What to consider before requesting a refund of your church tithes and offerings

By Bishop Dave Chikosi

We live in such a highly and crazily litigious era. Anyone recall the infamous McDonald’s coffee spilling case? Well it seems nowadays everybody wants to sue for everyone for anything.

Bishop Dave Chikosi
Bishop Dave Chikosi

And the church has not been spared, especially when it comes to the contentious issues of money.

The big question I address today is this: Can and should an unhappy church member, who has faithfully given of his/her tithes and offerings over the years to his church, ask for their money back on their way out?

“No” would be the quick answer.

First of all, church tithes and offerings come under the legal rubric of “charitable contributions.” All charitable contributions are gifts. By definition a gift is an “irrevocable transfer of the donor’s entire interest in the donated cash or property.”

Simply put: once you put your money in the church offering plate or basket you can kiss it goodbye. It is no longer your money.

Designated and Undesignated Gifts

This is particularly true in the case of what are called “undesignated gifts.” Undesignated gifts are your regular tithes and/or freewill offerings that you place in the offering plate or drop in the bucket when the usher comes around every Sunday.

All such giving is unconditional and therefore the church is under no legal obligation whatsoever to refund any undesignated contributions.

On the other hand, a “designated gift” is slightly different. If you decide to give, say, $10 000 towards your church’s specific project, the church is obligated to use the money for specifically that purpose.

The implied understanding is that the church holds the gift in trust for that designated purpose. As long as the church uses the money for the designated purpose, there is no obligation on its part to refund all such moneys.

However, church plans and programs sometimes do change. When they do the church is under obligation to notify the giver or donor of the change. It is up to the giver/donor to then instruct the church on what to do with the funds. He or she may request a refund.

Or they may just “sow” that amount into the church’s general purpose fund. The latter is in fact how most serious and faithful Christians treat such situations.

It’s rare to see a Christians with any spiritual sense request a refund when the program or project for which they gave money towards falls through or gets abandoned.

Most churches, cognizant of this possible eventuality of change of program or cancellation of a project, usually include a proviso/statement in their soliciting campaigns that clearly states that designated contributions by donors may be applied to other project or related purpose in the event of the advertised project being cancelled or abandoned.

First the natural. Now for the spiritual

But enough of the legalities for now. Let’s talk about the spiritual implications of a believer asking the church for a return of his/her tithes and offerings.

Boy, the cojones of it!

You give your money to God via His Bride, the Church. This was your own action that you took as an informed adult. No pastor, preacher or prophet put a gun to your head or stuck his finger into your pocket. This was your decision and yours alone.

And now you want God to refund you? Are you aware that the gifts you give to God’s church here on earth are recorded in heaven as a memorial?

“”Your prayers and your giving have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4) was the message the angel gave to Cornelius. Needless to say, it was Cornelius giving that opened the door to the ministry of the man who later gave us nearly two-thirds of the Bible!

By getting a refund are you telling me that you want your memorial in heaven erased? Are you telling me that you wish to have the door closed for some great ministry that was going to come out of your giving, thereby depriving the world, potentially at least, of a future move of God?

Come on! Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7).

If we are going to horse around with spiritual things like that, don’t cry foul when stuff in your life goes awry. God is not your kid to whom you give stuff if you are happy, but take it back when you mad at him.

If you request a refund of your tithes and offerings, you are like a man who plants corn but later goes back to the field to dig it all up. Not only is he going to have zero harvest, but he is also going to have a good crop of weeds grow in the corn’s stead.

Listen to me child of God: if you can demand your tithes and offerings back, it simply means you never gave them to begin with. Which may explain why the lives of a lot of so-called givers is messed up. You give outwardly but inwardly you are griping and bellyaching.

You gave either for the optics of it or simply to assuage a guilty conscience. Either way your giving is in reality a non-giving. If your heart is not in it then it counts for naught in the eyes of the Almighty.

I have seen this type in the church. It’s the type that waves goodbye to the offering bucket as soon as they drop their tithes envelope. And then they experience migraines for the rest of the day!

No, saints of God. When you sow into the Kingdom, your entire interest in the donation is transferred to the Lord via His church. The subsequent attempt to recover what you gave to the Lord as a freewill offering or as an act of your obedience has to be, therefore, the mother of all spiritual folly.

But even from a non-Christian perspective, haven’t we all spent money on things that later gave us buyers’ remorse without, at the same time, giving us corresponding means to recover our funds? What do we do when that happens?

We suck it up. We get over it. And we keep it moving.

Rev Dave Chikosi is a founding Apostle –Bishop, author and businessman. His messages can be viewed on YouTube as well as on social media. Connect with him on Facebook for sermons and messages.