Note: This posting comes from an article that I wrote for the Manchester church of Christ on January 9. I thought that perhaps those who are in ministry or others who are disciples generally might be interested in thoughts about this under-taught topic.
Giving is a touchy subject. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Perhaps because it is a touchy subject, it doesn’t get taught much — except by televangelists who usually are just after money. And that’s too bad, because giving is a spiritual exercise that is sometimes hard to do right — with the right attitude, at the right time, with the right amount, with the right aim, and with the right heart. Like any other spiritual endeavor, giving has a pattern, and doing it right needs some biblical guidance. May I point a few things out…
- The right time — There are two authorized times to give found in the New Testament. The first is whenever you see a need that you can individually help with (Gal. 6:10). This sort of giving is easy to engage in, we see the results quickly, and multiplied by all of us, it makes an impact. The second is every first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1ff), when we have the opportunity to give as a congregation to things we have decided (with the Lord’s guidance) are important works for our church to be engaged in. Congregational giving allows us to do more than any of us can do individually, but is the sort of giving that we seem to like least — perhaps because we don’t consider the many individual things we are participating in as we give this way. Do you give at all the right times?
- The right heart — There are several wrong attitudes with which we can give: grudgingly, covetously, and reluctantly to name just a few. But the heart of right giving is primarily gladness, joy, and thanksgiving. Some might find it almost inconceivable that the Macedonians begged Paul for the privilege of giving beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:1-5). But this is exactly what joyful, grateful hearts do. A joyful attitude in giving begins with a love a God who has shown us all so much mercy and blessing; and it continues with a love for others, an unselfish desire to help, and a trust in God to provide. The wrong heart of grudging reluctance in giving comes from materialism that always fears that there will not be enough for self. If you’ve never given with gladness, thankfulness, and joy, you don’t know the spiritual growth and happiness that you are robbing yourself of. Do you give with the right heart?
- The right amount — A tithe was the Old Testament standard, but there are two standards for right giving in the New Testament standard — generosity (2 Cor. 8) and “as you have been prospered” (1 Cor. 16:2). Generosity is better and usually exceeds a set percentage, because it doesn’t want to give “until it hurts” but rather “until it feels good” — until it has become a real gift. And “as you have been prospered” recognizes that generosity is measured on a sliding scale: some have more that they can share than others. The New Testament standard seeks a “gift” not a “tax”. Are you giving a generous amount for you?
- The right aim — The aim of giving is never to simply “to give”, even though the mere act of giving actually does us personal good. Nor is the point of giving just to do one’s duty, even though it is a command from God. Unfocused giving is irresponsible stewardship. The main aim of giving is to help the Kingdom, to help the needy, and to glorify God. Paul told Titus, (Titus 3:14) “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” This is why the church leadership works hard at budgeting and crafting a set of ministries that they believe will benefit the church and the lost world. But even in our personal giving, we must aim carefully to meet pressing needs. Is your giving properly aimed?
We don’t speak of giving often, because it sounds like all we’re interested in is money. But this is the time of the year, when our leadership looks at the expenses of continuing the good things that this church does and seeks to work within a budget. And it’s also a good time of year for everyone to remember all the good things that our congregation does and how much you’d like to contribute toward those good things. Let me urge you to give right in 2013, like the first century Macedonians did.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”
It’s all a part of being “A Light to be Seen in 2013”.