Giving - Part 4

On Tuesday, I tried to argue for a practical reason we don't ask people to give all their contributions to our local church instead of choosing themselves how to invest it in other ministry. Giving directly to a ministry (whether a local church, global church, or para church ministry) allows you and I to be directly involved - we don't need a ministry middle-man. 

Yesterday, I explained why we don't ask our people to only make those contributions to other ministries after they've reached a certain level of giving at our church. That type of request isn't based on a biblical command. It's okay if churches want to request that, but it's important to recognize that the request isn't based on a command. 

The questions become: Do I have to give to my local church at all? And, If so, how much? 

Biblically, as I said yesterday, I can't find a passage that says it is a sin not to give to your local church. However, I think you're foolish not to. If you attend a local church (and there is Biblical exhortation to do that), but refuse to give to it, you're a mooch. 

I knew a girl in college who I would absolutely avoid around lunchtime. She could spot you from a mile away, and 100 percent of the time would ask for a bite of whatever you were eating. If you were drinking a Coke, she would want a drink (which, if you know me, is one of my hugest idiosyncrasies... Kari doesn't even get to drink after me). If you had gum, she wanted a piece. She never purchased anything on her own - she made a living off of a drink here and a bite there of the things everyone else was having. 

If you attend a local church, and don't give to that ministry, you're just like my college acquaintance - benefiting from the church and it's ministries, but constantly expecting someone else to pick up the tab. 

There is a model for giving to your local church in Acts 2:45, although a certain percentage isn't specified. So, the question becomes: how much do I have to give when I do give? 

Answer: Wrong question. 

The commands throughout the New Testament have zero to do with percentage, and everything to do with your heart. God doesn't need your tip, but He wants your heart. 2 Corinthians 8 celebrates the person who gives sacrificially, voluntarily, and cheerfully as a priority - not the believer who meets a certain percentage in order to check-off the next thing on his what-do-I-have-to-do-to-get-by list. 

Rather than asking, "How much do I have to give?" what if we asked "How much am I able to invest in what God is doing in the world so that I can see the same kind of return in someone else's life that has been accomplished in my life?" Someone else invested in you through investing in the ministry that God used to change your life... will that be able to be said in the future of others because of your generosity? 

5 comments:

Kitty said...

Chris,
it must be easier to comment on the state of giving in the church if you are pretty sure it won't affect your salary. Here on the coalface, in a small church (125-150)of first generation immigrants to New Zealand, some of refugee status from Burma, some just escaping the chaos in South Africa, some looking for new opportunities from Malaysia, and many others, we labour as senior pastors. After speaking on giving a few times, in a very similar way to you, my dear husband couldn't bear to see the lion's share of this little churches money go to us and took a job at a call centre to support himself while he pastors this church. I smile at your wisdom. I wonder if you saw the giving go else where and you felt it in a reduction of available funds, would you be so confident. The eye of the needle is uncomfortable.

chloeadele said...

I totally agree that to ask 'how much do I have to give' is the wrong question. It's questions like that that steal the joy out of being a part of God's plan for this world.

I really love that last paragraph.

What about when people say that if it doesn't hurt you in some way, if you're not feeling the pinch and giving sacrifically, then you're not trusting God?

Kara said...

Good thoughts Chris! I agree and loved reading all of it. I won't ask for any change :)

I am a little slow in reading, sorry I am busy with 3 boys.

Chris Freeland said...

Kitty,

Actually, my salary will be affected if people stop giving. I'm a less important cog in the wheel than many other people on staff, but am paid a pastor's salary rather than an administrative assistant's salary. If we hit a significant decrease, I would likely be one of the first to be let go.

And, we do see the giving go elsewhere - that's the beauty of it. Our church members give millions of dollars elsewhere every year. Think of the ministry support I could have if we had those resources at our disposal!

Ministry is not a zero-sum-game when it comes to finances. God's resources are unlimited and always finds a way to take care of people who are obedient to Him. Sometimes that's through a call center, and sometimes it's through people finding money they didn't know they could give. Ultimately, it's as much a theological issue as a philosophical one. You get to find out pretty quickly the size of your God!

Chris Freeland said...

Lisa,

I've never been on for the masochistic God idea. Lots of times, that kind of preaching as a dark underbelly in which pastors are just trying to milk every last penny from their congregation, and that giving becomes giving under compulsion.

Giving is often sacrificial, and should be. But there's a balance between giving sacrificially and being a wise steward of what God has given you to provide for your everyday needs as well.