Rev. David Musgrave



Suddenly things fell into place.  During my recent visit to my family in Cameroon, we got onto the subject of the status of the Minister in the Church.   I explained that in the Methodist Church all Ministers are paid the same stipend, financed from assessed contributions from local Churches and Circuits.   My brother-in-law told me in no uncertain terms the difference between tithes and free-will offering.  He quoted from scripture (it’s actually Numbers 18:21) to say that the ten percent  tithe from the people to the Levite was compulsory, and should be copied in the modern Church.  A Minister today was the equivalent of the Levite and should receive the full tithe for his (I think the implication was that it would always be a ‘he’) personal use.

When we hear of ‘Pastors’ building mega-Churches and becoming rich men with big cars and lavish life-styles, I guess they justify it all on that basis.  It is a good example of how our faith and our scripture can be exploited and distorted.  In our Methodist tradition we don’t require tithes.  Instead the idea of ‘freewill offering’ is deeply embedded.  It does not mean that we give less.  10% may be quite a good guide to follow in our giving, whether to Church or to Charity, but there is no reason why those who can shouldn’t give more,  just as people with higher incomes pay a greater proportion in tax (unless they pay clever accountants to avoid it!).   In our modern world of course, income tax does much of what tithes once did, financing welfare for the less fortunate and the general good functioning of society.

It has often been said that anything can be proved from the Bible.  When we seek guidance from scripture, it matters what ‘filters’ we put the words through.  For me, a belief in a God of love and justice means that anything that teaches the contrary is to be questioned.  Something that might allow people to enrich themselves at the expense of others certainly must be.

So don’t give up on your free-will offering to the Church.  But you have a right to know that it is spent wisely and justly: hold your Ministers and your Church accountable.  Why not join your Church Council when it is elected this year.

Easter Blessings