Did you know that if you give money to your church, but still come away feeling like God didn’t deliver you what you paid for, the Good Lord Almighty will give you a full refund, no questions asked?
Neither did we. And to be honest, we’re probably not going to try the “90 Day Tithe Challenge” anytime soon. But Christian churches across the nation have been offering this bizarre, fundraising gimmick to gullible parishoners for at least two years now.
Here’s the premise, as explained on numerous church web sites and even in sales-pitch videos from all over this land: if you tithe, that is, donate 10 percent of your gross income to a church offering the “challenge,” if God has not “blessed” you within 90 days, the church gives you back all of your money.
Check out one of the 90-day pitch videos below, this one from Newbreak Church in San Diego, Calif.
Who thought up the idea for this dubious offer? That isn’t entirely clear. But it seems to come largely not from small, neighborhood, churches, but from giant “mega-church” preachers, the kind who broadcast their sermons on national TV.
The first may have been Robert Morris of the Dallas-based Gateway Church, who was recorded offering the “challenge” in a sermon back in May of 2011.
“But please, please, please hear me. I'll make you a deal. All right? You tithe for the rest of this year to Gateway Church, and if you're not fully satisfied, I'll give you your money back,” said Morris in his May 21, 2011 sermon.
Other preachers have since gone a step further, or more than a step, actually, formalizing the offer under the “90 Day Challenge” brand name. You’ll find the offer at SageBrush Community Church in New Mexico, Freedom Church in Chatsworth, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles, Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Tenn., and many others.
They claim the Biblical authority to make the “challenge” under Malachi 3:10, an Old Testament verse which says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
Okay, so God says to test him. Cut him his 10 percent and he’ll make sure you’ll get more good stuff than you can handle. Doesn’t actually say anything about a money-back guarantee, though.
The issues raised by this “challenge” are numerous. But they are summed up by one critic, Fred Clark, who asks:
“What kind of return are we talking about here? Is it strictly financial, or does it include, say, miraculous healing or tangible answers to prayer? And how would we measure the latter? If you’re praying that your child will be accepted into college and they only get accepted into their safety school, would that count as a wholly faithful or only partially faithful response by God?”