from Lauren - Thursday, November 13, 2003
accessed 13604 times
For most people, once out of the Family, the topic would probably have been of little interest. To me, it was, and always will continue to be an issue of importance. And so, here I find myself expatiating my thoughts for any others who might also find the subject worth the time it takes to read this article: Family finances and tithing.
Generally speaking, I don’t watch the news--the fact that we don’t have TV in our house sort of helps. It seems to me that you can drop off the face of the planet, resurface two years later, turn on the television and nothing has changed. The faces, dates, times & events are new, but the facts are pretty much the same: turmoil in the Middle East, a war or conflict somewhere on the globe that is in the daily news, some major natural disaster, the latest health discovery that either contradicts or confirms a zillion previous studies, and some major factor concerning the environment. If anything unusual happens, someone is bound to tell you about it.
On an infinitesimally smaller scale of both importance and interest, it’s much the same way with The Family. Drop out of membership and forget about them, then get your hands on a few mailings two years later, and nothing much has changed: A new revelation from Jesus, The Family is still tops in God’s eyes, the Endtime is right around the corner and there is a new list of things you must do to receive God’s highest blessing. And if something unusual happens, someone is bound to tell you about it.
Which is pretty much how I managed to find myself, last Saturday evening, sitting through a two-hour stretch of “Word time”. It was, I must admit, the most enjoyable “Word time” I’ve had in two and a half decades simply for the fact that I was free to criticize the content and to welcome Mr. & Mrs. Doubt & all their little Doubtlets to come and drink tea with me while we discussed the issues at hand.
For most people, once out of the Family, the topic would probably have been of little interest. To me, it was, and always will continue to be an issue of importance. And so, here I find myself expatiating my thoughts for any others who might also find the subject worth the time it takes to read this article: Family finances and tithing.
GN 1046 is a Letter titled, “Are You Robbing God”, and it takes all of about one neuron to figure out from the title that the content is 24 pages of Maria and Peter telling the Family why they need to give, give & give again. Does this mean I’m dense for sitting through two whole hours of what one nanosecond of logic could have told me? Probably. But in a form of self-torture and morbid curiosity spawning from a knowledge of the way the Family publications are written, I wanted to see what the other 22 pages that were not quoting scripture on tithing actually going to be about.
Basically, here’s what the GN had to say:
1. The Family is not doing well financially: (Maria: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that a lot of Homes are struggling financially, WS income is down greatly, and overall in the Family we could be doing a lot more if we had more money – Par. 1)
What I don’t understand is why it’s taken them this long to notice. In 2001 the Conviction vs. Compromise series came out telling everyone to quit their moneymaking activities and be missionaries and that God will take care of them, and now there is no money. Isn’t this a no-brainer?
(From Conviction Vs. Compromise): 153. The God factor means that I have opened to you the riches of the universe, I have put before you a great reservoir of supply, and it’s yours for the asking, yours for the taking. The God factor means that if you will put your trust fully in Me, you will lack nothing. It means that if you preach the Gospel, you will live of the Gospel. It means that all things are possible to you. It means if you are trusting Me and doing what I tell you to do, I will never fail to support you, even if it means I have to drop the support out of the sky. It means good witnessing always pays. It means if you are obeying Me, I will take care of your needs…. 154. Practically speaking, it means if the Family will put their trust in Me, if they will claim My promises, if they will obey what I tell them to do, I will supply all their needs according to My riches in glory (GN 959 – Be Ye Separate)
Personally, I don’t give any credence to prophecy published in a GN. But I know that there are some of us that still do – if only out of fear or “what if”. First of all, if this prophecy is true, why is the Family STILL having trouble financially, and second of all, after all of the, “if you do this, if you do that” hoop jumping, “Jesus” says, “I will supply all their needs according to My riches in glory”. From a Biblical perspective, the verse that promises supply has nothing to do with “if”, nor, for that matter, does it have anything to do with the Family. It is a statement from Paul to the church that had been the only one supporting him in his time of need, “My God shall supply all your need….”
2. If you didn’t know before that it was a big no-no to question Maria and Peter and their financial modus operandi, you’d better know it now: (Maria: …it’s dangerous for you spiritually if you haven’t researched the Word and yet you debate the validity and effectiveness of the Family’s economic system, which is based on tithing. And it’s even more dangerous if you have partaken of the current debates on the ex-member sites, which are trying to undermine the Family’s faith in tithing and the credibility of those who manage the Family’s WS money. This uneducated discussion about the tithe is a growing trend in some areas, so Peter and I feel the need to answer some of these questions….” – Par. 4&5)
Hmmm. Last I heard, Family members were “discouraged” from visiting ex-member sites. Actually, they’ve been repeatedly warned, urged, cajoled & pleaded with to avoid the ex-member sites. So how the purpose of the debates on these sites could be structured to undermine the Family’s faith, if Family members are not even supposed to be visiting them, is beyond me. If debates on the ex-member sites, which are not even allowable reading material to Family members, are able to undermine the credibility of those who manage the Family’s WS money enough that WS has to publish a GN about it to do damage control, one HAS to wonder: what credibility?
Interestingly enough, if someone DOES research “the Word”, they would have even more reason to call into question the validity of the Family’s tithe based economic system than those that don’t research “the Word”. Could it be that Maria and Peter have themselves not researched “the Word” & don’t really know what they’re going on about?
Several months ago, while talking with one of our neighbors who is an adherent of the Jewish faith, I discovered (big surprise to me, having learned everything I know about tithing while in the Family) that in Judaism as it is known today, there is no “tithe” – no giving of a set percentage of ones’ income. In fact, the person I was speaking with really didn’t have any idea at all of what I was talking about.
Not wanting to take one person’s word for it, and assuming that perhaps this person wasn’t “religious enough” to know what I was asking about, I spent a month or more researching the topic in depth – both through my own study of the Old Testament, comparing the translated versions against the original Hebrew, as well as in further discussions with others from the Jewish faith.
The long and short of it is, that as far as I’ve been able to gather, the only precedent for tithing in the Bible as far as commandments or law were concerned, was a 10% gift to the priests on the increase of things that grew & animals that were raised – a land and animal tax, if you will. The only discussion of giving of anything other than the above foods & animals was in the New Testament when Peter pulled coins out of a fish’s mouth to pay taxes to the tax collectors. If Maria and Peter wanted to use that tax example to base their argument for tithing on, they might actually have a smidgen of a point. But I don’t think they’d take kindly to the reference of “rendering unto Caesar…” being about them.
The whole concept of giving 10% of your income has nothing to do with Biblical scripture or precedent. There are a few examples in the Old Testament of tithing (as in Abraham tithing 10% of his war spoils—which he was not even planning to keep anyway—to Melchizedek), but nothing actually written so far as commandments go. Granted, I am not a Hebrew scholar and I have not spent years studying and cross-referencing every word of the Torah. I’m willing to be told by a Rabbi that I am wrong. But until the Family can come up with an argument more convincing than the one presented in this GN, their whole guilt-trip inducing “you’d better tithe so God can bless you” explanation is nothing but smoke and mirrors and has nothing to do with the Bible.
3. The benevolent master syndrome begins with: (Peter: … “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that what they get is a gazillion times more than the church people get for their tithe or offering….show me any church that gives each home of their parishioners any money at all for emergencies, let alone the $2,000 HER that goes to CM Homes…. – Par 18.)
What about the HER fund? Where did this money originally come from? I’ve tried to track down the letter where this all originated and I don’t have it, so I’m working from memory. As I recall sometime in 1992 or 93, in the ultimate recreation of Acts 2: 44 & 45, WS required all Family members to turn in all of their PERSONAL flee funds and any money the Homes may have had on hand for a rainy day including gold coins or foreign currency reserves (they clarified we didn’t have to sell our jewelry and turn that in too -- how kind). Once all of this was collected, WS redistributed it to each Home in, what I seem to remember an amount of $8,000 per home. This was later reduced to $2,000 per home when the number of homes started growing.
The money started out as belonging to the individuals in the Family, now it belongs to WS. This $2,000 is not GIVEN to the Homes; it is left with them for safekeeping. If you use it for any reason that is not an emergency, you are excommunicated, and no matter what the emergency, if you use more than $1,000 without CRO approval you get excommunicated.
Basically what happened is the Family leadership took the money away, gave it back to the Homes to hold on to, only to be used under specified conditions, and are now saying, “see how generous we are, we gave you this money.”
Taking into consideration the possibility that WS has put more money into the HER fund since its inception, the concept is still the same. The money originated from the Family members & it has not been GIVEN back to them. They are only holding the money & the funds must relinquish it if required by WS to do so.
4. The benevolent master syndrome is expounded upon: (Peter: … “we give you publications for every age group of the Family. On top of that, we provide tools for you to do the job, to raise income, to both preach the Gospel and support yourself. Show me any church that does one-tenth of that giving back to the members who are giving their tithe. Those churches don’t exist. – Par 19.)
And I’m thinking: Show me a church that pretty much bans contraceptives for the first 25 years of its existence, then requires its members to home school the children and then uses the children as serf labor, requires its members to raise money using some of the least lucrative methods known to mankind (with the exception of FFing, which is its own whole can of worms not worth getting into here), and on top of this spend 20% of their time on church imposed activities (get-out, praise time, word time, witnessing hours, home meetings, etc.) and give 14% of their income straight off the top. Those churches don’t exist & what similar groups do exist are usually referred to as cults.
5. The benevolent master syndrome is expounded upon even further: (Peter: “The Family’s tithe, extra 4% and gifts also provide them with music CDs, books and booklets, administrational services, the board structure, Service Homes and local services (such as LIMs or Lit-Pics, ABMs, FED resource centers, reporting offices, and some of the local websites, production centers and audio studios), the tool fund, as well as help in financing meetings, VS trips and more!” – Par. 24)
It’s interesting to note, that now the official required giving is 14%. It used to be 10% to WS, 1% to the FAF & then each area would vote every six months as to whether or not they would continue giving 3% to the Common Pot. But now it’s been made official and there is no longer any vote on the 3%. As a Family member I would be jumping for joy over this news -- NOT. While still in the Family in Africa, our Home paid our 3% every month and never saw a single bit for that money. We got NO services. Even our ABM was unreliable and we used our own methods for getting email to where it needed to go. Half the time we never got the Family tapes and CDs because mail couldn’t get into our country & we didn’t even get paper mailings. We couldn’t get “tools” in the local language. Basically we were totally on our own. But we, without running water or electricity, with little food & intolerable living conditions were subsidizing Teen and YA meetings in Western Europe. Wow, whoopee!
6. Peter starts up with the scary stuff on why people had better give. (Peter: ... “but let me tell you, that ten percent that you’d be saving isn’t going to give you money for emergencies… If you didn’t send in your tithe you’d spend that money on something, or you might save a little on the side for a rainy day, but it’s not going to do you any good compared to the wonderful good it does if you give to God. Because when you do, God gives back to you – money, for one thing – but on top of that, God gives you back so many spiritual blessings through the Word, through the government of the Family, and through the peace and security of knowing that, “Wow, if I have an emergency I can get some help.” And, “Wow, I really want to go pioneer, and I can get an extra boost of a thousand dollars.” All of those things are God’s blessings. Your ten percent would never give you all of that if you kept it, or if you decided you were going to donate your ten percent to the local church. You’re getting a big bang for your buck, in my opinion, and you need to realize it. It’s just pretty good practical business sense to tithe, because it’s going to keep you afloat as opposed to your keeping that little bit of money and then going under. It just makes sense! – Pars. 25-27 & 55)
This is one of the most convoluted trains of logic I have read in a long time. (Peter: That ten percent that you’d be saving isn’t going to give you money for emergencies…) Are they really THAT dense? Have they never heard of insurance? Ten percent of my income buys my family some damn fine emergency coverage, thank you very much.
A thousand dollars to go “pioneer”--only $500 of that is actually in cash—the rest is in “tools” which do you absolutely no good if you can’t haul them to your new “field” & if you can’t sell them because you can’t get them in the correct language for where you’re going. Oh wow, yippee, I’m so excited. Five hundred dollars might buy half of a plane ticket. That is such a good deal, after 15 years of tithing, and having turned in, oh, I’d say maybe about $40-50,000, that $500 looks awfully good, thank you so so much. (Sarcasm intended).
(Peter: If you [don’t] send in your tithe…it’s not going to do you any good compared to the wonderful good it does if you give to God.) Since when is giving to God the equivalent of tithing to WS? There are millions, if not billions of people on this planet who give their money to their “God(s)”, but they are not giving to WS.
(Peter: It’s just pretty good practical business sense to tithe because it’s going to keep you afloat) . No, it’s not good practical business sense to tithe because it keeps you afloat. It is good practical religious sense to tithe if you believe in it. Tithing in and of itself is not going to keep anyone financially afloat. And what’s with this, “keeping that little bit of money and going under”? That kind of manipulation & preying on people’s fears is just absolutely criminal.
For a good example of tithing vs. not tithing, look at The Family. They’ve been tithing for what? 30 years? Many people in the Family have given above and beyond their tithe, some having given to WS hundreds of thousands from inheritances. Is their way of life, standard of living &/or health substantially better today than it was 30 years ago? Are they happier, more fulfilled & content in their service for the Lord than they were 30 years ago? What about the people who have left the Family and no longer tithe? Are they better off in any physical way than they were while they were in the Family? I know that for me personally, I’m doing MUCH better financially than when I was in the Family, not to mention the fact that I’m happier, healthier & generally have a much greater zest for life. I’ve been wonderfully “blessed by the Lord” & I haven’t done a damn thing to earn the blessings.
I do not tithe. I do give. I give because I want to not because I am afraid of losing the blessings of God. I give to causes &/or people I believe in, in amounts that feel right to me when the urge strikes. I will never again, so long as I live, tithe my money to any entity or religious body – particularly so to an organization like the Family that provides no actual accounting of numbers to its membership.
In fact, right after going through this GN the first time, and writing down my initial thoughts & having decided to not only “deliberately disobey” the “council from the Lord” but to rebut it & point out several issues with “God’s prophets” & their lack of money management skills, I woke up the next morning to find a nice fat unexpected windfall in my bank account. (No doubt, according to the Family, the Devil was rewarding me for allowing the Vandari to work through me.)
In case there is any misunderstanding here, I am not knocking giving or tithing – both of which have a healthy place in the lives of those to whom these concepts have meaning. Many of today’s greatest financial geniuses advise, as one’s social responsibility, to give back to the communities from which the money is initially earned. Giving is not a bad thing. Convoluted logic is a bad thing – especially when used to badger people into your way of thinking.
7. There is another grand announcement of how frugal David Berg was, and Peter & Maria now are: (Peter: So Dad was economical, let me tell you!.. we hope you also see that we’re not just sitting around on our rear ends in the lap of luxury. We are working…you’d be pretty surprised to see how frugally we live, and how our other WS Homes live too. So we’re not squandering your money, we’re managing it….please realize that we, to the best of our ability, are managing the money in a way that is benefiting the Lord’s work….” – Pars 11, 38 & 48)
Throughout the letters Berg continually harped on how economical, frugal and saving he was. Peter and Maria repeatedly bring up how Berg was saving & how they are frugal. Starting with the belief that they are truthfully frugal: Frugality does not automatically equate that the person actually knows how to handle money. Some of the poorest people in the world are frugal as can be. In researching this particular topic, I went back through 30 years of letters to get an idea of what Berg had to say about frugality and tithing & read one particular quote that pulled it all into a one thought compilation.
“I WOULDN'T EVEN CLIMB ON SOMETIMES WHEN WE WERE STANDING OUT IN FREEZING COLD WEATHER, and it happened a lot of times. We would be standing there shivering and the green bus would come by whose fare was 15 pence, but I was too chintzy to waste three pence to climb on the green bus, I insisted on waiting another half an hour or 45 minutes in the cold for the 12 pence red one!” – Par. 33 "THE TITHE!"--Malachi 3:10.--A Financial Crisis. MO 6/78 DO No.702
Berg did go on to say that he later realized it was a bad idea to do that. But that’s not the point. This is a man who had a 10-cent price tag on the value of one hour of his time. I don’t have the time to get into the pages it would take to explain how fundamentally backwards that is to the very heart of financial proficiency. This mentality may impress those Family members who don’t know any better, but it’s surely not going to assure people that know how to handle money that those at the head of the Family actually know what they’re doing so far as finances are concerned.
But for one brief spell in his life when Berg was working two jobs, he never had money. When he was living with his mother, they lived off of donations. When he had his own family, they were always struggling. Until the Family’s tithes started rolling in, Berg may have been as frugal as hell, but he never had the experience of handling large sums of money & learning how to make that money work for him rather than him working for it.
WS seems to be under the impression that everyone out in “the system” is a slave for their money. What they don’t seem to realize is that people who are extremely wealthy do not work for their money. They are wealthy because they have learned how to make their money work for them. This takes financial literacy and an understanding of the way the world works. Obviously, for a group that has “declared war on the system”, believes that “the big boys are controlling the world’s economies” and refuses to allow an education that would help them in this regard, this concept is a lost cause. The image that WS presents to the Family in the publications about the system portrays the life of the poor slave-wage and lower income earners. Could it be that nobody there actually understands a life beyond that?
8. It’s all those evil ex-members’ fault (again!): (Maria: There seems to be quite a hubbub going on these days about tithing. Apparently some of you have tapped into the ex-member sites and read various questions about whether there is a scriptural basis for tithing. Some of these ex-members support their ideas with Bible verses. The main thrust of their arguments is that tithing is an Old Testament practice, one that is not required in the New Testament. While this might seem like a simple doctrinal debate, the underlying spirit of the questions implies that Peter and I are taking advantage of you, we’re ripping you off, we shouldn’t ask you to tithe, we should have a better way of supporting WS, we should just receive free-will love offerings, etc… -- Par 58 & 59)
Ever since the tithe was first instituted in the Family, the members have been writing in to leadership requesting modifications, asking for clarifications, and, yes, complaining about it & asking to have to pay less. This issue is nothing new to the Family, but this GN is the first time in Family history where Family leadership has claimed that these complaints about the tithe are a direct attack on their leadership & an attempt to destroy the Family’s faith.
9. Maria and Peter insist they are NOT bad money managers: (Maria: ….Some feel that if we just “used a little business sense” we could have plenty of support for WS, and still have enough to give away. The points being made are that Peter and I aren’t handling the Family’s money wisely, our requirements for Family membership are not right, we’re using the Bible to back up unscriptural demands, etc. Of course, I don’t know how much actual business experience or even practical experience the people who write these things have. It’s possible that they’ve been directing a worldwide missionary movement for years and years and have found a better way to do it than Dad, Peter, and me, but I think that’s rather unlikely. Still, since some people in the Family have asked about these ex-members’ arguments and wonder if there’s merit to them, we prayed about them.” – Pars 60 & 61)
I don’t know how “directing a missionary movement for years and years” suddenly becomes the criteria for whether or not someone knows how to manage money. In this case even Warren Buffet & Peter Lynch do not pass muster. Every single young person who has left the Family with nothing, gone out into the world, built a life for themselves and is now investing in their future has enough actual business and practical experience to tell Family leadership that the leadership does not have a good grasp of financial management.
During my time in the Family, I’ve seen so many bad business decisions come about from hearing from the Lord in prophecy, that, in good humor, I’ve come to believe that “the Lord” is a very bad businessman. When the Bible says that he “owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine,” that might have been before the Lord was actually running the heavenly family business, because if he handles his heavenly business the same way he instructs his Family “fold” to handle their earthly business, I’m afraid there aren’t going to be many mansions left in heaven – by now he might have had to mortgage the place to Mammon.
Managing money does not mean sitting at the top of a multi-level money making apex and deciding how to spend the money. Managing money means finding a way to make that money grow, to be responsible for its safekeeping & to the people that gave it.
After 30 years, the Family is no better off financially than it was at the beginning. I’ve gone back through the publications and found dozens upon dozens of Letters and quotes first from Berg, then from Maria, trying to teach the Family how to become financially successful. The problem is that it has always been spiritual, “do this so God can bless you, do that so God can bless you”, & of course, in the old days, Berg promoted various money making ideas that almost invariably had to do with begging (or prostituting). Since then, the “how to get wealthy” letters have contained 20 point lists with maybe 2 practical real life things on them: Budget and be austere. And then, as if to prove that WS & Family leadership are convinced that this is the best way to become financially secure, they repeated (and condensed) that list in a recent GN series titled “Show Me the Money” & included all the old money making mags in a reading list. In this series, Family leadership is once again attempting to tell the Family how to become financially stable. Perhaps (and for the sake of the Family members, I HOPE) some of their points will work, but for the most part, it is a repetition of the same spiritual factors that have been harped on since the Family’s inception.
A person can budget and be austere until they are blue in the face – that alone is not going to help them get forward financially – especially if their current income is not sufficient to meet basic living expenses. In the Family, the solutions from leadership have thus far always been “work harder”, “be more spiritual”, “follow these spiritual guidelines”, “budget and be austere” & “give, give, give”.
This is all that the Family leadership knows. Most first generation Family members are either high school dropouts or at best, have a few college credits to their name, the only experience most of them have gleaned in their lives is the work they’ve done in the Family. Unless WS has been snatching up the only college grads the Family has, it’s fair to assume that the people running WS &/or running the Family are on par with the rest of the bunch academically and experientially speaking. They’ve never invested, they’ve never actually gone out and made money & what’s more, WS & Family leadership doesn’t even have the same experience the average Family member has in figuring out how to support his/her own Home. WS is supported by the Family’s tithes.
With the exception of Maria’s job experience before she joined the Family she has never worked for money a day in her life (unless you count FFing). I’m not sure what kind of experience Peter has, but I doubt it was a whole lot more than that. They haven’t even gone out and beat the pavements selling the Activated or “Family tools” that they’ve spent reams of pages telling the Family they must do in order to please God. How are they supposed to teach the Family how to become financially secure?
All Family leadership really knows how to do is preach spiritual things. I am not knocking spiritual principles. They have their time and place – especially for those who place importance on them. This is not about trying to destroy people’s faith in God or a higher power & replace it with the worship of money. This is not about telling those who place an importance on being a missionary that there is no point in being a missionary. This is just plain common sense for anyone that is interested in getting beyond the living hand to mouth stage. – It is possible to be a missionary and still be financially literate.
Family leadership chose NOT to invest their money in anything that had to do with the world or “the system”. It was a conscious decision.
(Maria: Once when there were some extra funds, Peter wrote Dad a report asking him about the possibility of investing in certain moneymaking possibilities. Dad's response was, "Why give it to the Devil's people to invest and make money on? Let's invest it in the Family!" At Dad's request, Peter then proposed several possible plans to give the funds to the Family, and Dad and I chose one that would give a $1,000 Christmas tool gift to the Homes .Par 91#3049, MAMA'S NEWS AND VIEWS!--Part Two, 3/96)
I am absolutely not against giving the money to the Family. What I am against is the comment in the GN that followed the above example:
(Maria: The interesting thing about this is that Peter calculated that if WS had invested those funds in the System, WS would have gotten about a 10% return after one year. But when we gave the funds to the Homes, the Lord returned the full amount we'd given away through an inheritance within one month. So the Lord gave a 100% return in only one month, as compared to the System's 10% in one year! – Par 91)
I don’t have actual statistics for the year this event took place, so I’m working with the next best thing: (Maria: For the last five years we've had an average of 230 DO Homes worldwide. Par. 4, State Of The Nation '95! #3017, 10/95)
This means that not only did WS have an excess of roughly $230,000 (not counting whatever operating reserves they kept on hand), they also received an inheritance of roughly $230,000 the following month. This is over half a million dollars in surplus cash.
I ask: Where is all of that money today? Considering the current financial state of the Family as reported by Maria, obviously, the money is long gone.
There is a financial word that Family leadership seems to be painfully unaware of. It’s called “principle”. You never, ever, ever, touch your principle. But the Family policy with money for 30 years has been to eat the principle and pray for more to come in. Not only has WS devoured the principle that has come into its own coffers, it has taught the Family to do likewise.
If action has anything to do with thought, it would appear that WS’ idea of being a financial power has everything to do with bumming off of people who have money, and nothing to do with becoming financially literate themselves or understanding the fundamental concepts behind allowing money to work for them.
People with money know what money can do for them. Every dollar they have is not just a dollar; it’s the potential to earn another $700 over their lifetime. When they give that dollar away they are not giving away a dollar, they are giving away the seed to a $700 money tree, as well as the future exponential value of each of those $700 “money seeds”. People who are wealthy understand the true value of money (and, painfully, most Family members do not).
(There are others on this site, who, from reading their comments about money, it seems they have a much better grasp of this than I do, so I defer to them if the following numbers &/or reasoning is unsound):
Regarding the $230,000 in cash: Where is the money now? By Family definition, it has been invested into souls saved & each Home got $1,000 worth of tools (also now long gone). Fine. But apparently that is not putting food on the table.
If that $230,000 was placed into an investment earning 10% a year and allowed to sit without being touched, it would, today (10 years later) be worth nearly $600,000. A nice little increase for money that was extra to begin with, but not a LOT of money. If they had done the same thing with $500,000 it would under the same circumstances today be nearly $1,300,000. Again, a nice piece of change, but for an operation the size of the Family, it’s really not that much money.
As any investor knows, the power of money is in the long term. 10 years, is really not a lot of time for any investment to grow. Five years from now that 500,000 would be worth over $2,000,000 & with each year added on to that, the numbers start multiplying rapidly.
But what IF: What if, 35 years ago, the people who headed up the Family had realized that what they had on their hands was a group of pretty much uneducated drop-outs. What if they had realized that in 35 years, some of the young hippies in their group would be approaching 60 & shortly after that health issues, frailty issues & so forth were going to come into play.
What if they had sat down and said, “You know, we have a responsibility to these young people who have put their trust in us & in our connection with God. We believe that God is going to take care of us, and maybe even Jesus will be back by 1993, but just in case we don’t have all of our interpretations straight, how about we go ahead and plan for the future. Let’s invest $5,000 (five thousand dollars) & every month thereafter we are going to commit to take $5,000 (five thousand dollars) of the money our dear precious missionaries that we love so much send to us & we are going to give it back to them in the long-term by adding it to the original investment. Since they have given up everything to follow what we have told them God wants them to do, in return we’re going to look after them as best as we can as they get older.”
In such an alternate universe if such a thing had occurred & said investment had continued to grow at an average of 10% per year, that investment would now be worth over $17,000,000 (seventeen million dollars). One million & seven hundred thousand dollars a year from interest alone is not a little money when it comes to trying to help your aged, your sick & your poor.
WS could still continue to live off of the tithe that they require of the Family sends in if that’s what they want to do.
But would they even have to? WS keeps on hand, I believe, a total of 3 months working reserves. Knowing the size of the operation, and guesstimating a 3-month reserve of about $300,000, that gives them a tidy little sum to work with. (Considering that WS once used its reserves to give every person in the Family a $50 tool gift, and the average number of Homes in the 5 years preceding the Charter was 230 with an average Home size of 40 members, WS had to have at least $460,000 in reserves to work with – that’s IF they emptied the reserves completely, it could have been more.) In the 30 + years of Family history, I can only remember a few select instances where WS would have been called on to tap into this reserve (or when they did it anyway, such as when they gave each member in the Family $50 for their tool gift fund, or as they are doing again now to help lead the Family in the way of giving.) What this means is that they have had this tidy sum sitting around at their disposal. What has become of it? It’s possible that the reserve funds have been invested into at least the bare minimum – savings accounts or CDs. It could just be stuffed in mattresses or hidden holes in the wall, continuing to lose value, not even keeping up with the rate of inflation. But since this information is kept highly secret, we will never know.
The concept of long term saving & investing is not rocket science. Anyone with two working fingers and an internet search engine can find a financial calculator & punch in the same numbers and find the same answers. There have been times during the past 30 years when rates were better than 10% simply in a normal savings account. Today, with interest rates being so low, about the best you can get in a savings account is 2%, and with the kind of numbers in the above example, you might be able to pull 4% on a major Jumbo CD. But there are plenty of other growth opportunities around to provide up to 10% interest -- and rates are rock bottom. In an upswing economy, pulling in returns at 25 – 30% is totally reasonable.
The fact is, not only does the Family leadership not have these kind of forward thinking capabilities, but, if Family history is any indication of the way they work, “long term” means 3 1/2 years from now – in case the covenant is signed in secret. The power of compound interest is in the long term, not investing for a year.
But it’s not just a lack of forward thinking that makes it impossible for WS to pull out of the total dependency state of being. In order for WS to make the kind of investments & pull in the kind of returns I’ve mentioned in the examples up above, they would have to start paying taxes – which brings up another huge issue – because WS has been laundering money since it was born & is operating its financial structure illegally under just about every country’s law on the face of this planet.
As the whole point of this tirade is money management, this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the issue of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars that have been spent over the past 15 years beginning projects that never got off the ground, producing “loser” witnessing tools & storing the tons of published material that never went anywhere. I wonder if any kind of feasibility or marketability study was done before producing the TIV, SOS or 20 Minutes to Go? What about the DFs? How many hundreds of thousands of DF #36 were produced, then sat in storage & were later burned. Yes, that’s great money management for you! The fact is, in the past, most Family witnessing tools were produced on the council or desires of Family leadership.
It would appear that today at least with Family productions, things are changing. Since the mid 90’s there has been more of an emphasis on mass marketing Family products & slowly but surely those involved are starting to get the idea of producing items that sell, not just items that put out group propaganda. What one person with an MBA could have saved the Family in time and money boggles the mind. And they say they are “managing the Family’s money” & wonder what kind of qualifications their critics have.
Again, speaking of “managing the money” what about the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that went into supporting victor homes. Not only was that a poor investment as far as results go, it actually ended up costing the Family a huge amount of time, energy & money in terms of court costs and “persecution” due to the ill effects those homes had on the individual children sent to them. (I doubt the Family has seen the last of this yet).
I find it interesting how Peter in his justification of requiring the tithe from the Family, points out that taxes are meant to provide government services such as, police, fire, and whatnot, and how that is sort of what the Family’s tithes do for Family members – while at the same time, WS and Family leadership do not actually pay taxes.
WS can say that its goal is souls and not to make money. Fine. But if that is the case, I would suggest they stop acting like snooty know-it-alls when it comes to the subject of money. If after 30 years of sitting at the top of a brilliant multilevel marketing apex where they have a free sales rep force in the thousands and money just rolls in every month, they have still not figured out how to become self-supportive & have to roll the presses with guilt inducing “you better or else” GNs, WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE? Maybe a little higher education might come in handy?
10. The Family officially no longer uses the Bible as a solid doctrinal base: (Dad speaking: Like I told you when I was there, way back at the beginning of the Family, we’re not looking backward at the Old Testament, or even the New Testament, other than as a possible blueprint for how we can operate now, today, in this day and age and in this Time of the End…..the giving of the tithe is simply an offering to the Lord that the Lord says belongs to Him, and that he uses to take care of His priests and Levites, His ministers, and those who serve you. I’m not about to be dictated to by the examples of the past. I refused to let anyone pour God into a mold when I was there, and I refuse to let anyone do so now! We’ll look back at the Old Testament and at the New Testament and the way they did it simply as a pattern for what worked, and we’ll take from that pattern and ask the Lord about His plan for today, using and patching it into the final church in a way that fits and works today, now, as He leads us.
(Jesus speaking: You in the Family tithe because I asked it of you today, not because I asked it of someone in the past. I have included these examples for your benefit, to show you that it has worked before. But you’re not bound to do it just because they did it – you’re being asked by Me to do it today! – Pars 62 –63, 11)
This is so smooth. I wonder if anybody in the Family actually realizes what is happening on this one. My Family relatives certainly hadn’t caught it when I asked them about it.
Since in the prophecy above, “David Berg” says that he has never allowed himself to be dictated to by how they did it in the Bible, and “Jesus” says that the Family tithes because he has asked them to do it, and not because they did it in the Bible, I wanted to see how this jived with past tithing initiatives.
What I have discovered is that in every instance I came across (granted, my search was not all encompassing and there could be plenty of information out there I didn’t get at), not once did Berg ever say, “this is a new day and this is the way the Lord has showed us to do it for ourselves”. No. In every instance, he based his decisions for enforcing a tithe upon the Family using the principles of the Old Testament.
David Berg: ALL WE CAN DO IS LAY DOWN GOD'S LAW & SAY, "HERE IT IS, HERE'S THE SCRIPTURAL MINIMUM!--If you are not willing to give your all, the New Testament minimum, then for God's sake at least give the Old Testament minimum of 10%, which is the absolute minimum to help support God's Work!
WHEREAS, IF WE JUST TELL THEM A FLAT OUT, THAT'S THAT, THAT'S GOD'S PLAN THAT'S [THE] BIBLE!….SO PART OF THE TEMPLE MINISTRY WAS TO CHANNEL ALL OF THIS GIVING of gifts & tithes to wherever it was most needed including the support of the temple & all of its ministers, priests & Levites--which in this case is us, WS, your today's spiritual leaders & Levites, the elders & deacons of our modern church.
SO IT IS TO TODAY'S TEMPLE MINISTERS, WS, THAT YOUR TITHES MUST BE GIVEN. So, the value of any such material gifts could be estimated, & if you are unable to pay the cash value of the 10% tithe, you might consider selling enough of it to do so, if WS cannot find a place to use the goods. – Pars. 84, 106, 135 & 138 TITHING & THE FN! DFO928 7/80)
Like I explained earlier, complaining about the tithe is nothing new in the Family – you can find references to that all the way back in the 70’s. But what, apparently, has never come up before, is someone challenging the Biblical principles of tithing. So what we have here is a case of Family leadership going back to research the Bible on the subject and realizing that the Biblical notion of tithing is not quite the same as what they’d had in mind.
For 30 years, the Family has been tithing because “the Bible said so” & Berg required it of them because “the Bible said so” NOT because, “this is what Jesus has asked us to do in this day and age”. Now that this Biblical principle is challenged, boom, bang, they are tithing because “Jesus said so” and they are doing what Jesus has led them to do in this new day and age and it has nothing to do with what the Bible says or does not say. There is no evolution of this change found in the publications. Until this GN was published, the principles of tithing in the Family have ALWAYS been based on Biblical references.
The above quotes from “Jesus” that originated this line of thought also set precedent to the fact that the Family is no longer basing its belief system on the Bible. For people who call themselves Christians, this is extremely dangerous and should send off a whopper of an alarm bell, as it means, quite literally, that the previous foundation upon which their belief system is based is now defunct & can be replaced at the whim of the group leaders. Although this has been obvious for years from reading the Family publications, this is the first time I have personally seen in print a case of, “who cares what the Bible says, this is the way God told us to do it today”.
There is no longer any standard to go back to. It opens a Pandora’s box of possibilities and problems. While my faith in the Bible may be less than complete, I have a lot more trust in the veracity of what is contained in the Biblical texts, which have been passed down for at least 2000 years, than I do for those coming from Maria’s household. Remove the standard and all you have left is what Maria and Peter say. If this doesn’t scream CULT, I don’t know what does.
11. A whole big spot for comic relief: (Dad speaking: Some people have been circulating questions about tithing – whether it’s scriptural, and even it if is, if it isn’t just an Old Testament practice that doesn’t carry over to the New Testament….Now when I say, “some people” have been circulating questions, I mean ex-members in this case – and not just ex-members, but enemies who would like to tear down the family by destroying your faith. So they don’t write to Mama and Peter and others of your leadership, but they go around sowing their little doubts, murmurs, critical thoughts and skepticisms wherever else they can, in any receptive ear or e-mail box, including yours! I don’t mind legitimate questions, and neither do Mama or Peter – we welcome them, including those from you who’ve asked about our financial setup. But the type of questions that are designed to sow doubt and discord and attack the work are an abomination to God and to me. If people have questions, they should ask, but they should ask the right people! – Pars 79-81)
Now this one really cracks me up. I realize that this paragraph is not talking about me – at least I don’t see how it could be – but since I did write to a friend of mine who lives in Maria’s house to tell her about my initial discoveries on tithing in the Bible, it’s easy to write about the above paragraphs in a personal way.
This “prophecy” says, “So they don’t write to Mama and Peter and others of your leadership” and “If people [referring to the ex-members who wrote] have questions, they should ask, but they should ask the right people!”
Peter and Maria are not my friends. As far as I’ve been able to gather, they don’t have a lot of friends in the ex-member community. I don’t exactly understand what would make them (or anyone else for that matter) think that any of us would write to THEM about anything. And even so, what is writing to them supposed to accomplish? Are we supposed to expect an answer? I can personally attest to about 3 or 4 non-answer answers to my own inquiries while I was still in the Family & I have seen plenty more of them on the movingon.org site, the granddaddy of them all being the “Maria Refuses” article.
In case they haven’t noticed, we’re not in the Family anymore. We don’t have to abide by their stupid rules any more and we most certainly don’t have to follow any sort of protocol in who of our friends still in the Family we write to about any particular topic.
Again, I really don’t understand how trying to discern what the Bible does or does not say could be attempting to destroy someone’s faith. Isn’t a Christian’s faith supposed to be based on the Bible? So if something is not being lived the way the Bible says it should be, shouldn’t we be happy if we figure it out and not condemn people for the discovery or call this search for truth, “doubts, murmurs, critical thoughts and skepticisms”.
12. Maria and Peter insist they are NOT trying to explain away some shady business: (Maria: …Peter and I aren’t trying to explain away some shady business practice, and we’re certainly not covering anything up. We have tried to be as open and honest with you as possible regarding the finances.)
Is it just me, or does this paragraph scream “blatant lie”? I’m not stating that there is some shady business going on (although the IRS might think differently), but are they trying to be as open and honest with the Family as possible regarding finances? No.
Open and honest means numbers, it means open books. Maria and Peter like to go on and on about all of the services they are providing and how no church does the same. Well what the churches do provide, that they don’t, is an accounting to the congregation of where the money went. Not ambiguous pie graphs with percentages that have little meaning. Actual numbers. This is not an accident that they do not allow the Family to see the numbers for the financials. In some past GN (which I don’t have time to research at the moment), Peter took the time to explain WHY they do not give the Family numbers to look at, which basically amounted to the fact that since they can’t please everybody they’ve decided to keep it a secret.
I wonder: If the Family saw how much money was being turned in each and every month, if they saw numbers put to the cost of producing the GNs, FTTs, and tools and supporting WS, would they feel their hard-earned money was being put to its best possible use?
I guess we’ll never know.