Passing the Plate (Part 4)

My fourth entry on the subject of Christian giving and fundraising…

Committed to Scripture?

As Evangelicals we are proud of our commitment to Scripture.

We speak of it often.  We sing hymns proclaiming it.  Many a sermon has been preached on it.  And we are quick to note that it is the thing that separates us from the “liberals” within Christianity.  Yet I wonder, are we are as committed as we claim to be?  I have, if only briefly, addressed the question of Christian fundraising; now I would like to say something about the nature of our giving.

 

There are ways to determine what a man values.  “Follow the money”, advised Bob Woodward’s shadowy informant in All the President’s Men, the bestselling book-cum-movie dramatizing the Watergate incident.  It is good advice.  What would a pie chart of your finances reveal about you?  With a downturn in the economy, it has become easier to see what people do and do not value.

The fact is, few of us really value ministry.  I am continually amazed by the number of people who will think nothing of buying a new flat screen television, a bass boat, or spending lavishly on a wedding, but would never consider making a substantive investment in their own spiritual lives.  Rather than laying up treasures in heaven, we frequently have only the temporal in mind.

Now lest I give you the wrong impression, I am not arguing that we all adopt ascetic lifestyles.  There is nothing wrong with a Mercedes Benz or a vacation home per se.  The issue is more nuanced than that.  It is a question of the heart.  How do you view that which the Lord has entrusted to you?  As objects of worship or things with which to minister to others?  Is there a baseline percentage of your earnings that you will always give to the Lord’s work?  When push comes to shove, which is first to go, the satellite dish or your giving?  Support for the missionary or the season tickets?

I am also thinking of those people I know who are engaged in effective ministries [1], but who find the quest for support a demoralizing experience.  “Where God leads, He supplies,” many will say to them—usually those who do not provide any supplies.  While such a que sera sera attitude may be of comfort to the speaker, it is of little comfort to the missionary.  It also happens to be unbiblical.  That’s prosperity gospel speaking.

It is not my purpose here to put a “guilt trip” on any readers of this article.  It is, rather, to restore to you the joy of Christian giving.  Consider your spending.  Then consider the needs around you that you might meet.  As I have already stated, giving is to be a voluntary act.  God does not impose taxes on the faithful as some might wish.  If you give in an embittered manner, stop it—the giving, I mean.  It does you no good and I can almost guarantee that the recipient(s) finds you a burden.  Give cheerfully (I Corinthians 9:7) as one who recognizes what has been given to him in the person of Jesus Christ.  If you truly understand from what you have been saved, a joyful heart will give way to generosity.

Next time you see a need, take steps to meet it whether you get a tax deduction or not.   God will count it to your favor even if the government doesn’t.  Never give with the expectation of getting something in return.  Give only with the expectation that those receiving it use it wisely.  To do otherwise is not giving.  It is buying.  Whenever possible, give anonymously or, barring that, without fanfare.  And finally, invest in ministerial excellence, not ministerial mediocrity.

As you consider a course of action, use this simple principle: “Follow the money.”  Or, as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

> Read Part 5 of 5

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[1] I say effective ministries to underscore a controversial truth: not every ministerial endeavor should be supported.  Many of those in ministry, however sincere they might be, perform an unnecessary function or lack the requisite gifts, work ethic, or clarity of purpose to fulfill their mission.  Put your “talents” with those who will not bury them. (See Matthew 25:14-28.)

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