I feel certain that there have to be some genealogical connections that would force us preachers to reject a donation. I wouldn't, for example, want to take funds that were received as a result of anything illegal. The question is: should the church accept funds from something that is merely immoral, if not illegal? And, who is the arbiter of morality in such cases?
First Baptist Church in Orange Park, Florida has been wrestling with that very issue. When one of their members, Robert Powell won $6 million in the Florida Lottery last month, he decided to tithe ten percent to the church. The church, however, rejected the $600,000 donation. Pastor David Tarkington politely declined the offer because he believes and teaches that gambling is wrong.
Others are not so sure. Pastor Dr. Lorenzo Hall, who leads a nearby inner city ministry said, "I'm against the lottery, but if one of my members won the lottery, I wish and I hope he would give 10% to the church, we could do a lot of things with that money."
I've often wondered what I would do if confronted with the same dilemma / opportunity. I've even wondered what I would do if I found myself on the giving end of such a problem. From time to time my father-in-law will buy a lottery ticket and designate it for my wife and I. We've even received lottery scratch-offs from my cousin as a Christmas gift. What would I do if I won? It is a problem that I would prefer to explore, not just in the abstract, but in the concrete in case you're wondering.
In the meantime, I'll continue to counsel and preach tithing to the saints at South Lansing Christian Church. Lot's of folks are listening, too. South has been incredibly generous in 2008. In state racked by recession and job-loss, Southies have given more to the work of the church than at any other time in the church's history. Their generosity is incredible. As we grow in this discipline of giving, I look forward to the day when all the members at South tithe. Then we'll have more than enough money to fund all our ministries, grow the church, and pay off our church's mortgage early.
I read an old preacher story recently that sums it up nicely:
Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others.
Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers--every person has leprosy.