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Donations - How Big is Your Sacrifice?

Although the Watchtower never demands money from it’s followers the language it does use to solicit money is very suggestive and pressurizing.  For example they say they don’t beg in one sentence but in another they tell you that you can sign over your life assurance policy to the Watchtower, or real estate or jewelry for that matter anything will do as long as it means $$$. At the time of writing the Watchtower was in the top 40 of New York Corporations and was making nearly 1 billion dollars a year.

Watchtower 1987 Dec 1 pp.30-31 Is Your Giving a Sacrifice?

Is Your Giving a Sacrifice?

A Balanced View of Contributions

AFTER teaching the people many things in the temple, Jesus "sat down with the treasury chests in view and began observing how the crowd was dropping money into the treasury chests." (Mark 12:41) What followed was the well-known account of the widow's mite. But why did Jesus sit there and watch the people make their offering? Did he not tell his disciples that they should not even let their left hand know what their right hand was doing when they made their gifts of mercy?—Matthew 6:3.

Earlier, Jesus had strongly denounced the religious leaders for using unscrupulous methods to devour "the houses of the widows." He said that these religionists "will receive a heavier judgment." (Mark 12:40) In order to teach a lesson, he then turned his attention to what the people were doing there at the treasury chests. Today, when we hear so much about the big money involved in church organizations, the misuse of such funds, and the lavish life-styles of those in charge, we would do well to listen closely to what Jesus had to say.—Please read Mark 12:41-44.

The Treasury Chests

The account relates that Jesus "sat down with the treasury chests in view." This was evidently in the Court of Women, where a number of chests, or boxes, were placed along the walls for the people to drop in their offerings. Jewish tradition tells us that there were 13 boxes in all. In Hebrew they were called trumpets, because they had a small opening at the top in the shape of the bell of a trumpet. It is said that 'no one entered the temple without putting something in.'

The French professor Edmond Stapfer, in his book Palestine in the Time of Christ (1885), gave a rather detailed description of these treasury chests. His account gives us some insight into the religious life of the people of the time, especially with respect to their contributions toward the services at the temple.

"Each chest was for a different object, indicated by an inscription in the Hebrew tongue. The first was inscribed: New shekels; that is, shekels set apart for the expenses of the current year. The second: Old shekels; that is, shekels dedicated to the expenses of the previous year. Third: Turtle doves and young pigeons; the money placed in this chest was the price to be paid by those who had to offer two turtle doves or two young pigeons, the one as a burnt offering, the other as a sacrifice for sin. Above the fourth chest was written: Burnt offerings; this money covered the expense of the other burnt offerings. The fifth had the inscription: Wood, and held the gifts of the faithful for the purchase of wood for the altar. The sixth: Incense (money for buying incense). The seventh: For the sanctuary (money for the mercy-seat). The six remaining chests bore the inscription: Freewill offerings."

The designation on the first two chests had reference to the half-shekel (two drachmas in Grecian money) head tax each adult male was required by law to pay for the maintenance of the temple, the services performed there, and the daily sacrifices offered on behalf of the entire nation. This tax was often collected in local communities and then brought to the temple.—Matthew 17:24.

The people were also required by the Law to make various offerings on their own behalf. Some were for sins committed, others for ceremonial reasons, and still others out of their devotion and thanksgiving. The boxes marked "Turtle doves and young pigeons" and "Burnt offerings" would be for such purposes. "Into Trumpet III," says the book The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, "those women who had to bring turtledoves for a burnt- and a sin-offering dropped their equivalent in money, which was daily taken out and a corresponding number of turtledoves offered." Likely this was what the parents of the infant Jesus did.—See Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:6-8.

Then there were offerings for the wood and incense used at the altar and for the voluntary offerings. Again, according to Professor Stapfer, "if any one gave money for wood or incense, there was a minimum fixed, and less than this might not be offered. It was necessary to give at least the price of a handful of incense, or two logs of wood a cubit long and large in proportion."

What do we learn from all of this? It is quite evident that the Israelites had numerous responsibilities toward the maintenance of the tabernacle and later the temple in Jerusalem, the center of true worship. Sacrifices and offerings were an integral part of their worship. In fact, the Law commanded that "none should appear before Jehovah empty-handed." (Deuteronomy 16:16) But what was their view of these obligations?

Differing Views

The Bible record shows that the people were most liberal and generous in the time of Moses and David and later during the reign of Jehoash and Josiah. (Exodus 36:3-7; 1 Chronicles 29:1-9; 2 Chronicles 24:4-14; 34:9, 10) They were happy to have a share in building the house of Jehovah and maintaining it as well as in advancing true worship. Their sentiment was well expressed by the words of David when he said: "I rejoiced when they were saying to me: 'To the house of Jehovah let us go.'"—Psalm 122:1.

This generous spirit, however, was not shared by all. For instance, we read that in the days of Malachi, the priests were offering to Jehovah "something torn away, and the lame one, and the sick one." Rather than rejoicing at their privilege of service, they said: "Look! What a weariness!"—Malachi 1:13.

Similarly, in Jesus' time some took advantage of the situation to advance their own interests. The notorious money changers at the temple, for example, were not there just to make change. Rather, they capitalized on the fact that only Hebrew shekels were acceptable as offerings, and all those with Roman or Greek money would have to exchange it. According to Alfred Edersheim, an authority on Jewish history, "the bankers were allowed to charge a silver meah, or about one-fourth of a denar [or denarius, a laborer's wage for a day's work] on every half-shekel." If this is correct, it is not hard to see what a lucrative business this must have become and why the religious leaders were so incensed when Jesus drove out the money changers.

"Out of Her Want"

All of this only emphasizes Jesus' illustration about the poor widow's small contribution, which she no doubt dropped into one of the boxes marked "Freewill offerings." As a widow, she was not required to give the head tax, and with limited means, she was probably not able to meet the minimum requirements for the burnt offerings or the wood or incense offerings. Yet, she wanted to do something to show her love for Jehovah. She did not want to be counted out or just leave it to those who could 'afford it.' Jesus said: "She, out of her want, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living."—Mark 12:44.

There are many valuable lessons we can learn from this account. The most outstanding one, perhaps, is that while all of us have the privilege of lending support to true worship by means of our material possessions, what is truly precious in God's sight is, not our giving what we can do without anyway, but our giving what is valuable to us. In other words, are we giving something we will not really miss? Or is our giving a real sacrifice?

Advancing True Worship Today

Today, Jehovah's Witnesses advance true worship by zealously preaching "this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth." (Matthew 24:14) To accomplish this global task involves not only dedicated effort, time, and energy but also considerable expense. The 1987 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses reports that "during 1986, a total of $23,545,801.70 was spent in financial support of . . . the 2,762 missionaries, 13,351 special pioneers, and overseers and their wives for the world's 3,353 circuits and districts." This was in addition to "much expense in purchasing, constructing, and renovating properties; in equipping factories and offices at headquarters and in the Society's 93 branches; and in providing for the material needs of the 8,920 volunteers who serve in the Bethel families."

'Where do such funds come from?' is an often-asked question. Unlike the churches of Christendom, Jehovah's Witnesses do not take up collections or send out envelopes to solicit donations. Rather, contribution boxes—like the treasury chests of Biblical times—are set up at their Kingdom Halls. At times, other boxes may be set up for designated purposes, such as construction of Kingdom Halls or Assembly Halls or to assist missionaries to attend conventions in their homeland. Contributions may also be sent directly to the Watch Tower Society at 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society's branch office in your country, for advancing the preaching work worldwide.

How do you view these many and varied ways contributions are made? Do you, like some in Malachi's day, view them as a tiresome burden, perhaps saying in your heart: "Look! What a weariness!"? Or do you, like the "poor widow," view them as opportunities to demonstrate your zeal and concern for true worship and your desire to honor Jehovah with your valuable things? Do not forget the pertinent question: Is your giving a sacrifice?

"'Test me out, please, in this respect,' Jehovah of armies has said, 'whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.'" (Malachi 3:10) The spiritual prosperity and the worldwide expansion among Jehovah's people prove that Jehovah is already doing that. May we continue to give to Jehovah an offering that is truly a sacrifice.

[Box on page 30]

HOW SOME CONTRIBUTE TO THE KINGDOM WORK

    · GIFTS: Voluntary donations of money may be sent directly to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society's local branch office. Property such as real estate, as well as jewelry or other valuables, can also be donated. A brief letter stating that such is an outright donation should accompany these contributions.

    · CONDITIONAL-DONATION ARRANGEMENT: Money may be given to the Watch Tower Society to be held in trust, with the provision that in case of personal need, it will be returned to the donor.

    · INSURANCE: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life-insurance policy or in a retirement/pension plan. The Society should be informed of any such arrangements.

    · TRUSTS: Bank savings accounts can be placed in trust for the Society. If this is done, please inform the Society. Stocks, bonds, and property can also be donated under an arrangement to benefit the donor during his or her lifetime. This method eliminates the expense and uncertainties of probate of will, while ensuring that the Society receives the property in the event of death.

    · WILLS: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Society by means of a legally executed will. A copy should be sent to the Society.

For more information and advice regarding such matters, write to the Treasurer's Office, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society's local branch office.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1975 September 8 pp.24-26 Economic Woes Strike the Churches

Economic Woes Strike the Churches

IN THESE days of economic stress, people usually spend money only on what they really need. Do they feel a need for religion? Well, statistics show that they are putting out fewer dollars for religion. As a result, many churches and other religious organizations are suffering financial jitters.

Overall, the percentage of money contributed by Americans to their religious organizations has dropped. In 1964, the churches received almost 50 percent of all money donated to charities. In 1973, they received only about 41 percent, or ten billion dollars, of this amount. The pattern was about the same in 1974. This is indeed a sizable dip.

While most church incomes are down, church expenses are up. The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, California, reports that for every extra dollar received during recent years, it has been paying out five dollars in higher costs. And a report from Liverpool, England, says: "Collections are not keeping pace with spiralling costs."

Effect of Economic Woes

Papal Secretary of State Cardinal Jean Villot has warned of a possible reduction in the size of the Vatican's staff, due to mounting expenses. Among the austerity measures already put in force are higher prices at the Vatican's supermarket and gasoline station. The Vatican's financial status was certainly not improved in 1974 when it lost about $56 million in Italy's Sindona banking scandal.

Many Protestant churches are also caught in the squeeze between declining donations and higher costs. As a result, during 1974 Denver's Calvary Baptist Church filed for bankruptcy; the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, was placed in virtual receivership, and Rex Humbard's popular Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron, Ohio, barely escaped bankruptcy.

The well-known evangelical magazine Christianity Today recently editorialized: "For the first time in ten years the American Bible Society sent out a strong financial appeal six weeks before year end . . . Religious Heritage of America reported changes to reduce spending so as to remain viable. Billy Graham announced plans for a cutback."

Church headquarters are, generally speaking, suffering even more than local churches. Why? Because local churches are holding on to all they can for their own expenses, thus reducing their support of the "mother churches."

Jewish synagogues, too, are wondering which way to turn to get out of their financial jams. "Our congregations are going through a most difficult time," says Rabbi Bernard Ducoff, president of the Northern California Board of Rabbis and executive director of the Board of Jewish Education. He adds: "Many of them are experiencing substantial deficits. They have found it necessary to cut back on staff and to ask for increased contributions."

Individual pastors also feel pressured by money problems. A year-long study among nineteen Protestant denominations by the National Council of Churches' Office of Church Leadership reveals that 22 percent of the parish pastors hold secular jobs on the side. This is up 15 percent over ten years earlier. Now 45 percent of their wives hold jobs, twice the number of a decade ago.

More than a Financial Issue

But is this religious financial gloom really due just to the current economic pinch? No. It appears that there is much more to the question than that.

For example, in spite of economic problems, the public is spending more and more money on recreation and leisure. In other words, people have enough money for good times, things they want to do—but not for religion. Thus Business Week quotes Orville Slutzky, the operator of a huge ski area near New York city, as saying, as he looked out over Easter vacationers: "A lot of these people may be out of work, but they're getting unemployment compensation, and they're spending it to have fun." Movies are thriving.

Then what, in reality, is at the root of the church money shortage?

Apparently the average churchgoer does not feel that providing money to his church is important!

Many, it seems, are of this opinion because they have lost their respect for the churches and, as a result, the churches have relinquished control of their flocks. Confesses the Catholic magazine Commonweal: "When the Pope speaks he speaks an ever-dwindling constituency. . . . He is disregarded . . . largely because the papacy is no longer considered a strong moral force."

In the eyes of many people the church is now no different from any other institution of the world. When politicians have called for war, so have the churches. When sexual permissiveness has become popular, the churches have encouraged it. When "science" criticizes the Bible as unsound, the clergy join the chorus. So, people have concluded, there is no distinction between the churches and the rest of the world.

Money Emphasis

Then, too, there is the emphasis on money in the churches. Church raffles and gambling have flourished as they endeavor to raise funds. Contrary to Bible teaching, the churches have given much attention to soliciting funds, and this has turned away many people.

For instance, tithing is prominent in some churches. It is true that in the past, as under the Mosaic law given to the ancient nation of Israel, God required that his people give to the Levites, who served at the sanctuary, at least one tenth of what they earned. But that requirement terminated with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Col. 2:14) In the true Christian congregation, the Bible shows, monetary contributions are to be made as each one "has resolved in his heart," and not "under compulsion,"-2 Cor. 9:6, 7.

However, Robert Schuller, pastor of the Garden Grove Community Church in California, is reported to have advised: "We do believe that sincere tithers will receive unique financial blessings . . . for faithfully contributing to God's work." And John Durkee, who teaches "effective management" seminars to church groups, says that "the solution to abundant living in times like these is to tithe your way to prosperity." He adds: "Those who do give and commit themselves never have a problem about adversity or economic reversals."

Hugh McNatt, of Miami, Florida, disagrees. He sued his church, arguing that 'God has not rewarded 800 dollars in tithes.' He claims that, despite what the preacher said, he received 'neither blessings nor rewards in the three years that passed after his donation.'

Where Is Spiritual Food?

There is another reason for the economic woes and it is related to this matter of wrong teachings. It is the growing awareness on the part of the public that the churches have not provided real spiritual benefits for their members.

No doubt this is the reason that a number of religious periodicals have folded up and gone out of business in recent months. Says The Christian Century: "The fact is that within American Protestantism the general religious periodical is almost extinct.''

But is there a religious group that does not accent the material side of things? Are there publications that lead one to forsake wrong habits and practices and thinking, and that really assist one to make one's mind over to be Godlike?

Well, consider: Back in 1879 in the second issue of The Watchtower (then called Zion's Watch Tower), it was noted:

"'Zion's Watch Tower' has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: 'All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,' fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication."

That issue of the magazine cost five cents. Today The Watchtower still costs five cents in the U.S.A.—in spite of much higher production and mailing costs. It has grown from a circulation of a few thousand to almost ten million copies printed every two weeks. Would that not indicate that it has had a real and powerful effect in changing people's viewpoint for the better? Yes, it has emphasized spiritual values, not material ones.

During more than ninety-six years of publication, The Watchtower has constantly advocated the high principles of Jehovah God, as taught in the Bible. Many persons have been reading The Watchtower for decades. Logically, they have come to appreciate how it directs one's attention to the Bible. True, they, like everyone else, have their share of personal financial problems. But is it not a comfort for them to know that in the local congregation of Jehovah's witnesses they will never be tithed to pay out a percentage of their income? Nor will unscriptural money-raising schemes be imposed on them. It is at the Kingdom Hall that an unobtrusive contribution box is located for use by those who wish voluntarily to give money to support the work of the congregation. Donations mailed to the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society are also unsolicited and entirely voluntary.

So it appears that the woes that have come upon the churches are not simply the result of current economic problems. Does it not seem to be that they have lost the backing of the people because they no longer pursue spiritual riches, but, rather, material ones? Why give your support to them? Instead, associate with those who are enjoying real and lasting spiritual good.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1962 May 1 pp.277-280 p.278 How May I Contribute?

How May I Contribute?

[…]

HOUSEHOLDER: Are there enough who willingly support the work this way?

WITNESS: Jehovah's witnesses have never gone begging for finances. For this we are very grateful to God, because we realize that this is his work and that he is seeing to it by means of his spirit that it gets done. The many privileges of supporting the worldwide witness to God's kingdom have been grasped voluntarily and cheerfully. At Zechariah 4:6 we learn that it is God's spirit that is leading the people to respond that way.

[…]

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1994 December 1 p.19 How Some Make Donations to the Kingdom-Preaching Work

How Some Make Donations to the Kingdom-Preaching Work

• CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORLDWIDE WORK: Many set aside or budget an amount that they place in the contribution boxes labelled: "Contributions for the Society's Worldwide Work—Matthew 24:14." Each month congregations forward these amounts either to the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, or to the nearest branch office.

• GIFTS: Voluntary donations of money may be sent directly to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201-2483, or to the Society's office that serves your country. Jewellery or other valuables may also be donated. A brief letter stating that such is an outright gift should accompany these contributions.

• CONDITIONAL-DONATION ARRANGEMENT: Money may be given to the Watch Tower Society to be held in trust until the donor's death, with the provision that in the case of personal need, it will be returned to the donor.

• INSURANCE: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or in a retirement/pension plan. The Society should be informed of any such arrangement.

• BANK ACCOUNTS: Bank accounts, certificates of deposit, or individual retirement accounts may be placed in trust for or made payable on death to the Watch Tower Society, in accord with local bank requirements. The Society should be informed of any such arrangements.

• STOCKS AND BONDS: Stocks and bonds may be donated to the Watch Tower Society either as an outright gift or under an arrangement whereby the income continues to be paid to the donor.

• REAL ESTATE: Saleable real estate may be donated to the Watch Tower Society either by making an outright gift or by reserving a life estate to the donor, who can continue to live therein during his or her lifetime. One should contact the Society before deeding any real estate to the Society.

• WILLS AND TRUSTS: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania by means of a legally executed will, or the Society may be named as a beneficiary of a trust agreement. A trust benefiting a religious organization may provide certain tax advantages. A copy of the will or trust agreement should be sent to the Society.

• PLANNED GIVING: The Society has assembled information on "Planned Giving." Those who are planning to make a special gift to the Society now or to leave a bequest at death may find this information helpful. That is especially true if they wish to accomplish some family goal or estate-planning objective while using tax benefits to minimize the cost of the gift or bequest. This information can be obtained by writing to the Society at the address shown below.

For more information regarding such matters, write to the Treasurer's Office, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201-2483, or to the Society's office that serves your country.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry November 1996 p.3 Share With Others According to Their Needs

Share With Others According to Their Needs

[…]

5 We should especially bear this in mind when we request items that are produced at considerable expense to the Society. These include videos, CD-ROMs, large reference books, bound volumes, and audiocassette subscriptions. Rather than requesting one item for each member of the household, could the entire family get along with just one? If we limit what we take for ourselves, it will allow others to obtain the same good things that we enjoy.—Phil. 2:4.

6 The cost of literature that we place in the field may be offset in part by donations to the Society's worldwide work offered by us at the Kingdom Hall and by interested ones who accept it. However, when it comes to literature items we request for our personal use, including songbooks, Yearbooks, deluxe Bibles, and so forth, we cannot expect outsiders to care for our needs. Jehovah's dedicated servants are the primary source of this financial support. With that in mind, many publishers estimate what these items might cost if commercially produced, and then they contribute accordingly. For example, a deluxe, gold-edged Bible can easily cost $20 or more, a reference book may be $40 and up, a full-color wall calendar may sell for at least $5, an encyclopedia on CD-ROM costs from $50 to $100 or higher, music compact discs commonly cost close to $20, and some videos are often sold for much more. A failure to contribute enough to cover costs will ultimately restrict what the organization may otherwise be able to accomplish in furthering the worldwide work.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry May 1994 p.7 Announcements

The Watchtower Library—1993 Edition will soon be shipped to congregations. Commercial CD-ROMs costing from $25 to $50 or more contain a single encyclopedia or a few reference works. Watchtower Library will access The Watchtower back to 1950 and many other of the Society's publications back to 1970.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1974 September 15 pp.556-559 Is Christianity Dying?

Is Christianity Dying?

[…]

So, Christianity, real Christianity, is not dying, but is alive, flourishing, increasing in numbers and extent of activity. If you want it you can now find and practice it. Approach the matter with an open mind, and see for yourself what God is doing to support and to cause Christianity to grow mightily today. The Kingdom Halls of this happy group are open to you and you may attend free of charge, without having to suffer embarrassment by a request for contributions or the passing of a collection plate. Examine what these people believe and what they are doing, then do what you see is right alongside those you see doing it. This is the only way to joy now and to life in the righteous system of things near at hand.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1971 August 15 pp.505-507 How Religious Expenses Are Met

How Religious Expenses Are Met

[…]

The emphasis in all giving among the Witnesses is that it must be voluntary and spontaneous, from the heart. In fact, ever since the earliest days of the modern witnesses of Jehovah it has been their policy that never should there be any passing of collection plates or similar solicitations for money. It was their conviction that this is Jehovah's work and that he would open the hearts of his people to make the necessary contributions so that necessary funds would always be available for the expansion of the preaching of the Gospel.

At all of their meeting places there is a contribution box. Those who want to contribute to the support of the worship by the Witnesses may go to that box and give to the extent that they are able. There are no envelopes, no identification. So that those contributing might know the total amount contributed and what was done with the contributions received, once each month a statement is read to the congregation, giving those details. Additionally, many feel moved to send donations to the national and international headquarters for use in furthering the missionary work in other parts of the world. This, too, is voluntary.

[Emphasis Added]

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