by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Within each faith journey, Christian or otherwise, there can be found one of the last strongholds of self-indulgence and self-serving pride; better known as the wallet. The Bible tells is Jesus speaking often about the subject of money.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24
In the above quoted scripture Jesus purportedly reminds all believers they cannot serve God and mammon (money). The word “mammon” was the common Aramaic word for riches and it signifies “that which is to be trusted.” In other words, either money is our source of joy, our sense of security, the supplier of our needs — or God is.
Imagine for just a moment a young gymnast readying herself to enter an arena filled with people. She has trained for years just for this very moment. Her heart is pounding with a combination of nerves and anxious anticipation. Her area of expertise involves a ten foot long apparatus called the balance beam. It is a four foot high and four inches wide piece of polished hardwood. As she mounts the balance beam she proceeds through her demonstration of athletic prowess she will be judged on a combination of things such as; power, poise, flexibility, accuracy, and balance. The church as a whole currently finds itself in a similar situation regarding the area of stewardship.
Far too many churches find themselves in a loosing battle when it comes to the power, poise, flexibility, accuracy, and balance of effective stewardship. Much of that difficulty lies directly at the heart of who we actually are as Christian believers, as well as the “why” and “how” we give at all. It is foundationally why we give rather than what we give that makes all the difference.
In addition to a “cheerful heart” each Christian should judge their giving through the following evaluators.
- Our giving should be a systematic and purposeful giving to the church where we fellowship (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
- It should be in response to need (see Acts 11: 27-29).
- It should be sacrificial (see Galatians 2:10), and should be done in secret with a humble heart (see Matthew 6:1-4).
It is a key to spiritual fruit (see Luke 16:10-11).
10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
In the New Testament of the Bible there is a series of verses within the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians that speaks directly to this challenging area of both church life and the spiritual growth of the individual believer. These first 9 verses open the door to distinct understanding concerning the…what…how…and why we give to God’s kingdom.
8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
The following are seven principles of Christian giving that will hopefully speak to our hearts and minds on this subject. As you review each of these important biblical categories supporting the spiritual understanding and the practical application of giving I would encourage you to prayerfully asses whether or not you are fulfilling each of these biblical guidelines.
1. Giving is an act of grace (v.1). A person cannot be generous apart from God working in their heart. We are by nature self-seeking. Christian giving flows from the heart, the outward expression of an inward love toward Christ for His full and free salvation.
2. Giving has very little to do with your prosperity and very much to do with your joy and gratitude (v. 2-3). Our attitude in giving is crucial. Christian giving does not depend on material circumstances so much as spiritual convictions. When trials come, many believers shrivel up and become embittered. It is an unfortunate fact that ungrateful people give little. Joyful people who are filled with gratitude on the other hand give much.
3. We are sometimes called to give beyond what we are currently able to give comfortably. However, the moment any of us feels the “burden of giving” as a coercion perpetrated by leadership the giving process itself becomes problematic…even caustic. The moment giving becomes an on-going burden or a perceived “forced obligation” it removes itself from the category of Christian giving (v. 3-4). Far too many church leaders (lay or clergy) have a well earned reputation for taking your money through coercion, guilt, false need or outright bullying. Church leaders need to back off and find God’s method of helping people find the grace of giving. People need to discover that the foundation of all Christian giving begins and is sustained through a heart full of joy. The last thing that should ever be emphasized in Christian giving is what you are suppose to give or how it “has to be” accomplished.
4. Giving is an act of devotion to the Lord (v. 5). We place ourselves in the offering plate first, then our money. Every time that we give, our giving should be an act of devotion to our Lord.
5. Giving freely and abundantly is a Christian virtue that we should grow in and even excel in. The Corinthians were empowered with many spiritual blessings and Paul urged them to have also the grace of giving. For us to profess to be spiritually blessed, and yet not give faithfully to the Lord in giving, is to deny what we initially proclaimed. It says in verse 7,
But just as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
6. Giving is a thermometer of our love for God (v.8) Giving is an expression of love: The way a believer spends money is perhaps the clearest indication — perhaps like a thermometer — of the heart’s spiritual condition. It’s a statistical fact that while typical church members directed less than $20 a year to their churches for global outreach during the early 1990s, those same church members were spending $164 per capita on soft drinks, $657 on eating out, and more than $1,000 on recreation.
7. Giving is an expression of imitating Jesus (v. 9). Jesus was an extremely poor man. Born and reared in obscurity, He worked as a carpenter in a poverty-stricken and despised village that bore the scorn of men as they asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Jesus began His public ministry at the Jordan River with no organization to support Him and no patrons to enrich Him. He preached without price and performed miracles for which He received no money. He even had to borrow a small coin when He needed one to make a simple illustration (Matthew 22:19).
Our giving is first and foremost an act of thanksgiving and grace. It is balanced directly upon the gift of Christ JUST FOR YOU. Just like the girl on the balance beam event, we too should remember to keep our balance centered on the challenge that is before us. Just like the gymnast we would be better served to recall that our arrival at this very moment of judgment was not accomplished on our own. It was based on someone else’s efforts and sacrifices on our behalf.
Yes, you had to do what was necessary to prepare yourself but without your parents driving you…feeding you… encouraging you…sustaining you…disciplining you…loving you through your failures… paying the price for the coaching…the clothes… the travel, etc., you would not have had this opportunity. The same can easily be said for the personal joy of knowing what God… THROUGH CHRIST… has done for you and the privilege you now have in sharing that joy with others. There are certainly many ways of sharing the joy of Christ but systematic and cheerful giving should never be an after-thought but rather a high priority in any Journey of Faith.
When it comes to SYSTEMATIC GIVING each person’s attitude makes all the difference. Get the “joy thing” right and everything else will easily take care of itself.