Pat Robertson puts his foot in his mouth so frequently that it almost seems unfair to go after him for it, but in this case he makes the type of statement that simply must be corrected. I know quite a number of people who would be susceptible to what he says here, and then would be disappointed, and possibly blame themselves, when they continued to have health expenses despite their tithing. Now Right Wing Watch might have taken this out of context (though I don’t know what the context would be), but those few sentences are very damaging.
I’ve heard this type of thing much more regarding financial affairs. Pastors and teachers say that if you tithe you won’t have financial difficulties, won’t go bankrupt, or will even become wealthy. All the while real people pay tithes and nonetheless struggle.
Here’s an extract from a book my company recently published (note that the first sentence is presented as an argument to be refuted by what follows):
In fact, some ministries have offered to give “refunds” if after a certain period (like ninety days) they are not in a better financial situation after giving tithing a try. Other preachers have stated that no one ever has financial trouble if they are tithing. I’ve even heard one preacher say that no one has ever gone bankrupt while tithing!
Has anyone who faithfully tithed gone bankrupt? Absolutely! There are many news stories on the internet explaining how certain individuals have gone bankrupt while tithing. While the situation of Evander Holyfield might seem like the exception, the reality is that so many have had this issue of going bankrupt while tithing that the federal government has been wrestling with how to adjudicate this situation. President Clinton signed the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act in 1998 to allow those who are bankrupt to continue tithing. But a 2005 law overturned that decision: the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. The fact that the federal government has had to monitor this so much demonstrates that this is not a rare situation. To give my own “anecdotal argument,” I’ve had a friend who was giving about 18 percent of his income, and his financial situation continued to deteriorate more and more. Finally, in order to go to seminary, he filed for bankruptcy. He declared how good God was in taking care of him, but really the federal government bailed him out. (David A. Croteau, Tithing After the Cross, [Gonzalez, FL: Energion Publications, 2013], 51-52, italics mine)
Neither David Croteau nor I are arguing against giving or generosity. Rather it is the manipulation of people for purposes of getting them to give money. We should certainly discuss issues of stewardship in the church, and not just of money but also time and ability. But we must be careful not to force or manipulate. Certainly we must never make obviously false and hurtful claims.