An Overflowing Blessing
When I left the fellowship, I returned to a scientific frame of mind in looking at various aspects of religion. Perry recently wrote some posts about the physical science that his studying. My background, however, is in social science. Social science, although not always as percise as physical science, is nonetheless very real.
Now in regards to religion, you also have a component of the claims of religion, and a scientific analysis of that. What I am writing about here would take volumes to sufficiently discuss. However, I wanted to zero in on a particular subject, and at least scratch the surface of this vast topic.
It is taught in the fellowship of Wayman O. that if you pay your tithes religiously, give offerings besides, and pay pledges that you have made for "world evangelisim," that you will receive a blessing that you will not be able to contain, or which is overflowing.
Malachi 3: 10
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.
This is the Scripture that the fellowship uses to preach this "truth." Fellowship interpretation is that if you will tithe religiously to your fellowship church, give offerings besides, and pay pledges, then the LORD, the God of the Bible, will supernaturally move on your behalf and bring you material prosperiety that is far above the norm.
George Potkonyak can easily show why this interpretation is false from a Biblical perspective, but I want to focus on the scientific point of view. If this teaching were true, then fellowship people who religiously pay tithes, give offerings besides, and pay pledges would have an overflowing material prosperity to the point that they would have no material needs. My stay in the fellowship was nearly 20 years, and I can tell you this is not true. I can tell you from my own experience, and from my observations of others in the fellowship who were faithful to this teaching that this practice of giving significant money to your fellowship church does not produce a supernatural "blessing," and that most did not experience anything like that. In fact, almost all the people I encountered in the fellowship were struggling with money issues.
God pouring out a blessing until it overflows would absolutely imply someone having all their needs met and having more left over. If you study it, you will see that is what it means. As a scientist, I would have to say that this simply doesn't work. There are always some people, in any group of any size, who will be doing well financially. So, it would not suffice to point to those people in the fellowship as "proof" that this teaching actually works. Another arugument would be that some are not obeying this teaching and therefore are cursed, rather than blessed. But this does not account for the vast number of people who have been following this teaching for years, and rather than experience overflowing blessing, they are struggling with their bills.
On average, fellowship people should be far more prosperous than the general population, if this teaching were true. Instead, many are in debt and even facing severe finacial conditions. One of the worst stories I ever read on these message boards was that of a church council member losing his house to foreclosure while the pastor was out buying recreational vehicles. And this brings me to the point of the social science of conditioning of people to go along with this obviously false teaching.
Somehow, in face of totally contradictory evidence, fellowship people cling to this doctrine. What seems to happen is there is a subtle switch over from believing God for a blessing to fearing a curse. There is also the fear of social sanction.
People in the Wayman O. fellowship become conditioned to fear "the curse," even though to the outside observer a lot of financial suffering that they are currently experienceing is directly due to their giving too much money to their church. These fellowship people are convinced that the moment they stop tithing and giving, an angry God is going to make things even worse for them. Hardly a mindset of faith.
The other factor is fear of social sanction, which means being disapproved by the group. The first year I was in the Door, in Tucson, I gave quite a high percentage of my meager earnings. However, I gave almost all of it cash. I thought this would be perfectly acceptable, but when the pastor's wife handed out the tax receipts for 1976 at the beginning of 1977, she gave me a really dirty look, as only a very small amount of what I gave was given by check or in an envelope. Disturbed by this, I went to talk to the pastor. He told me that while it was OK to give just cash, it was wiser to have a record of it, just in case I wanted to write it off my taxes. It was a strong hint to start giving in a way where they could keep track of it. So I complied.
What this does is creates a motivation to give to avoid the curse that the LORD will surely put on you if you don't give, and to have the approval of the leadership and the rest of the church. It is totally contrary to the teachings of the Bible, but very effective.
The other thing I have noted from a social science point of view is that fellowship people begin to become proud of their sacrificial giving. I remember one guy going around the Tucson church showing everyone his tax receipt, and saying, "Pretty good, huh? I gave one third of my income!" There is a guy who defends the fellowship on the internet against us awful "slammers" who just happened to mention that he "tithes" 40% of his income in secret. Yet somehow he just couldn't keep the secret.
Now, having said all that, I come to the point of trying to show someone who is involved in this religious money machine that what they are being taught is false, and that you can see it is false by the fact that it doesn't work. In order to get them to listen you have to overcome their fear of a curse, their fear of social sanction, and their pride that they, unlike "lukewarm" Christians, religiously pay tithes and offerings. So where is your overflowing blessing?
The explainations that you will hear as to why the vast majority of people in the fellowship who follow this teaching of giving tithes, offerings, and paying pledges, not having a blessing, but rather a financial struggle, is a study in itself. I Would ask, "You have been following this teaching for how many years, and have given how much money, and you are still struggling financially? Have you considered that maybe it doesn't work?" Then come the answers.
"I know that if I continue to faithfully give that God will bless my socks off!" All kinds of hype like that. Then there was the explaination that Lord Wayman gave recently that people who have been giving for years, who are not seeing the blessing that was promised, forgot to ask God to bless them. OK. So ask God now, based on the enormous amount of money you gave over the years. Still no blessing? Others say that they gave with a wrong attitude, and that is why they lack the blessing. Still others point to one pledge they missed as the cause of them losing all the blessing from all their other giving. And the list goes on and on.
If people would just take a scientific approach, then the truth would be obvious. It just doesn't work. I should say, it doesn't work for the member who is believing that the Invisible God of the Bible is going to pour out an overflowing blessing on them. It works for the leader and his subleaders, however. By socially conditioning people to believe this stuff, they have the "overflowing blessing." But there is nothing supernatural about it.
That's enough for now.