The Way International Burdens Followers with Laws to Obey to Obtain Blessing
There are five essential laws or principles people must learn to operate successfully in order to obtain blessings, according to The Way International's (TWI) The Way of Abundance and Power class. These laws must be accurately and precisely obeyed:
1. tithe 10% of net income to TWI leadership to obtain material benefits
2. ("abundantly share") more than 10% of net income to obtain spiritual benefits
3. serve at least one-seventh of time and talents
4. generate proper attitudes while giving, particularly joy, love and humbleness
5. give all the above income, time and talents to TWI leadership as "the representative of the most high God here on earth"
These principles must be "operated" both "successfully" and "accurately" in order to obtain blessings and benefits.
God is not apparently involved in this process, except as the one who established and teaches the principles for people to operate themselves. In this view, God is much like an accountant at an insurance company (TWI uses the word "ensure") who follows strict rules and carefully counts the dollars and time paid in order to issue the appropriate benefits earned. The tithing, abundant sharing, and service are much like premiums paid, coverage purchased, and contributions submitted to financial accounts. Although the word "blessing" is used, it is more of a produce given in exchange for the payments made by the believer. This teaching is carefully described in Appendix 1 "The Tithe Doeth Still Provide" and Appendix 2 "The Spiritual Abundance of Abundant Sharing" in the syllabus of "The Way of Abundance and Power (WAP) foundational class (2006 edition). This article describes and evaluates TWI's teaching in more detail.
First, a few observations about WAP's methods. WAP uses several terms never found in the Bible, including "abundant sharing," "operate the principles," and "the representative of God on earth." The term "tithe" which is so important to TWI's teaching never is used in the Church Epistles at all (the only parts of the Bible TWI believes are written to believers today rather than just for their learning. The only places "tithe" or "tithing" is used in the New Testament are in Matthew, Luke and Hebrews which refer only to the practices of the Old Testament (OT) Jews, never to New Testament believers. Also, the most critical Bible passages WAP uses to establish tithing are in the OT, not the NT, even though the OT is not considered to be written to believers. TWI also rewrites a few important passages, inserting words to make the passages say what they wish (notably 2 Corinthians 8:4, "that we would receive the gift [abundant sharing}" 10 and 1 Corinthians 16:3). TWI's popular saying "The Tithe Doeth Still Provide" cannot be found in the Bible either.
The Law of Abundant Sharing of Time and Talents
TWI requires its followers to give more than one-seventh of their time in-service to TWI. WAP bases this solely on the law of the Sabbath in Exodus 20: WAP claims:
"Under the law, Old Testament believers were required to give one-seventh of their time and talent. This logic is based on the commandment 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy' (Exodus 20:8). One day out of seven was given in total, uninterrupted allegiance to God Therefore; abundant sharing of our time and talent in service to God would be beyond that one-seventh. This level of service is dynamically available for the believer who endeavors to faithfully live the standards of the Church Epistles." (The Spiritual Abundance of Sharing [SAAS], WAP syllabus p. 129)
This "logic" is totally illogical from a Biblical perspective. Although TWI claims this is a standard (law) of the Church epistles, it quotes only an OT verse (Exodus 20:8) as proof, even though Exodus was not written to them. The Sabbath observance was distinctly a day of rest when work was not to be done. TWI turns this on its head, making the Sabbath a rationale for working more than one-seventh of one's time. Most of the kind of service TWI requires of its followers is prohibited by the Sabbath law. TWI turns a OT practice meant to relieve people's burdens into a burden.
According to WAP, if believers do not share more than one-seventh of their time, they will not obtain spiritual benefits. TWI also warns them that if they do not serve more than one-seventh of their time, then the enemy, the Devil, will "steal the time and talent a believer has to give" (SAAS p. 129).
TWI's Law of Tithing
TWI says that prospering in all areas of life is dependant on people's believing. But according to WAP, the single most important area of believing is tithing 10% of net income to TWI:
"Tithing is fundamental. It is the most basic principle of prosperity that must be operated. Tithing means giving one-tenth, 10 percent, of our net income. We can expect God to meet our need when we follow this basic principle. Faithful and consistent operation of the principle of tithing ensures all types of physical and financial abundance in one's life. The tithe, when operated properly in love, covers every physical need a believer ever has in his life, his family, or his business no matter how the economy may fluctuate." ("The Tithe Doeth Still Provide," WAP syllabus p. 123, hereafter TDSP).
According to WAP, the tithe also ensures "safety, protection and abundance for the tither and for his family, business and country" (TDSP p. 124). No spiritual blessings can be obtained by tithing- only physical ones.
The ominous warning is clear--if you don't tithe, you will not be safe or prosperous.
This TWI teaching is very self-serving. The tithe is an essential requirement, and it can be given only to TWI leadership:
"Our responsibility: 1. Give 10 percent off the top of our net income--the firstfruits of our abundance. 2. Give to the representative of the most high God here on earth…. The ministry that teaches them God's Word." (TDST p. 125).
According to WAP, there is only one representative of God on earth today- TWI. The teaching on the law of tithing, abundant sharing and prosperity is certainly the biggest money-maker for TWI.
It is nice of TWI leadership to limit the tithe to 10 percent of net income, since believers would have to pay a lot more money if they were required to give 10 percent of gross income. The Bible, of course, does not distinguish between gross and net. Legalistic systems such as TWI thoughtfully specify such details so that their followers can be sure to accurately obey the law.
TWI teaches that the Old Testament was addressed to Jews of the Law administration (dispensation), while the seven Church Epistles were addressed to born again believers of the Grace administration. This is a problem for TWI, because tithing is never once mentioned in the Church Epistles. The few references to tithing in the NT are in Matthew, Luke and Hebrews, and refer to OT practices, never to principles believers should follow. In fact, tithing is only criticized, not honored, in Matthew and Luke because the tithers were not living a life of love, nor following Jesus Christ.
WAP is stuck with devaluing the OT while quoting only it to teach tithing. The reason tithing is not taught in the New Testament is because tithing is not a law or requirement to be followed by born again believers in order to obtain financial prosperity or for any other reason. If this was an essential principle for believers, the NT would certainly say this repeatedly, but it does not
Adding Words to Scripture
TWI makes a careful distinction between the words tithing and abundant sharing because they are different actions (10 percent vs. more than 10 percent, with different results (material vs. spiritual blessings).The problem is, the word "tithe" never appears in the Church epistles, and there is no Greek word for "abundant sharing." Not to worry. TWI inserts the word "abundant sharing" and "tithing" into verses in which they do not exist.:
"II Corinthians 8:4:... that we would receive the gift [abundant sharing]..."
"1 Corinthians 16:1-3:... then I will send to bring your liberality [gift- abundant sharing] unto Jerusalem..."
"Galatians 6:6:... Let him that is taught in the word communicate [share fully]..."
"Ephesians 4:28: ...that [purpose] he [that believer who is renewing his mind] may have [God wants our need met] to give [tithing is minimum] to him that needeth."
Note: the words in square [parentheses] are added by TWI.
The Greek word for "gift" or "liberality" in II Cor. 8:4 and I Cor 16:3 is charis, a very common word for grace, favor or gift which is used over 150 times in the NT. It is most often used of God's grace in Jesus Christ and is very seldom used of financial gifts. WAP ignores the actual Greek usage and implies that it means explicitly giving more than 10 percent of income, not any other kind of giving (such as giving less than 10 percent).
WAP inserts words including "tithing" and "abundant sharing" into verses in which they do not exist, thereby adding Way leaders' ideas into Scripture in an attempt to force Scripture to say what it does not.
The Law of Abundant Sharing
No believer would be satisfied having material blessings, but no spiritual blessings. Fortunately, TWI teaches a specific, measurable way to get spiritual blessings--by giving more than 10 percent of one's income (TWI uses the term "abundant sharing," which does not appear anywhere in the Bible).
"The focus here is to show the magnificent blessings to the believer who abundant shares, giving financially beyond the 10 percent tithe…. It is not the only principle involved in a walk of spiritual abundance and power, but it is a definitely necessary one…. When we are faithful in our operation of tithing principles, we can confidently expect blessings in the material realm. The same holds true in the spiritual realm when we are faithful in abundant sharing…. We can see the blessings and benefits in our lives of operating the principle of abundantly sharing." (SASS pp. 129-130).
The problem with this "give abundantly and you'll be financially and spiritually prosperous" idea is the examples of believers who were not materially prosperous (which is easier to attain than spiritual blessing, since it requires only 10 percent while spiritual blessings require more than 10 percent).
WAP tries to answer this objection without explicitly stating the objection first. One problem passage regards Jesus Christ, who certainly was perfect in giving and all areas of life: "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor [ptocheuo], that ye through his poverty [ptocheia] might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). TWI tries to explain away this verse by saying that the word "poor" or "poverty" in this and other verses just means "humble." Actually, the word consistently means materially poor in the NT. Jesus told a rich man to sell what he had and give to the poor ((Mat 19:21) and a disciple thought perfume should be sold and the money given to the poor (Mat 26:9,11). A "poor" widow had only two pennies (Luke 21:3) and the word is translated "beggar" in Luke 19:20 in the KJV. One verse TWI quotes, "poor in spirit" actually contradicts their interpretation, because Matthew (5:3) added "in spirit" because otherwise readers would have assumed he meant materially poor.
Translating "poor" as "humble" makes no sense in the context of this verse, because its opposite, rich, is included. If TWI says Jesus became humble (poor), then he was arrogant (rich) before, and became so in order that we who are humble (poor) may become arrogant (rich). You can't change the meaning of poor to humble without changing its opposite, rich to arrogant.
TWI also neglects Jesus' description of himself. He told the rich young man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor, thereby becoming like Jesus who said of himself, "foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). When Jesus owed tax, he told Peter to find money in a fish's mouth, which would not have been necessary if Jesus had money (Matthew 17:24-27). The Gospels never once mention Jesus having any possessions other than the clothes on his back, even though it mentions believers having homes (Peter), lands (Barnabas) and animals (the man who lent a donkey to Jesus because Jesus had none of his own).
Another problem verse for the prosperity idea is the Macedonians mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8, TWI's favorite chapter that talks about giving.
"The abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality" (2 Cor 8:2)
TWI interprets "poverty" as humbleness, and "riches" as spiritual riches, and "abounded" meaning that joy and humbleness produced the riches. It does not say, as TWI wishes it did, that joy, plus humbleness, plus their giving produced spiritual riches. Only the next sentence goes on to talk about giving. In TWI theology, the giving of over 10% has to precede the riches, not follow it.
TWI' private interpretation totally misses the point of the verse. What is amazing about the Macedonians is not that they were joyful or humble and gave, but that they were financially poor and yet gave generously, "even beyond their ability" (2 Cor 8:3). They were the same as the poor (same Greek word) widow who gave to the temple her two pennies- all she had to live on (Luke 21:3), Giving although they were financially poor, not humbleness and joy, showed their generosity. If they were humble, but financially wealthy, Paul's example would lose all its meaning.
In TWI's scheme, God gives material blessings only when believers tithe, and give spiritual blessings only after the tithe is filled and material blessings are received. By prioritizing material blessings over spiritual ones, TWI infers that God considers material blessings more important than spiritual ones, because he gives them first. This is the opposite of the message of the Lord's Prayer, in which only one of the seven petitions addresses physical needs.
TWI uses believer's sincere desire for spiritual blessings to squeeze more money out of them, a revolting way to use believers' sincere desire for blessings as a ploy to make more money for the organization.
No Place for Jesus Christ
In its effort to prove that "riches" are spiritual and they come only when believers give more than 10 percent of their net income to TWI, WAP quotes seven NT verses that use the word "riches," not noticing that the verses utterly contradict their main premise (p. 133).
None of these verses tie riches to our giving money, and every one of the verses ties riches to Jesus Christ
"Riches of His goodness" (Rom 2:4); "you are enriched by Him;" (1 Cor 1:5); "riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7); "riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8); "according to His riches... by Christ Jesus;" (Phlp 4:19); "all riches... of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures;" "word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Col. 3:6)
While every verse mentions Jesus Christ, TWI never mentions Jesus Christ in any of the ten pages (8 by 11 inch, mostly single-spaced) of these articles on tithing and abundant sharing.-- not even in passing. Several passages quoted the name Jesus Christ, but not a single word of TWI's teaching mentions Him.
Why doesn't TWI ever mention Jesus Christ. Does TWI consciously exclude Jesus Christ? Or is Jesus Christ so absent from TWI that they don't even think of him? Either way, The Way Int excludes the central theme of the Christian faith- the grace and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and the central place he has even in everything, including Christian giving.
Christ has no place in TWI's teaching on giving because TWI has replaced the grace of Jesus Christ with their own law of self effort. TWI replaces grace with law, and Christ with self TWI claims to live in the Grace administration, but lives under the Law.
You'd Better Give Till It Hurts- and Like It!
In Way teaching, giving more than ten percent is not enough- you have to carry out this requirement with the right attitudes- including joy and love. WAP says,
"Abundant sharing involves not only the proportion of giving (beyond 10 percent) and the action of doing it, but also the attitude in the giving. The first attitude of abundance is joy.... No matter what the circumstances are, joy is always available. (pp. 130-131). Remember also, our attitude in tithing is critically important when it comes to receiving God's blessings. As Dr. Wierwille wrote in Christians Should be Prosperous, 'Tithing with a sense of obligation only, without the pure impetus of love as the motivating principle, is fickle and shallow.' Above all, our heart and attitude must be right before God." (P. 126)
Not only do Way believers have to give until it hurts- they have to enjoy it.
Did you give 15%? Was your love and joy really pure? If not, don't expect to be blessed.
How do you get joy? Don't expect God to give or inspire it by His grace. "It's available" means that you have to obtain joy yourself by generating enough believing to get it. Generate your own joy. TWI misses the source of joy as well as the source of riches- Jesus Christ, and leaves it followers to generate them on their own.
The Way International Replaces Jesus Christ
TWI insists that the only place to give your 11+ percent of your income is to TWI, because it is God's sole representative on earth:
"Our responsibility: 1. Give 10 percent off the top of our net income... 2. Give to the representative of the most high God here on earth. (P. 125)
WAP goes into great detail, saying that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, who was the representative of God on earth (p. 124). WAP also quotes Gal 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate (share fully) unto him that teacheth in all good things." WAP adds, "Here again the believers were taught to share abundantly with the ministry that teaches them God's Word." (P. 125) In other words, abundant sharing only counts if it is given to The Way International.
However, the context of the verse shows that believers were to support people who teach the word. But TWI replaces the person with an organization. In most Way fellowships, the person who teaches is not supported by the gifts made by the participants. The money goes to the organization in New Knoxville, and none is passed down to the great majority of teachers on the local level. TWI also twists the meaning of Ephesians 4:28: ...that he may have to give to him that needeth" from gifts to people in need to gifts to TWI alone. The claim that TWI is "the sole representative of God on earth" is the same claim the mediaeval Roman Catholic Church made for itself and the Pope, "the Vicar of Christ."
WAP's most alarming statement is its claim that TWI is like Melchizedek. Just as Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, so believers today must tithe to TWI.
The New Testament compares Melchizedek to Jesus Christ, not to any organization. Hebrews 7:2-3 states that Melchizedek stands for the King of Peace, the Son of God, who is Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus Christ is never mentioned in WAP's articles on tithing and abundant sharing (and is little mentioned elsewhere)-- because The Way International has taken the place of Jesus Christ in so many ways.
Way believers placed their trust in "the Man of God for our day and time" for most of The Way's history. But the first "Man of God," Victor Paul Wierwille, died young of cancer (apparently because he violated the law of prosperity, according to Way teaching). His "Man of God" mantle passed to his successor, Loy Craig Martindale, until he resigned after high profile lawsuits which asserted that he had sex with Way women (even though he and the women were married to other people). The new president of TWI, Rosalie Rivenbark, was not suited to become the third "Man of God" of TWI, so "the Man of God" was replaced by the organization (actually the Board of Trustees which she presides over) which became "the sole representative of the most high God on earth."
TWI followed the path of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They also had two "prophetic" presidents, Charles Russell and "Judge" Rutherford, who were replaced by the Watchtower organization as the sole representative of God on earth when the third president was unable to take on the mantle.
According to TWI theology, believers must give over 10% of their income, and the only place to give your money is to TWI, surely a greedy and self-serving teaching.
What or Who Provides?
"The tithe doeth still provide" reads WAP. But this is a misnomer. The tithe doesn't provide- the tithers provide for themselves by giving more than 10 percent of their net income to TWI. Who gets the glory? Human beings, not God.
The Bible paints a far different picture- God provides for us. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures... You prepare a table before me... my cup runs over" (Psalm 23).
When Jesus Christ spoke to people worried about their needs, he did not say, "Look at the birds of the air, they tithe and the tithe doeth still provide." Instead, Jesus said "if that is how God clothes the grass.... will He not much more clothe you?" (Matthew 6:30. WAP tells people to trust in themselves and their tithing rather than in the Lord himself.
WAP rejects the central theme of the New Testament- that God, in His grace, "has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.... to the praise of His glorious grace, which is has freely given us in the One He loves" (Ephesians 1:3, 6). Instead, WAP replaces the grace of God with the law of tithing, and replaces God's provision with self-effort, burdening their believers instead of freeing them.
WAP freely uses terms the Bible never uses, and inserts their own words into Bible passages, thereby twisting their meanings.
Neither tithing not "abundant sharing" are requirements for New Testament believers today, nor do they earn either material prosperity or spiritual blessing. These are gifts of God, to whom belongs praise and glory.
Dr. John Juedes, Aug 2008 rsr_buyblessings www.abouttheway.org
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