Commercial Christmas: What if I don’t like Buying Gifts?
Whoever came up with the idea of buying and giving and sharing stuff during Christmas! One can make a good argument for church offering. The funds given are supposed to advance the work of the congregation: This means all works related to the advancement of the great commission, “go ye therefore into all the world and make men my disciples” Mathew 28:19ff. Of course with the advent of the suitcase pastors, the main Christmas offering guarantees that his Range Rover is paid off.
Some have accused me of being anti- prosperity gospel. They argue that my years of seminary education distorted the biblical view on tithing and the blessings thereof. The New Testament is clear about the need for the pastor and his family to be taken care of by the congregation. “…Do you not know that those who work in the temple eat of its food, and those who serve at the altar partake of its offerings? In the same way, the Lord has prescribed that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. “ 1Corinthians 9:13ff
The idea is that those who benefit from the works of the pastor, assuming that the pastoral crew is within the mandated biblical set up, should provide for the needs of the pastor. That means that the elders and the deacons of the church who form the church government must pass policies that guarantee that the pastor has a descent salary, health insurance, and other benefits that ensure that he is within the means for a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle. There are many pastors in Africa who live a life of poverty while the bishop of their church baths in gold. This is against the biblical principle of church providence.
The problem arising in modern day churches springs from the creation of independent personal churches. These are registered as businesses by the pastor with his wife and children as directors. The board which runs the church is not part of the ownership and therefore they are there to serve the financial interest of the pastor – businessman. The pastor controls the bank account, the building fund, the children’s fund, the tithing fund and even the budget to buy toilet papers. In this case, the funds raised are not geared towards advancing the need of the whole congregation, but rather, to enrich the pastor’s family.
It is to avoid these abuses of the church that St. Paul advocated (as of the Lord) that the church be a community function. It is the composition of believers who come together to form an ecclesia for the purpose of worship and ministry to the Glory of God. He advocated a church leadership where the pastor acts as the spiritual head but uses the gifts in the congregation for management and administration of the call of Christ! Paul was so concerned that he took himself off the pay roll from the church. “15But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that something be done for me. Indeed, I would rather die than for anyone to nullify my boast…” 1 Corinthians 9:15
Everything that the believer does, whether it is giving tithe to the church or offering of self for the service of the church community is a reflection of gratitude to Christ for his death on the cross and the offer of salvation. However, it is the responsibility of the pastor to teach the true message of the cross including the purpose of giving and receiving gifts. One of the areas that must be rectified is the idea that the pastor for the purpose of his advancement as a person should manage all the money given to the church. This concept in modern independent churches is heresy!
On the other hand, secular society has taken the birth of Christ and the whole message of the cross and transformed it into a commercial enterprise. The amount of money spent for Christmas gifts is staggering. The idea that a spiritual event whose meaning was to bring about eternity to man has been hijacked by commercial interests is within the debates of we who teach theology.
I have received gifts during Christmas and have given gifts to family and friends. Though the giving and receiving is influenced by culture, it does fit within the great commission of going into the entire world and preaching the gospel. You see, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And all those who say Merry Christmas will have no excuse that Christ was born for the salvation of man!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
CEO Bibilia Broadcasting Network BBN-TV Kenya
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist