Believers and Giving - Part 1
What part in giving of finances do individual believers have?
The sharing of financial resources by believers is not a rote matter of the tithe and offering scheme of the Old Covenant. It is rather a sharing of one’s surplus beyond their needs with those who lack resources to meet their basic needs. For more a detailed biblical information on the problem with "Tithing and Clergy Salaries," Frank Viola and George Barna have done an excellent job in Chapter 8, in Pagan Christianity? Click here to read the chapter.
We are to give from our abundance, not some percentage formula, and certainly not to aspire to achieve some standard of virtue. God rarely asks us to give at the expense of our own basic needs. For those with families, any such giving at the expense of the needs of those we are responsible for is tantamount to irresponsibility.
1 Timothy 5:8
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
What about the widow who gave her last 2 coins?
Picture by James Tissot
1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
This was not giving that left her starving. Poverty is used here as meaning having nothing beyond basic survival needs of food, shelter and clothing.
According to Jewish Law, this widow was entitled to daily provision from the temple storehouse. Many such widows either had inherited a place to live or would actually find housing for the evening in the outer temple courts, as was the case in Eli’s time. When they were not occupied in the pious activities of fasting and prayer, many would earn meager funds as day-workers or provide service to the myriads of Levites or priests needing simple things to be done such as sewing of temple garment or other such needs. It is probably from some such activity as this that this widow received these two small copper coins. The message is not one of sacrificial giving from basic needs, but a renouncing of other desired comforts to express worship of the Lord.
The issue in all cases is whether a person is living for the comforts afforded in the extras or if they have a genuine regard and love for those who need help. This is merely a part of Jesus second command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Compare mere obedience to the law with a practiced community love for brethren.
Under this scheme, the wealthy have great excess and get most of their tithe back as income tax reduction; the average person has much less expendable income but carries the major burden for total institutional maintenance; and the poor must depend upon welfare to make up for his/her family’s needs. The poor are often fleeced into believing that they too must tithe to be virtuous. Often their giving drives them further into welfare while their giving is used to support paid professionals who live as the rich.
With love of brethren as the driving principle for Kingdom provision, believers share from their abundance with those who are in need. None of these resources are bled off with institutional needs. Additionally, the full gamut of giftedness is brought to bare on the needy so that it is not just a redistribution of money from rich to poor (as in communism or socialism) but all the care and love of family, arming the needy with tools for supplying their own needs and joining in to help others who may be in need. Interestingly, it is the poor person who has the most winnable social matrix for growing the body. It is vital that the whole concept of giftedness and community love be taught at this level so that it is not perceived as yet another welfare endeavor.
Not only the rich, but the average person and the poor are susceptible to love of money (mammon) by overspending to satiate desires of wants, above and beyond the necessities of life. This is an example of Proverbs 13:7, “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth."
How can one justify a misappropriation of finances by taking out loans and credit lines to pay for vacations, expensive cars, clothes, and toys, while neglecting the basic needs to pay rent, food or utilities?
Abusive stewardship leads to poverty, and it's intentionally caused by greed. Such behaviors should not be rewarded or enabled for further abuse. Instead, the Body ought to educate reasonable budgeting disciplines, in order to empower a character of godly stewardship to provide for their own families, pay off any debt, and be able to give to those in need from their abundance. One might say, “I need help to pay for food,” yet at the same time enjoy vacations or toys as a means to “escape” from the real problems of life. Living off of credit cards (with the exception to pay for an emergency need when one is out of work), in order to acquire fun and abundance is greed, especially when there is no expectation to pay back what is owed without having to pay interest.
Giving to others in need is also not to be a form of welfare. The Word clearly forbids providing welfare to freeloaders.
2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12
10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
The arbitrary assumption that giving money to causes or needs is somehow virtuous is errant. Such thinking is exactly how big givers make it to the top in the institutional church. The wealthy are able to claim most of those spots, but those who give “sacrificially” and often to the detriment of their own families are subtlely sucked into the same quid pro quo mammon practiced by the rich.
Contributing and generosity, like all spiritual gifts, are to the glory of Jesus and not to bolster a person’s sense of virtue. As much as possible, Jesus emphasized the need that all such operations were to be done in secret. This was to safeguard the glory for Jesus and express communal love and care for the needy.
Among Christians who legalistically follow the “sacrificial giving” scheme taught in institutional churches are a host of family members recalling themselves as going without or being profiled as boarder-line welfare children because their parent or parents put the needs of everyone else ahead of their own family.
Contributing and generosity is a specific spiritual gift given to those with means and not a virtue to be sought by those without means.
God has gifted the body with a plethora of other gifts that equally show obedience and minister to those in need. Even if a person does not have an abundance of money, there are other gifts God will use that are just as significant. They too ought to be developed and used to the fullest extent possible.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Click here for "Believers and Giving - Part 2"