Church Offers a 90-Day Money-Back Guarantee to Tithers if God Doesn’t Reward Them

Considering that one of the common criticisms people have of churches in general is that they’re all about taking your money, you’d think pastors would at least try to be subtle in how they ask for it. You know, pass around collection plates while talking about something else. Or maybe leave boxes in the back of the church where people can discreetly drop money in as they leave.

Sagebrush Community Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico never got that memo.

They’re not just asking for money; they’re asking people who haven’t tithed in the past six months to start doing it again while offering a 90-day money-back guarantee if God doesn’t reward them as a result.

It’s called the 90-Day Tithe Challenge:

Here’s how this works.

You give the church 10% of your income. After 90 days, if God hasn’t rewarded you and shown His “faithfulness,” you are eligible to get a complete refund.

I guess no one at the church ever read Matthew 4:7:

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Or Luke 4:12:

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Or Deuteronomy 6:16:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.

That aside, so many questions to ask…

  • Is this 10% of your gross income or net income?
  • Who gets to decide if God’s been faithful to you? Fred Clark offers this hypothetical:

    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?

  • What Christian who wants to be a part of this church would have the guts to become a social pariah by saying, “Nope, God didn’t reward me and I’d like all my money back”?
  • If you do say that, can the church offer a rebuttal?
  • Why does the contract say you’re “entitled to request a refund of the full amount of contributions” and not you’re “entitled to a refund…”?
  • And, the most important question of them all, if you’re a devout Christian, why would you even bother playing this game?

If you doubt that God will reward you, you’re better off just not giving Sagebrush any money and saving yourself the hassle of the contract. If you support the church, then you don’t need the contract.

This is a win-win for the church, since they obviously don’t care about public perception. At worst, they refund people their money and get right back to where they started since those people hadn’t been tithing, anyway. At best, they get thousands of dollars per tither that they weren’t getting before.

Sure, they just contribute to the already-nasty stereotype so many people have of Christian churches, but MONEYS!

All that said, at least the pastors at Sagebrush aren’t as bad as Pastor Ed Young, who once told his congregation to flat-out hand over their checking account and bank routing numbers, so he could pay for things like a private jet:

(via Matthew Paul Turner)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Tobias 27772

    This is briliant christian financing. I charge you 10% of your salary for a service that costs me nothing to provide. If you aren’t satisfied with the service you get your money back. At worst, its a 90 day interest free loan on a rolling basis. And as you point out, many people will not ask for their money back. It may not be very spiritual, but its good business. And maybe it will be more successful than just trying to straight shame people into tithing A fool and his money . . .

    • LizzyJessie

      You MIGHT get your money back. Like the article says, you can request a refund. There is no guarantee that you’ll get it.

      Speaking of a “Fool and his money…” I often wonder how the two come together in the first place!

      • Tobias 27772

        Judging from the abundance of both, statistics would indicate that it is far more commom than is beneficial

      • UWIR

        “You MIGHT get your money back. Like the article says, you can request a refund. There is no guarantee that you’ll get it.”

        They clearly guarantee that you will get your money back. If they’re going to dodge repayment, they have to come with something other than that.

        • LizzyJessie

          In their own statement, “request” is a qualifier word for whether or not your money will be returned.

          Even I could argue out of giving a tithe refund by attributing any small amount of good fortune to the divine. All you have to do is “Count your Blessings” and suddenly god was with you! Anything beyond that may require some sort of legal arbitration.

          That route has its own costs. Legal costs if the unsatisfied party must go forward with a lawsuit, and the social costs of doing so against a church.

          • UWIR

            They say “if you tithe for 90 days and God does not prove Himself faithful, we”ll refund 100% of your tithe”. They also say “if I am not convinced of God’s faithfulness as a result of my obedience…”

            So they clearly are saying that the tithing person gets to decide whether God was faithful, and that they are obligated to give the money back.

            • LizzyJessie

              Honestly, you can see that it is worded in a way that the results can interpretative to favor the house. Faithful “…according to His word.” His Word — being the Bible — states that Christians are there to serve their god. Not the other way around.

              Hebrews 9:14, 12:28; Romans 12:1; Colossians 4:17; 2 Timothy 4:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; 1 Kings 8:53; Galatians 1:10; Luke 17:10 (and a hell of a lot more!).

              So no, they don’t get to decide. The rules (in the application file) clearly states that they get to request their money back. There is no expressly stated guarantee that the Church has to pay it.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    What a con game!

    “I am asking that for 3-months you should give me a substantial chunk of your income (money you worked hard for) without EVER showing you that the product you are buying even exists, and then only IF you realize you have been duped and IF you have enough gumption to publicly admit that…. well then I will consider MAYBE giving you your money back.”

    What a racket!

  • mobathome

    You ask “And, the most important question of them all, if you’re a devout Christian, why would you even bother playing this game?” Perhaps the question is whether Sagebrush Community Church is a false church?

    • b s

      “Perhaps the question is whether Sagebrush Community Church is a false church?”

      Aren’t they all?

      • mobathome

        Well, yes. But I was referring to a common perception that Christians fetishize belonging to the One True Church ®.

  • newavocation

    Always about the dollars. At least with the mob you can count on being burned out, oh wait!

  • b s

    I bet actually getting your money back would be a miracle and therefore constitute proof of god’s existence, so you would have to immediately give back the refund. Sneaky.

  • Lawrence Congdon

    I think religious organizations aren’t legally liable for results of services, even those promised.

    (As are, say, most commercial enterprises or even non-profit service organizations).

    I have see the phrase “…received only intangible spiritual benefits” on end-of-year donation total statements for IRS reporting.

    So is this statement even legally enforceable in any way?

    If they worm out of it – if anyone does tithe to them specifically based on this offer – what might be their argument? “Oh, you didn’t include you food stamps – or your employer’s health coverage – as income”

    And what is the actual legal import of the word ‘faithful’ in “… and God does not prove Himself faithful…”

    Then again — the advertising and the form does not say WHAT kind or strength of benefit you will see:

    “You didn’t have a car accident the past 90 days? That’s you’re proof your tithing worked!”

  • Mike Bond

    Wow. What a fucking scumbag this guy is. And what the hell is wrong with these followers just going along like it’s no big deal? Talk about mindless drones.

  • kanehau

    Plus they get 90 days worth of interest.

    • LutherW

      Or a few months of a Ponzi scheme, paying back a few with later input and then spiriting themselves away when the outgo would start reducing the take.

  • Goape

    The most troubling guarantee highlighted by this: the ignorance of most deeply religious people and the ambiguity of “prayer-answers” virtually guarantees some vague perception of God’s faithfulness. This church is extorting from its parishioners—they’re harvesting a crop of bewilderment and fear that they’ve been spreading shit over for hundreds of years.

  • Neko

    Right on Mehta. It’s just a two-bit extortion racket in mockery of their own Messiah.

  • C Peterson

    How about I pray for a million dollars to come my way in the next month, and in exchange, I’ll give 10% of it to a church?

    • LutherW

      Waste of your time praying.

      • C Peterson

        Probably true. But it only takes me a couple of seconds to pray for a million dollars. Pretty good return on my investment if it pays off.

        • Hugh Kramer

          Even if you won the lottery, how could you determine that it was due to divine intervention rather than chance? The only way to prove that God did it is for you to pray to win the lottery without buying a ticket!

          • C Peterson

            Works for me. If I find a lottery ticket in the next month that gives me at least a million dollar return, I’ll donate 10% of it. Still, a lottery win is cumbersome. I’d prefer to simply pray that a million dollars materialize in my bank account.

            • Kevin_Of_Bangor

              If you win the lottery I will claim the prize on your behalf for a 40% cut.

              I will pray for you to find the winning lottery ticket.

              • C Peterson

                Deal. I’m sure you’d make better use of the money than any church.

    • Artor

      How about if you allow the church to request 10%. If I won the lottery, churches could request to their heart’s content.

  • Dennis Rusinak

    Hmmm.. So my reward could be simply God’s grace in allowing me to wake up every day. After all, he does allow/cause many to not wake up, to die. And if that is a reward earned by my donation, is that not a taxable benefit? This preacher didn’t really think things through.

    Another thought might be for the parishoners to pool their resources, head to the local racetrack, lotto, casino, bingo hall, pray, pray, pray, the hell out of their event and give the church 10% of whatever they win.

    The possibilities are endless.

  • Jenny H.

    Even if you actually got your money back (something I imagine is highly unlikely), I would still want to know what they did with that money while they had it.

    (Afterthought: The idea of refunding a tithe gets a lot creepier after reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman)

  • Gordon Duffy

    Double your money back would be a statement worth making.

  • SeekerLancer

    Tithing: How to make a scam legal.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Unfucking believable that an anti-Christian like Hemant is able to Biblically dismantle this utter foolishness, but many Christians think it’s a good idea.
    Head, meet desk

  • billybee
    • shuteme

      I’m an atheist of the militant variety, and I think what you claim to have done is nothing to be proud of. You have a gift and then you asked for it back? Wow.

    • shuteme

      I’m an atheist of the militant variety and I think what you claim to have done is really nothing to be proud of. You freely gave a gift and then you asked for the return of that gift? Wow.

      • billybee

        It was just an experiment to satisfy my personal curiosity.

        I wanted to see what would happen if I politely and respectfully asked Pastor Bob if he would consider granting me a refund…to which he unreservedly replied; Yes.
        All the pastor had to say was “No”, and I would have dropped the entire thing with no hard feelings.

  • Rain

    Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

    Pretty hilarious story when you read the chapter. What’s even more hilarious is that people take it seriously. Hilarity ensues for the rest of the chapter too. Great stuff.

  • Rain

    I would love to see a court case develop out of this. HINT.

    • Richard Thomas

      That would be amazing, actually. If the church lost the suit, it would set an incredible legal precedent in re public religion. Big win for secularists.

  • cryofly

    I believe this ploy is to get more people to leave the neighboring churches and come to this particular church. In addition to, giving the money back, they should explicitly state that the congregants can leave the congregation to seek for a church that connects to the god wormhole. I wish all the churches would adopt this policy and I fervently hope this strategy backfires as people realize that there is no church that can talk to the god… because… we know why.

  • Crash Override

    Has no one considered calling the local TV stations’ consumer reporters regarding this? At the least, it would make an interesting story on a slow news day.

  • Claire

    I have the strangest feeling that by “request a refund” they mean “you can ask for one but we’ll make you feel really guilty and shame you in front of the congregation”

  • busterggi

    I’m sure the bottom line is whether or not god killed you during the ninety day. If he didn’t then the church wins, if he does then you deserved it.

  • Celestine Stoltenberg

    Hmmm…. I sense a new church trend, complete with websites featuring testimonies about god’s faithfulness. It will temporarily increase tithing and develop a base of earnest and passionate churchgoers who will mentor other members of the church in regular giving.

    And everyone knows that christians who are dissatisfied with god are just not doing it right. So there will be no negative testimonies because all negative stories are rooted in human sin and all positive stories are for the glory of god.

    Because that’s how christians do.

    • Jennifer Lakewood

      Pat Robertson’s, 700 Club, does this constantly. They have people sharing stories of how they gave a lot of money to the 700 Club and how god blessed them after. I often wonder where they find these people to share these “blessings” stories. The entire theme of the 700 Club program is pressuring people to donate money for their “cause” and in an underhanded way, they claim that the people who contribute always get some type of reward, with some people getting 10 times more of what they supposedly gave. It is a major scam.

  • Aspieguy

    Dear me, is there no end to the scams churches foist on their sheeple? Why don’t they just offer indulgences?

  • Houndentenor

    I have relatives who go to fundamentalist churches. They don’t admit anything is wrong in their lives. Some even go to great lengths to keep the others at their church from knowing they have been divorced, have children with substance abuse problems, etc. So they are going to have to admit to their whole church (because these churches are full of gossips in my experience so there’s no way it would be a secret) and admit that god didn’t bless them in spite of church attendance and tithing? Not gonna happen. Typical con artist tactic. It sounds like he’s offering a deal but it’s really just more guilt and shame inflicted on people because if they don’t receive a “blessing” it’s obviously THEIR fault.

  • Tor

    I can totally picture the church that I grew up in doing something like this. They are pretty big on tithing — you can’t be a member unless you’ve been tithing for six months and you can’t do anything for the church — work in the nursery and such — until you’re a member.

    They also set up the ability for online tithe paying where you can make an account with them or pay through paypal. The “Biblical reasoning”? Because God wants our “first fruits” so what better way then to have it automatically come out of your account right when you put it in there?

  • TheShadow

    Tithing is exempt from the prohibition of testing God. They typically trot out Malachi 3:10:

    Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

  • C_G_

    I think their intent is more along the lines of:
    Malachi 3:10 ESV

    Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

  • Major Nav

    “If God does not prove himself faithful…”
    What the heck does that mean? It doesn’t say reward or benefit. God just has to demonstrate that he believes, presumably, in you. Pretty sneaky.
    But the church is showing their lack of knowledge and doubts.
    A. God should “know” all about you, not just believe in you.
    B. How little faith the church must have if they are only offering 100%. Why not 200%?

  • UWIR

    “All that said, at least the pastors at Sagebrush aren’t as bad as Pastor Ed Young, who once told his congregation to flat-out hand over their checking account and bank routing numbers, so he could pay for things like a private jet”

    How about I put my tithe in a special bank account, and if God wants Ed Young to have it, He can tell him the account and routing numbers Himself?