Sunday, April 19, 2015


Many religious groups practice tithing, the rule of giving 10 percent of one's income to the group. The COG also required tithing as a requisite for full-time membership - the "highest calling" for God's chosen people which I aspired to. 

But the COG went way further than requiring 10 percent. There were always extra percentages added on, for the maintenance of leadership, printing of publications, and the like. Additionally, if we wanted to give above and beyond that, we were encouraged to do so.

We also read appeals from people around the world who were doing more humanitarian type work in the COG, and these pulled at our heart-strings, succeeding in getting us to send them money. As well, I had a friend who was doing, I felt, noble work with helping orphans, so I gave an extra 5% to her - of course, via the group. This brought our tithe to around 20%, which I would say was the average that we gave over the years that we actually had income in the group.

Most of our time in the group was spent with only the pittances that we got from begging, oh, I mean, "witnessing" (proselytizing). Naturally, all of that went to the group. We received daily meals and a roof over our heads, which was considered sufficient. "We were the blessed and chosen people of God," after all, so who would complain? "Our treasures were being laid up in heaven." Matthew 6:20 

Clothing was usually in the form of donations - often used clothing. Indeed, we were often clothed in ill-fitting, ill-matched, and unflattering clothes. 

The obvious trouble with this short-sighted financial policy is that now, as we grow older, we have no retirement funds. The fanciful feeling in the group was that we would "serve the Lord" until we died, and the group would continue to grow and provide a safe haven for us. Reality is that the young people left in droves, many older people left as well, and the COG is in no way a viable place for the care of the elderly. 

Those that left the group were left high and dry: no savings, no social network, nothing. We were forced to start from $0 and support our (generally) large families, and save for retirement or else come up with a way to support ourselves when we grow old and frail.

Of course, the money given to that nonsense was a very unfortunate waste. If it had instead been placed in a retirement fund, surely we would feel more secure about our futures.

On the positive side, living in poverty for so many years has certainly taught me, and my older children who experienced it more than the younger ones, how to live very frugally; so frugal that saving money and spending as little as possible is second nature to me. Sadly, though, it seems to be the case of too-little, too-late.

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