The joy of giving

When I was a kid, I recall it being somewhat exciting and fun to drop a couple coins in the offering plate at church.

Now it’s not so interesting. Most churches I’ve been to seem to have an undue focus on money; certainly there should be some focus, as the Apostle Paul directed the Corinthians to give according to their determination and set that aside to help the saints in Jerusalem who were in need. Certainly running a church costs money – pastors need to be recompensed for their work, utilities need to be paid, maintenance done on the building(s), etc.

And of course we should be funding the expansion of the Kingdom of God across the world through missionaries, translation work, helping those in need, etc.

But why is it that giving is such a focus in so many churches? Is it because the people in the church don’t feel a need to help others, and need to be constantly reminded? Is it because there’s a focus on 10% as a Biblical minimum, and then more should be given on top of that?

What happened to the phrasing of Paul to the Corinthians? “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.” “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 8:8 & 9:7)

Go back and read the rest of those two chapters. Paul is commending the saints of Macedonia in their generosity as a spur to the Corinthians to keep to their commitment to the Jerusalem church.

2 Cor 9:10-11 (“Now 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 everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.”) is often used as a spur for people to give to the church – almost as a get-rich-quick scheme by the church’s leaders, ‘give to us, and God will give you more’. But that quote is taken out of the context of the larger flow of Paul’s direction and commendation on giving.

Of course, not every church is like this. And even fewer pastors.

But I want to know why the views of so many church-goers that I have met is that the gospel is a thin cover for asking for more money.

Is it true that people don’t like giving from their funds/time/things/skills? Based on reports that periodically are published in newspapers, Americans are the most generous people on the planet – as a per capita view of donations. Do people make donations just to get the tax break? Certainly some people do that – why else would you ask for a receipt from Goodwill when dropping-off clothes?

What should be the REAL incentive to the Christian’s giving? Should it be that we want to put things down on our spiritual balance sheet that God will notice, and maybe bump-up our spot in heaven from near the noisy ice machine? Should it be because we expect to see a physical return on that investment – such as if we put in $20 this Sunday, we’ll find $50 on the sidewalk? Should we be looking to have the best church building in the county? The best music group? State-of-the-art computer equipment to simulcast sermons across the world?

Or should we be giving of our means because that’s what God did when He saved us by sending His Son? Should we be taking from our time, money, and effort to try to reach the lost? I won’t give to support anything that isn’t directly related to reaching more sinners.

If they are being used for activities that aren’t in line with reaching the lost, then I can spend that time/money/energy better elsewhere.

But if they’re going directly to reaching sinners, I’ll participate every chance I get.