Sorry this is late. The other computer compatible with the internet connection crashed, and we have yet to get it fixed. Then we were absent that night on Giving, too. I’m just grateful Mark Aranal didn’t push through with his plan to discuss two topics that night, or we’d have missed both Giving and Work!
So this will now really be about what I learned on my own while doing the Crown Ministries Biblical Financial Studies on Giving, which come right after Honesty.
I think there is no more controversial topic in churches, then and now and maybe until kingdom come (no disrespect intended, but that’s really how it seems) than GIVING. In both Your Money Counts and the Introduction notes of the BFS study manual, Howard Dayton writes:
When the Crusades were being fought during the 12th century, the crusaders employed mercenaries to fight on their behalf. Because it was a religious war, the crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting. As they were being baptized, the mercenaries would hold their swords out of the water to symbolize the one thing in their life that Jesus did not control. They had the freedom to use the swords in anyway they wished.
Today many people handle their money in a similar fashion, though they may not be as obvious about it. They hold their wallet or purse “out of the water,” in effect saying, “God, You can be the Lord of my entire life except for my money. I am perfectly capable of handling that myself.”
I remembered in the late 80s, when I had to buy myself a new wallet. I remember praying over it, asking the Lord to make sure it will never be empty for a need. And I remember the amazement at how God would answer that prayer time and time again. That wallet stayed with me maybe four years.
Lately, because of the strain – emotional, mental and financial – of being an unwilling and unaccepted partner in my father’s rental business, our family budget has been suffering intensely (more on this when I write about Work). And yet, God’s supply keeps popping up in the most unexpected places. For over a week now, we have been living on the edge of going broke. One day, the girls started playing house with piggy banks (we have three). One of them still had money. It was the hardest to open, but this was a time of need. Irl, expecting about P100, found almost P300. Yesterday, I started a more intense search for a missing item (a gift, equivalent to 6 blouses and 2 dresses because it was a convertible top), ending up with reorganizing my drawers (ala Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and I found my old coin purse where the kids had “saved” more coins: P40. And as I was cleaning out my present wallet, I found a nice crisp P50 bill in one of the pockets. Oh, let’s not forget the P70 that got left in the pocket of my over-alls which I hadn’t worn in over a month.
Crown BFS begins with establishing roles in finances: God’s part and our part. Ownership, control and provision are God’s part, faithfulness is ours. In spite of how we’ve been kept on the edge lately, God has not allowed us to go completely broke. We do have stuff that we can sell…if only we can come up with a way to transport it (my old piano needs a new owner). I’ve been taking orders for crochet stuff (just need money for the yarn now). And Irl’s salary will be coming in soon.
So God the Provider continues to supply our needs – at the right time. When Irl started wondering if the money he meant for his family has been going off to pay his father-in-law’s bills, I told him that I had had to use some of the rent money for us, so we were simply paying off a debt. That cleared his face a bit.
So where does giving come in? It hasn’t been easy. We feel bad that we had used the tithe, but as God is my witness, we try to list down what we’ve missed and pay it with the biblically stated requirement for restitution. The way I see it, we’d probably be paying double tithe for the rest of the year to make sure we cover everything.
The tithe. The most controversial word in church. There are those who argue that the tithe was an Old Testament practice, and in the New Testament it isn’t mentioned. That’s not true, of course, because Jesus mentions it in his tirade against the religious hypocrites of his day in Matthew 23:23. Then there are those who say that tithe was “Law” and we are “Under Grace”, forgetting that Abraham and Jacob were giving 10% more than 400 years before the Mosaic Law was given. The only thing the Law did to the tithe was to tell the nation of Israel where to bring it, and for whom it was supposed to be: the Levites, who were not given property in the Promised Land because their portion was service in the Tabernacle, then the Temple. In the all-time pastor’s favorite tithing verse, Malachi 3:10, God mentions that the tithe is “so that there will be enough food in my Temple.” If I may paraphrase this verse:
Ten percent of what I give you is to provide for those whom I have called to work for Me on your behalf. Go on! Test Me: give to my workers, and watch Me flood you with blessings you won’t have room enough for!
I know there are Christians who don’t buy this, not because of God, but because of the unfaithfulness of the leaders. I’ve heard of a church that yearly presents its budget to the congregation, saying how much money had gone to missions, etc. It was all so encouraging for the givers, seeing where they were giving. Until one day, the missionary couple this church claimed to support told me that they were never given anything.
But the fact remains: faithfulness with what God provides is our role. If someone decides to be unfaithful with what God has given him through us, that is their problem. It should not be a reason for us to stop giving.
In this New Testament era, another excuse people give for not giving is the “missionary” set-up. Their thinking seems to go something like this: “They’re missionaries, so they have people supporting them. Why should I give to them?” Paul has a very emphatic answer to this:
Pastors who do their work well should be paid well and should be highly appreciated, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. (1Timothy 5:17 TLB)
What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of its milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was also written for us so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? (1Corinthians 9:7-11 NLT)
Whether or not they have supporters is not the point. You learn from them, you give to them!
More stories come to mind. A couple who lead bible studies was being shown appreciation by the people they teach. They would be taken out to meals, or given thank-you notes with a bill inserted. These the group members did it without coercion, most probably knowing the above admonitions.
One of these members told me that the local church this couple served accused them of soliciting money from their group members. Ironically, the members were the ones who got offended because they had been giving freely and happily. She said the couple has left that church, and that she and her husband decided not to pursue membership in that particular church.
The confusion grows.
Should I go into giving to charity?
Yes, I will. Because it helped me figure out something I’ve wondered for a long time.
In God’s economy, there is more blessing in giving. The more you give, the more you are blessed. Giving the tithe and offering in church is, looking closely, giving to God’s workers. But in Matthew 25:35-45, Jesus was clear: when we give to the poor, we give to Him: “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”
Give to the poor, you give to Jesus. Ignore the poor, refuse to help them, and you are ignoring and refusing to help Jesus.
This opened my eyes to why rich people who give to charity seem to go on getting rich. And some of them seem to have been instilled with the attitude of giving. I remember watching a documentary on the “new princesses”, the daughters of tycoons in the US, and they were ALL involved in giving. They were daughters of extremely rich fathers, and yet they were making their own way instead of just relying on Daddy’s bank account. By setting up their own businesses, they give employment. And they make sure they give to charities.
“Just giving back,” was something they all said.
I don’t know if they are believers in Jesus. My point is that they prove God’s equation: giving brings in more blessing.
Well, they’re rich, you say, I don’t have money to give. I can barely fit the month into my salary, and you’re telling me to give?!
I’m not. GOD IS. Because God knows it is better to give than to receive. Because it’s all His anyway. The parable in Matthew 25 never mentioned money: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned. Barbie’s The Diamond Castle has a part where the two girls were down to their last two sandwiches, and yet Liana gives away her lunch to an obviously poorer woman they come across. A friend I know keeps sandwiches or biscuits in her car to give away to street children who knock on her window.
“That’s how I know they’re real. The syndicate kids won’t take the food,” she told me once.
Yes, she’s quite well-off.
But can you see the freedom God gives us to give? Money isn’t the only thing we can give. And this makes me feel I’m not getting left out. What I have to give away is mostly stuff. Old clothes, old bags…My shoes don’t seem to fit the women here who are about 6 inches shorter than me… People would sometimes give my girls hand-me-downs, and the girls have fun looking at it and deciding who to give them to (they’re tall and thin, so most of the stuff they get don’t fit well). They look at clothes they’ve outgrown, and decide to give it away.
The financially needy aren’t all those we can give to. While hungry, thirsty, and naked usually point to the under-privileged, stranger, sick, and imprisoned do not. Giving up your seat in a crowded bus is a welcome act to a stranger. Helping an old man across the street. Spending a holiday at an orphanage or an old-folks home.
Smiling at that depressed-looking person coming your way.
Point is, we all have something to give. We all can give. Let’s not let the lie that we can only give when we’re rich stop us. God says it’s all His, and He’s rich. If we hoard what He says we should give, we won’t have room to receive what He wants to give us. And that is a great loss.
Because the truth is, God wants us to give, not because He wants us to have less, but actually because He wants us to have more!
Give it up for the Greatest Giving God!!