A Church
Since I am not an ordained elder, it would be presumptuous of me to start my own church and ask people to send me tithes to support myself and my family. Giving & Sharing is not a church; it is a religious service organization, serving Sabbath-keepers around the world with literature and books, computer disks, and correspondence. We strive to preserve the revealed Truth of the Almighty, and fulfill the command, “Freely ye have received, freely give,” Matthew 10:8.
Churches have a bad reputation, which is often well-deserved. While employed by a large Church of God organization, I personally saw millions of dollars mismanaged (wasted, stolen), and it was enough to sicken my stomach. Many organizations continue to serve the hierarchy, instead of serving the brethren.
One small Sabbath-keeping group is led by a man who has employed his son and daughter in the Church office. In discussing with me a job in his Church (which I declined), He said that working for the Church was a fine way to make a living and also serve God. Is the Church then a business, or in the case of some, a family business? Another group doesn’t serve the brethren too well, but admitted in its annual business report that about 65% of the income went for salaries. In the Company that I work for, if labor represented more than 35-40% of the cost of doing business, there would be massive layoffs.
“But,” some may say, “what about that scripture that says, ‘The laborer is worthy of his hire,’ Luke 10:7? Did not Paul say that he had the power to forbear working, and live off the tithes, I Corinthians 9:6-9, 13-14?” Indeed, these scriptures exist, I Timothy 5:17-18. Paul did, at times, receive financial support from the brethren in Macedonia, II Corinthians 11:9.
Why did the Apostle Paul work for years as a tentmaker, supporting himself (see Acts 18:1-11)? Why didn’t Paul live off the tithes? Paul answers: “Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ . . . . when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more,” I Corinthians 9:12-19. See also I Thessalonians 2:4-9, and II Thessalonians 3:6-10, in the Living Bible. In Paul’s day, as in ours, so-called ministers of God had set such a poor example, that Paul had to counter this financial corruption by going the opposite direction. In the First Century, the office of High Priest was bought and sold. Then, as today, ministers liked to obtain the best seats at Feasts (of Tabernacles), Matthew 23:6. Highly paid ministers abused the brethren, even the widows, verse 14. Then, as now, there were important “perks,” or special privileges, for being a minister. Even in small groups, one man has total control over the finances, and can use “God’s money” to build an air-conditioned dog house, if he so desires.
Numerous scriptures refer to “filthy lucre,” defined as “money acquired by disreputable, or obscene, means; reward, profit.” In I Timothy 3:2-7, we are given the qualifications for an elder, or overseer. (Actually, these traits should be exemplified by the Church membership as well.) The elder must not be “greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous,” verse 3. The Amplified Bible renders this, “not a lover of money — insatiable for wealth and ready to obtain it by questionable means.” Deacons, or those who serve, must be likewise “not greedy of filthy lucre,” verse 8. And, Titus 1:7 repeats this warning against elders being guilty of “filthy lucre.” Why do you suppose the Eternal inspired this warning for the ministry? Because the ministry has responsibility in handling money, sometimes lots of money, and the temptation to help themselves can be too great. The Apostle Peter exhorted the elders to feed the flock not for a paycheck, “not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind,” I Peter 5:2. Today, as hundreds of ministers are jumping from one organization to another, all without missing a paycheck, these scriptures have profound meaning. Did they stay in their former affiliation for years, merely for constraint, only for a paycheck, while they disagreed with the doctrines? My brother-in-law, who had pastored several churches, indicated he had done this. Probably there are many more like him. What a filthy paycheck they cashed! The mouths of false ministers “must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake,” Titus 1:11. I do not envy such ministers, for they are going to answer some day for their stewardship.
One minister publishes a very excellent book on the Passover. It costs less than $10 a copy to print and mail. Yet, he charges $21.95 a copy. He could give away free half the books, and still make a profit! Is the Truth of God to be merchandised? When I wrote him to see if Giving & Sharing could distribute his book on computer disk for, $4, and give him a royalty of $2 or more per copy, he spurned our offer, replying that “such a penurious royalty is entirely out of the question.” I haven’t made one cent out of the books and literature distributed through Giving & Sharing since 1978. Religion should not be a business, but a service.
You may request a financial statement. Earl Lewis receives a small processing fee per order, which amounts to less than $300 per month. This “labor” cost is not even minimum wage. Earl does a fine job managing the Giving & Sharing bookstore. People have told us that they appreciate his care in filling their orders.
Because the abuse of tithes by those guilty of filthy lucre is so prevalent today, it is imperative that religious organizations pare their labor costs to the bone, and give full accountability, so that those who contribute can be sure that their tithes are not wasted on “perks.” Members are guilty before the Eternal for not demanding a full reckoning. There are plenty of “false apostles — spurious, counterfeits — deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles (special messengers) of Christ, the Messiah . . . . For you readily and gladly bear with the foolish, since you are so smart and wise yourselves! For you endure it if a man [false minister] assumes control of your souls and makes slaves of you, or devours (your substance, spends your money) and preys upon you, or is arrogant and puts on airs, or strikes you in the face,” II Corinthians 11:13-20, Amplified Bible. The extravagant lifestyle practiced by many “ministers” today is contrary to Scripture. That is why Giving & Sharing is not a Church.
We are to be faithful stewards of the Word of God. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful,” I Corinthians 4:1-2. Now a faithful servant has proven himself worthy of trust. You can depend upon him, put your life and finances in his hands. In describing the New Testament Passover ceremony, Paul said, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,” I Corinthians 11:23, and again, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” verse 1. If you knew Jesus Christ when He walked the earth, you had just as well have seen the Father, because the Savior acted and taught exactly as the Father, John 14:9-10. Messiah was a faithful steward of the Word of the Almighty.
Yet, we do not always faithfully pass on the Truth of God which has been given to us. Have you ever played the game where you whisper a story to a person next to you, then he or she whispers it to the next person, and so on, circling through a large group? When you finally hear the last person repeat the story, everyone laughs, because it is no doubt completely garbled, barely resembling the original story.
The writings of Herbert W. Armstrong are not Holy Writ. Nevertheless, many of us have learned a great deal of the Almighty’s Truth through Armstrong’s ministry. That is why I have put forth great effort to painstakingly reproduce (with very minor editing for things such as spelling and punctuation errors) the early writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. I believe many will be encouraged to follow the Eternal through his dynamic writing. I want to preserve this legacy for the Church of God.
There are several Churches of God today, who claim to be the rightful successors of Armstrong’s teachings. Each one of them, to our knowledge, has major doctrinal aberrations. Perhaps one of the most insidious tactics is to falsely claim that they are preserving the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong.
One of them, Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God, has reprinted The United States and Britain in Prophecy. I had planned to use Mr. Flurry’s version of this important booklet in our Early Writings book. It was said to be the 1945 public domain version. “Every effort,” Mr. Flurry said, “has been made to preserve this work in its original form.” The only exceptions, he claimed, were to update outdated statistics, and to delete references to King George, replacing them with Queen Elizabeth.
Then, a friend sent me a copy of the real 1945 edition. I quickly realized that Mr. Flurry’s claims were totally untrue. He made substantial changes to the 1945 edition, many of which have nothing to do with “outdated statistics.” At best, the Philadelphia Church of God version is only about 80% the same as the original, public domain, 1945, 24-page, edition. While it is commendable that the Philadelphia Church of God wanted to preserve this booklet, they were not faithful stewards in reproducing this book.
The more I thought about this situation, the more concerned I became. Is this the way I have handled the Word of God in my life? Have I been a faithful steward of the oracles of God? This corruption of the writings of Herbert Armstrong is only an illustration. The First Century Church of God quickly corrupted the Gospel. Are we any better than they? Not everyone who claims to be holding fast to the faith once delivered, is actually doing so. Unless we take the scriptures to heart, and, with the Almighty’s Spirit, carefully preserve the true doctrines in our lives, it will not be long before the way we formerly lived will become unrecognizable. Let us hold fast, and be faithful stewards — trustees, curators, guardians — of the Word of God!
If you have taken a course in mathematics or logic, you no doubt learned very early the meaning of the word “all.” The Hebrew word, kol, or kowl, does indeed mean ALL, the whole amount. In Numbers 18:21, the Eternal said, “I have given the children of Levi ALL [kol] the tenth [tithe] in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” Yet in Deuteronomy 14:22-23, we read that “Thou shalt truly tithe ALL [kol] the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year, And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, and of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.” ALL of a tithe was given to the Levites, yet another scripture says ALL of the tithe was to be eaten at the festivals. How can this be?
Even more, “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth ALL [kol] the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite . . . the stranger and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest,” Deuteronomy 14:28-29. ALL of this third year tithe goes to feed the poor. Does this mean that in the third year, no tithe was available for the Feasts, and the Festivals were canceled that year?
You do not have to be a mathematics major to realize that you cannot give ALL of the same tithe to serve three different purposes! One man recently told me that you just take a PART of the tithe to serve these three purposes: ministry, festivals, and the poor. He claimed that there is in reality only one tithe, rather than three tithes. The Bible use of kol totally destroys this argument. Can the Bible be more clear that there are three distinct tithes, not just one?
The idea that there are three Biblical tithes is not new, nor was it “invented” by Herbert W. Armstrong. An excellent book, The Tithe in Scripture, by Henry Lansdell, shows Biblical evidence for the validity of three tithes. This book, now available once again as a reprint from Giving & Sharing, was originally published in 1908! Write to Giving & Sharing for your free copy, if you have not already done so in the past. And remember to be careful where you invest the Almighty’s tithes.
Are You a Friend of the Family?
Dr. James Dobson (b. 1936) has devoted his life to the preservation of the family. His radio program, Focus on the Family, is heard on over 2,000 stations around the world. His many books have given helpful advice to parents, children, teenagers, and the elderly.
Although Dr. Dobson has Protestant religious beliefs and is somewhat ecumenical, most of his literature has a solid Biblical basis. In a culture which attacks and ridicules the family, Dobson and his associates present an uncompromising pro-family message. Furthermore, Dobson does not hound his supporters for money. All literature is distributed on a “suggested donation” basis. Dobson receives no salary from Focus on the Family; his income is derived from his book royalties.
Focus on the Family practices a very admirable policy: they aim to answer EVERY letter, many of which ask for advice. Churches of God today sometimes ignore questions and personal requests. Dobson’s organization promotes and advertises good literature and tapes of other groups and individuals. They know they do not have a corner on the Truth, and bring to our attention many other ministries doing a good work preserving the family.
While many can listen to Dobson on his daily radio show, those too busy can catch the Weekend broadcast, which is a summary of the five daily programs for the preceding week.
Some of Dobson’s most important books are: The New Dare to Discipline, The Strong-Willed Child, Love Must Be Tough, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Emotions: Can You Trust Them? and Preparing for Adolescence. His 1995 book, Life on the Edge, is dedicated to young people in the 16-26 age group, the “critical decade,” in which so many decisions affecting their whole lives are made. Dobson says, “Life on the Edge is my lifework, my effort to help our next generation bridge the chasm between adolescence and adulthood.”
Many of the books and videos distributed by Focus on the Family are truly excellent sources of education and inspiration to people of all ages. However, some of those who most need this reference material cannot afford it. That is where Focus on the Family and Giving & Sharing come together to fulfil a need. Focus on the Family provides, at cost, the bulk of their materials to non-profit church libraries. Giving & Sharing plans to obtain these resources. Now, all we need is someone to maintain this “Sharing Family Library,” which is planned to loan, free of charge, family-oriented material from Focus on the Family and others, to Sabbath-keepers around the world. If you are a single parent who cannot afford Bible-based family material, you no doubt realize the value of this proposed free service.
Are you a “Friend of the Family”? We are requesting a volunteer to work from 5-15 hours a week to mail family-oriented books, audio and video tapes, from Focus on the Family and others. A male or female adult, young or old, who is committed to preserving the family, will qualify. All expenses for literature, postage and packaging will be paid by Giving & Sharing. This volunteer will need to make at least one trip to the Post Office per week, and pay for postage out of a local Giving & Sharing bank account. If there is enough interest, Sharing Family Libraries can be set up in various countries in addition to the United States of America. (This new area of service will be in addition to our mail order bookstore for Bibles and religious books, Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.) In line with the Sharing Family Library service, we need an individual to record and duplicate Focus on the Family radio broadcasts. We need nothing from you except a little of your time.
Donations for postage will be accepted, but not requested. If just one family is helped, one teenager stays away from drugs and illicit sex, as a result of this service, then it will be all worthwhile.
If you are willing to volunteer for the Sharing Family Library, call Richard C. Nickels at 307-686-5191 (evenings).
I have believed that Isaiah 3:12 means that children in end time Israel would be unruly and engage in criminal activities, plaguing the adult population. “As for My people,” this well-known passage states, “children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” While juvenile crime may be part of the meaning of this verse, there is a modern fulfillment that I have observed in recent news events that more likely is what the Almighty’s Word has in mind.
I am referring to juvenile accusations of sexual abuse, coached and aided by over-zealous social workers. You may have seen or read news reports of fantastic accusations of sexual abuse in the city of Wenatchee, Washington. Dozens of people are now in jail. As shown on the ABC television show 20/20, children can easily be “coached” to report sheer fantasies as true stories. Child exploitation and sexual abuse do exist. But, the paranoid atmosphere that is sometimes generated has framed many innocent persons. The false premise is often that “children do not lie about sexual abuse.” They can, and often do, lie, especially when coached by evil witch hunters. Courts should absolutely verify the validity of all testimony.
For the sordid story of what is going on in Wenatchee, read the September 29, 1995, issue of The Wall Street Journal. In March of 1995, Pastor Robert Roberson stood up in a public meeting and roundly criticized the public investigator’s tactics. Five days later, police took Mr. and Mrs. Roberson to jail, where they were kept on a million dollars bail each. They were accused of sexual assaults against their own 4- year old daughter and an 11-year old girl, who has been the accuser and chief witness in most of the cases. Mr. Roberson was brutally beaten at regular intervals, the guards having informed other prisoners of the “child molester” in their midst.
This happened in America. Truly, as the Eternal foretold, “children are their oppressors.” And, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, “women rule over them.” Now, this may refer to the increasing numbers of women political rulers. However, in the context of the first part of the verse, is it not an interesting coincidence, that many social workers are women? Social workers have almost dictatorial power to rule over, and oppress, their hapless victims, taking away children from parents and guardians whom they deem to be “unfit.” As believers, we have little to fear from women political rulers, per se. They operate more or less along the same vein as their male counterparts, and are checked and balanced by other political forces. But, on a local level, social workers filled with righteous indignation, who have unchecked power, can devastate the families and children they are supposed to protect.
In Wenatchee, child care caseworker Paul Glassen reported to his superiors that a girl who had just accused her foster father of sexual crimes, came in, disturbed, to confide that she had “told the police a lot of lies about Dad.” Glassen was fired for alleged “misconduct,” and his own name suddenly began cropping up on the list of those identified as participants in sex rings. Wisely, Mr. Glassen and family promptly fled to Canada.
Truly, truly, Isaiah 3:12 is being fulfilled today. Children would never be our oppressors if it weren’t for adults manipulating and abetting them. May the Messiah come back soon to punish the real evil doers, and execute judgment and justice!
A reader wrote, telling us of his ouster from a Sabbath-keeping Church of God over his stand against divorce and remarriage. He says, “Along with the Sabbath, I have reason to believe that since 1974 there has also arisen a conspiracy to destroy marriage in the Churches of God. I find few wish to address these issues as they are considered too divisive and controversial.”
Very few wish to seriously investigate what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage, and issues relating to the family. For those rare individuals, we have reprinted our series of articles on Marriage in a new, 92-page edition of Biblical Marriage and Family. It contains a new article, Biblical Childrearing. Order your FREE copy, today!
— written by Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849