Church tax or voluntary contributions

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There are Lutheran congregations with less than one hundred members, which are able to pay the salary of a pastor, take care of all their other expenditures and support mission work. Each member decides, in the sight of God, how much he will give to the Lord. The Apostle's exhortation is observed: "Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). God blesses the gifts given from a cheerful heart.

God's stewardship plan works. We must refer to this, as people have a tendency to doubt both God's wisdom and the feasibility of actually applying His commands and directions in practice. Who else, but man, would be eager to criticize God's wisdom? He not only wants to know good and evil in the same way that God does, but also has no qualms about thinking that he is wiser than God.

Thus it follows that people have not trusted the power of the Gospel to renew the heart and to make it willing to give. People have invented the church tax. The system works by threatening to collect the tax by force, and is efficient, because all people know that God exists. "Just in case," therefore, they have to belong to a church and pay their church tax, even though they curse the system. The church tax system is based on the general belief that God exists, but it is worlds apart from faith in Christ, the Savior from sin.

Which is Christian: Voluntary giving or the church tax? Everyone knows the answer. Someone, however, may say: "But can we not pay the church tax with a cheerful heart?" Of course, we can. But who does? An even more important question: Can a Christian congregation answer to God for a system of stewardship based on compulsory giving? When giving does not stem from a renewed heart's desire to give, the result is that the gifts cannot - at least not in the long run - be used in accordance with faith. The unbelieving church tax payers will begin to demand that the gifts be used according to their wishes. A gift given with a curse will be detrimental to the cause of the Gospel.

If a Christian congregation is governed by law, as society is governed, it loses its distinct character. The congregation becomes a part of society contrary to Christ's words: "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). The hearts of the members of Christian congregations must be governed by the Gospel. When a person gives from the heart as a fruit of faith, he experiences joy. When he notices that he has started giving reluctantly, he learns how to fight against greed and asks himself: "What does Christ's sacrifice mean to me?"