Third Tithe - Where Did it Really Go?
I foolishly assumed that the WCG would use 3rd tithe to help the widows, orphans and needy people of the Church. When 3rd tithe year came up for us, we willingly sacrificed to pay it because we thought it was for a very good cause. We assumed that "God's Church" would be above board in handling these funds. Now I know differently. We had an associate pastor, who gave a sermon one Sabbath, and told us that whenever we received 3rd tithe assistance, our first goal should be to pay it back!! So we learned from this that 3rd tithe was not a "benevolent fund" at all, but something more like a commercial loan! (The church I attend now has a special "benevolent fund" and they give to anyone in need--even those outside of the membership--and nobody is expected to pay anything back. After all, it is a "benevolent" fund--a concept that seems to escape the Worldwide Church of God).
We knew a family in WCG that had six children. The husband was laid off and had trouble finding employment. He finally asked for 3rd tithe assistance. When he finally found a job, he received a bill in the mail from the WCG and was instructed that he was to pay back the 3rd tithe that was given to him! His wife told me that it put them in worse financial straits than if they had never accepted the supposed "loan" in the first place! I was appalled that the money I was sending in for 3rd tithe, was not being used to help others in a Christ-like way, as we were made to believe.
Another family I knew could only save $900 for the Feast of Tabernacles (he was underemployed and his family was receiving public assistance). Of course, out of the $900, they had to send in the "Tithe of the Tithe" (which, by the way, is not commanded in the Bible), so that gave them $810 to spend at the Feast. The hotel was the cheapest they could find in their local area ($29 per night x 9 nights = $232 plus tax, so I'll just round it off to $250). So $810 minus $250 for housing, left them $560. Out of that, they had to set aside gas money because it was a long drive (2 tanks of gas to get there and back = $1.40 per gallon times a 13 gallon tank twice comes to approximately $36). So $560 minus $36 dollars left them $524. They sacrificed $40 for two Holy Day offerings ($20 per offering), so that left them a grand total of $484 to use for the entire 8 days of the Feast. That amount gave them $60 dollars a day for a family of three to eat 3 meals per day. The Feast site was somewhat pricey, so they had to forsake many activities in order to just be able to eat! So much for experiencing "God's abundance" at the Feast. Anyway, their car ended up with a flat tire during the Feast and they asked the local Feast coordinator (who was our new local pastor) for 3rd tithe assistance to get the tire fixed. His response? He told them that he heard that "someone was going around trying to get money from people," so he turned them down! My friend's wife was upset because she felt that they were being wrongly accused. Needless to say, my husband passed a few bucks their way so they could get their vehicle repaired. I suspected the real reason that this pastor turned him down was because he figured out that my friend could never pay the money back. So much for 3rd tithe helping others who really needed it.
The WCG made us believe that 3rd tithe would be used to help the needy. When one thinks about how much money that each local congregation contributed to it, very little of it actually came back to any of the members. Sadder still is the fact that there was plenty of it. I know members were discouraged by the ministry for requesting it. They were told to "seek public assistance first." This was especially emphasized during the Joseph Tkach, Sr. era.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? ~I John 3:17
I encourage members to ask for a financial statement on 3rd tithe assistance and see if your minister doesn't give you the run around. Be persistent in asking for detailed information on paper (don't accept a verbal, "Well that's private information since we don't want to embarrass people who receive it." You are not asking who received it--you are asking how much was given to needy members and if that amount can be verified on paper). If you are unable to obtain a straight answer, that should tell you something right there. Being a "good steward" doesn't mean you hand over your hard earned cash to an organization that refuses to give you a clear account of every penny. Ensuring your money is being used for the purpose it was given does not make you a villain for asking. Shaming tactics or questioning your "conversion" is a sign that something is definitely amiss. A sound, healthy organization has nothing to hide. If you are really in "God's true Church," then why are finances, especially of the top leadership, such a "secret" anyway? You owe it to yourself to find out.
I also hope exiters will understand those bogus reports from Arthur Andersen were poppycock. They were made to "look official" with a "corporate flair," but they were intentionally confusing so members wouldn't know enough to question them. Members usually figured that if they had Arthur Andersen, a professional auditing corporation, do their financial reports, then we members had nothing to worry about. Of course, we now know why they had Arthur Anderson in the first place!
The 2002 online article, "Arthur Andersen's sorry story of big-time auditing," tells how Andersen has been involved in "one mess after another" as far back as 20 years: "Over and over again it has been accused of giving questionable or crooked corporate books its stamp of approval, with predictable results." Note: This article is no longer online, but Arthur Anderson may be researched online; i.e., see: State board imposes reprimands and fines totaling $250,000 on Arthur Andersen LLP for violations of audit standards and Anderson Guilty ("Once grand accounting firm now faces five years probation, $500,000 fine and possibly its own end.")
"The real test of a church is how it handles its finances." ~J. Vernon McGee
Exit & Support Network™
October 4, 2003
Update 2007: Today WCG says it retains the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers as its external auditor.
Comments from ESN: Elders and ministers in WCG were exempt from paying third tithe. Furthermore, third tithe was rarely ever used for its intended purpose. Instead, it was used to subsidize the luxurious lifestyles of the leaders. The articles Fleecing the Flock and Southern Exposure in Ambassador Report #2, 1977 showed this was true. (Note: Please be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist website.)
Note: The purpose of these questions is to show how authoritative leaders of high control religious groups will answer them, or refuse to answer them. Therefore, these questions are one way to understand and beware of such groups. (Don't expect them to give you a simple "yes" or "no.")
- Do you have a financial statement that shows where all the money goes to? Do you have one for third tithe assistance? (they should not hesitate to give you a detailed one)
- How much am I expected to give monetarily? Are members expected to pay three tithes and/or give generous offerings regularly and at certain times of the year? Is a third tithe to be paid every 3rd and 6th year? (they should be upfront about all the tithes and offerings members give, not just reply "we believe in tithing")
- Do you believe you are the one true Church with truths (or the Truth) that other churches don't possess? (if they say yes, take a look at All or Nothing Statements [from those that have "the truth] and ask yourself why certain other groups say the same thing)
- Can I disagree with the pastor or minister? What happens if I do? (if they say "the minister speaks for God," think about whether this would be considered unquestioned obedience to the authority of the group)
- Am I expected to show up for services every week, all the Bible studies, and be actively involved in your church programs? (if they say, "if you want to obey God, you will," think about whether this is subverting your own independent thought and putting excessive demands on you)
- Do you observe Sabbaths, holy days, or similar gatherings, during the year that members are commanded to attend? (if they say "we obey the days God commanded," search out who these days were commanded to and the difference between the nation Israel in the O.T. and the N. T. Church. Also refer to: Why Church Leaders Demand Holy Days For Their Members)
- Do you have a headquarters with a general pastor that sets the standard for the belief system, distributing material and information to all congregations, and expecting all to comply without question? (if they say "our standard is the Bible," be sure to check and see if they are taking scriptures or other quotes out of context in order for you to come to a set conclusion)
- IIs this leader (Pastor General, Apostle, founder, head minister, etc.) accountable to anyone over him? (if they say "he's accountable to God and God will take care of any problems," ask yourself if this would create an exclusive environment with potential for abuse)
- Can I find salvation outside your church or organization? (if they say "you need to prove whether or not this is God's one true Church," notice how they will refer you to their literature or information)
- Can I ask questions concerning the past sins of the founder of the group (or the group they split from), or ask about any past corruption? (if they say "we do not dwell on the past" or "many rumors and lies abound," ask yourself if it possible that they could be involved in cover-up and revision of their history)
- Can I bring up questions that I have about scriptures which disagree with your doctrines? (they should be completely open to it without making you feel guilty or fearful)
Many other questions could be asked, but what you want to think about is would you still have the capacity for independent thought by joining this "special" group? In the process will you lose your own will by giving it to others who decide for you what is truth and what isn't?
Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire (Questions To Help Identify Specific Areas of Spiritual Abuse, Deception, and Fraud) [offsite article]