We’re on the home stretch in our series on giving, having looked at the Practice, the Perspective, and the Big picture.
We’ll wrap it up by looking at some of the promises that God makes in regards to giving and then consider some problems that come up when we talk about giving.
As the bible makes clear and as Christians throughout the ages have known, God blesses our obedience. Sometimes it is in direct correlation and other times the relationship between cause and effect is hidden. Sometimes the blessing of obeying God in your finances is not reflected in your finances just as obeying God in your job is not always reflected in career progress. When it comes to giving money (or really anything), the adage “you cannot out give God” points us to his incredible generosity and his desire to encourage us in obedience. There is all sorts of teaching out there that distorts this basic principle of God blessing our obedience, but misuse does not negate the truth. In the following passage I see such a balanced picture of God blessing our obedience without promising ease or exact returns.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
The great and final goal of eternal life, found in God himself, is weighed against our own preoccupation with somehow coming out on top. Even when God says he is going to bless our efforts in obeying him, he knows how quickly we can distort it helps us maintain a right perspective.
Another passage that comes to mind is from 2 Cor 9, which I often cite when I write thank you notes to those who have supported our ministry financially. Reflecting on this passage leads me to pray that those who give will be supplied with even more resources to wisely use and that ultimately God will receive all the credit. Below is this amazing section where the promise of God’s blessing on generosity fit right alongside a heartfelt and purposeful commitment to giving.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-12.
It is possible to go on and on, looking both in the bible and through the history of the church to see how God rewards us as we follow his ways. Again, it is not simply for the reward that we obey, but I know that I can use every encouragement that God gives as I strive to love him.
Problems: (These are twenty reasons people do not give. I came across this list in some materials from MNA, our denominational office that oversees church planting and similar works in North America.)
1. They do not grasp the vision.
2. They don’t know what is going on with the leadership.
3. They don’t understand the connection between money and faith.
4. They see other needs that are more compelling.
5. No one asks them.
6. No one says “Thank You” when they do.
7. No one explains what happened to the money they gave before.
8. No one asks their opinion about how their money should be used.
9. They aren’t sure the church is “worthy”.
10. They have too much debt.
11. They don’t understand the tax implications.
12. They don’t know who to call for advice.
13. Too many requests are made for specific projects.
14. Too many appeals come in the mail.
15. They only give when they attend.
16. They pay all their bills online.
17. They lack the spiritual commitment.
18. They don’t believe their gift will make a difference.
19. They don’t hear stories from others who have given.
20. The pastor didn’t ask.
I think this is a great list and covers so much. As I look at these different reasons why people don’t give three are some things which I cannot change (i.e. how many appeals come in the mail) but for most of these three central solutions come to mind.
It is the responsibility of leaders ask people to give, to tell people where they are headed, specific and general plans, the difference that contributions make, and describe in some ways the effectiveness of the ministry that is being supported. On the other hand, people who are reluctant to give because of unanswered questions should ask.
Money is an excellent motivator to do the things we should already be doing. Leaders should lead regardless of the financial consequences. People should ask questions about direction and use of resources because they want to see God’s kingdom come. If someone is concerned about the church’s use of resources they should not “vote with their pocketbook” or “vote with their feet” but see themselves as part of God’s solution to the problem. Again, the more exacerbated a problem becomes the more significant the response is required, but these are the minority of the cases.
So many of the above problems can be addressed by straightforward teaching on money in general and giving in particular. This is different than the ongoing communication of vision or maybe a semi-annual review of how money is being spent and how this fulfills the church’s mission. In my mind at least numbers #3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15, 17 will be significantly helped by straightforward teaching from the bible on giving.
3. Time and Maturity
Some of the issues listed above will only change in the course of months, years, or even decades. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile and necessary process. Christian leaders and individuals must do all that they can to move towards honoring God in every area of life. This means repeated communication, repeated teaching, and the patience to wait on God for the maturation of others and to seek God for our own growth and renewal.
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