Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Faith Promise Giving - Is It Scriptural?

"Faith promise giving" is a modern-day fund raising system. It goes beyond pledging. According to it, a person is supposed to promise on faith to give a sum of money that he does not have (nor expect to have) and have the faith that God will supply it so he can give it (seemingly presuming that if you make such a promise "in faith" that God is obligated to "cough it up" for you). This is more than an apostle required, as Paul said that God would accept according to what a man has (II Cor. 8:12).

The Baptist Bible Fellowship was the first group which I heard promoting "Faith Promise Giving". I do not know if it originated with them, but they have been one of the foremost promoters of the idea among independent Baptists. Here are some quotes from a pamphlet distributed by them - A Faith Promise Offering? by Granville LaForge. "The Faith Promise Offering is a free-will offering collected weekly in your church to provide the finances for worldwide missions (p.1)." "First, It is a promise to God. Observe carefully this is not a pledge to the church...However, may we hasten to say that your promise to God should be as binding if not more binding than a pledge to an organization. Secondly, it is an act of faith. You are promising to give beyond your present ability to give...It is simply trusting and believing God to supply the amount He impresses your heart to promise (p.2)." "WHY SHOULD I GIVE A FAITH PROMISE OFFERING?...First to express loving obedience to His commands. (pp.3,4)." "How can I determine what God wants me to give? Ask God, with a submissive will: 'Lord, what will thou have me to do?' If you are truly willing to do His will, He will impress your mind with the amount He wants you to give. The amount He indicates may be beyond your personal ability, but remember this verse: 'If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.' Mark 9:23 "FOURTH, SUBSCRIBE TO THAT AMOUNT ON YOUR FAITH PROMISE CARD. (p. 8)." "FIFTH, SET THIS AMOUNT ASIDE WEEKLY AND GIVE IT...Knowing that if it is God's will for you to give this amount weekly it then simply becomes a matter of good stewardship to give it as He has led you to promise. NOTE: God never commanded us to do something He will not enable us to do! (p.9)."

Promoters of the Faith Promise usually insist that it is based on Scripture -- "The Faith Promise method of giving is described in detail for us in II Corinthians 8, 9, and 10 (pp. 1-2)." The excerpts from this pamphlet (and many other writings that are available) show that it is a very detailed system, and, for the BBFI at least, "You are promising to do something for an entire year, fifty two weeks without fail (p. 3)." [Most Faith Promise promotions find their scripture base in II Corinthians 8; most want a promise made for a year; most emphasize this as a promise to God rather than a pledge to the church, implying it is not binding, but then turn around and say that a promise to God is even more binding than a pledge to the church.]

Although this may sound good to those unfamiliar with God's Word and its interpretation, the proof texts of the faith promise system are scriptures stretched beyond reason. To begin with, the system is built on a faulty foundation. There is no New Testament teaching of two ways of giving: tithes which are owed to God and offerings over and above the tithe which are not owed but freely given. All we have belongs to God. We are stewards of it all. Even the Old Testament tithing proof text (Mal. 3:8) states that the robbers of God were robbers "in tithes AND offerings." How so, if only the tithe belongs to God?

Faith promise giving might hide behind such shaky use of scripture, since it is between a man and God, if not for a fatal flaw -- it violates scriptural principles of giving.

First of all, it violates the principle of giving "out of that which ye have (II Cor. 8:11)" This principle rules out pledging OR promising what we do not have, and faith promise giving is exactly that -- promising to give what you do not have. God accepts our gifts according to what we have, not according to what we do not have (II Cor. 8:12).

Secondly, faith promises violate I Cor. 16:2, which teaches us to give as God has prospered us. God only asks us give out of that with which He has blessed us. Faith promise giving asks us to give that we hope or expect God to bless us with.

Faith promise giving denies us the prospect of giving sacrificially, as did the Macedonians (II Cor. 8:14). While seemingly calling for sacrificial giving, the faith promise system actually promises that God will supply extra funds to you in order for you to keep your pledge to Him. David said, "Neither will I offer...that which doth cost me nothing (II Sam. 24:24)."

To make a faith promise to perform a certain amount of giving for a year, when we know not what shall be tomorrow (Jas. 4:13,14), seems an act of foolishness rather than an act of faith...

...Let us cheerfully give out of what we have as God has prospered us, and leave off the faith promises.

Note added 10/5/2008: Through recent research on the internet I found Faith Promise giving originated with Oswald J. Smith, a Canadian non-denominational preacher of Presbyterian background. He was also an evangelist, hymn writer and author. Its origin is some 1900 years too late.

"Dr. Oswald J. Smith was the originator of the idea of a Faith Promise offering for missions. For many years he was pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada, where he challenged that congregation to raise $1 for missions for every $1 they spent on themselves." -- from A Faith Promise Offering, Oswald J. Smith, p. 2


JLS said...

Good analysis.

amity said...

This also begs the question whether "fund-raising systems" in general are themselves scriptural? The Bible does enjoin giving on us, but does not authorize churches to sponsor programs to "collect" does it?

Anonymous said...

I have said this before and shall repeat it. I am not certain that tithing is a command of God for the church, but if every member did tithe and then gave over and above the tithe as the Lord enables, no church would ever want for needed funds.

The truth is that far too many give a dollar here and a dollar there and consider that their tithe. The dollar is so divided the local church suffers and must needs keep "begging" for funds.

When I pastored, I preached a sermon once a year on the benefits of giving to the local church. Then, I trusted God to convince the people whether this was so.

Personally, I have never made public my needs, yet God has always provided and in abundance, I might add.



Russ B. said...

Very Good analysis as well. Jim's comment was right on. I'll go one step further to state, if your relationship with God is correct, any and all actions associated with giving will not affect or concern you as tithing or giving of offerings will come naturally. As a believer we are merely required to be obedient. Everything else is a distraction that the devil would rather have us question from OUR knot hole and perspective.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Russ, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree about the distractions.