Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Giving of our resources

A recent post of Aida's, "Giving - Darin Hufford Quotes," along with some of the comments that followed the post, turned my mind to something that I've often thought about but I don't know if I've spent a whole lot of time talking with others about it. When the subject of "giving" is taught in the church today, how much of the teaching is related to giving to a church and/or giving to a ministry? Quite a bit, in my experience! You go into a church and they're talking about giving to their church. You flip on the TV or radio and hear someone from a certain ministry talking about giving, and they're wanting you to believe that God is calling you to give to their ministry.

I'll say from the start that I'm not coming against the idea of people focusing the giving of their resources on supporting the work of a local body of believers (church, building, missions, etc, etc) nor to any other types of ministries - as long as that's truly what's in their hearts to do! My wife and I personally give money to "a church" and to various "ministries," simply because we enjoy being a part of the larger work that's going on and we want to support those works with our resources, when we're able to.

But as long as I've been in the Evangelical church (and I know it extends far beyond my experience), "giving" messages generally aren't preached unless the focus is on getting people to give money to that particular church or ministry... and not so much on giving amongst ourselves to help the needy among us, or to give to help outside of the church where there are many needs as well. Or, if those other things are talked about, the main emphasis still remains giving money for that church or ministry. It's kind of like, "we have to keep this ministry going, so give to us and then if you have money left over, give to others as well." That's not the way it's worded, of course, but isn't that really what's being said?

Aida's comment (I hope you don't mind me sharing this, Aida!) on her blog had something to do with how very often "giving to a church" is equated with giving to God Himself! You're either robbing God, or you're simply not giving Him your best, if a certain portion of your income is not given to a church or ministry. Again, let me be clear that if that's what a person wants to do, then go for it! Even though organized "churches" and "ministries" are not perfect, a lot of great work can come out of the sharing of resources in various ways in these settings, and people may truly enjoy supporting those things.

But when did the emphasis change from giving to people to giving to "a church" or "a ministry." What if I'm really ignoring the prompting of God's love in my heart by giving to my church when there's a homeless man who is in far more need? "Well, just give to your church, and the church will have outreaches that will help the homeless." Nice answer, but what if I truly want to relate personally to the homeless man with my own time and money, but yet the church has taught me to give to IT and to serve IT, and I now have no money or time left to give.

I've been "out of church" for a couple years now. ( I'm not "attending" a church). Some people have wondered out loud to me how I could possibly be 'serving' or 'giving' in the body of Christ, if I'm not focusing my time and money and other resources on a "local church" (the building, the programs, the outreaches, etc). The wonderful thing is that I don't have to answer to anyone... only my heart and my conscience... and all I can say is I'm quite happy to be giving of myself in the ways that I do.

An organized local church is not a "storehouse." Can a local body of believers organize an efficient way to gather together the resources of many and hand it out for the welfare of others? Sure!!! How wonderful it is when that happens! But don't let "a church" or "a ministry" manipulatively rob you of serving others and giving cheerfully from your heart as the love of God compels or directs you! Grow in the grace of giving from your heart... not in the legalistic bondage of giving!


  1. Joel, You make an excellent point. When we give to an organization, we basically disconnect ourselves from the sweetness of giving (knowingly or unknowingly). The organizations such as Red Cross etc is doing a great work, but the issue is, people think giving money to such organization is equivalent to helping the needy in person. Wherever we aren't involved on a personal level, it becomes a 'mechanical' giving and we think that we did our 'duty' of helping the poor or needy.

    When we walk into a nursing home and take care (pray/wash/sing/encourage/buy him his favorite food) of an old person, thats where the beauty of serving lies in. Instead, people prefer to dump a check or some bills into an offering plate or into the mission program of a big organization. In my mind that is escapism, just a way of coping with our guilt. I am not saying there is no value at all in giving to organizations, but what I am saying is, that is NOT a substitute for personal involvement in serving the needy (both in terms of physical need and spiritual need)

  2. Bino, that's so true. It can sometimes be a good thing give to organizations to support a larger work that they're doing, but how often does that keep us from being personally involved in the lives of others?

    You're right... it becomes 'mechanical' and it's not necessarily giving from a heart of love but rather as a duty or as a "should." By trying to keep a 'system' (a church or an organization) alive through telling people they need to devote their resources to it, they're really keeping people from growing in grace, and instead keeping them in bondage.

  3. Let me throw in another aspect of giving that is often overlooked. Most of what Christians give to the local church goes to property, maintenance, and salary. A study I saw a year or two ago indicated that in 2004, only about 15 percent of every dollar given went to external ministries.

    My question is, are you really giving money to God if most of it is spent on church upkeep? The same study said that when they averaged out over 30 different denominations, about 2 cents of every dollar went to foreign missions.

    It's a sad state of affairs for the church. I think God wants us to be good stewards of our money, and that might mean keeping it out of the local church in some cases...

  4. there really are a lot of ways to give.

  5. Oh, WELL SAID, Joel!

    What happens if my tax-deductible giving drops when I give freely to those I see in need around me? Can I handle that? Can my church's budget?

  6. Richard,

    Truly, what you're sharing here is so overlooked in the church today. Those are sad and sobering stats. In theory I'm not against the idea of a church/ministry having a paid staff and a building, etc, since I think a lot of good can (and legitimately has) come out of things like that when led by the Lord and done the right way, but if that's all or most of what the money is used for, then the money has become all about maintaining the ministry itself and not about ministering to others.


    I agree! There are many ways to give, and it's always changing, day by day, moment by moment, person by person.


    Exactly! And you brought up something that I forgot to say in this post that was originally the main reason I sat down to write it! Each of the few times that I've talked with pastor-types about teaching people to give from the heart rather than giving from the so-called 'biblical mandate' to give from your 'firstfruits' to 'a church,' the response has been something like, "But church giving will go down!"

    My thought about that is... "So what!!" I think the person who gives 1% from their heart is giving more than the person who gives 10% out of obligation. Sometimes, doesn't the "system" need to fail in order for "the church" to thrive as it's meant to?!

    And if people are truly taught their identity in Christ, and the fullness of their life in Him, won't numbers and percentages be irrelevant? People will simply give from who they are, as they are able by the life of Christ in them, and God will provide for His children!

  7. Thanks for sharing your heart here Joel. going to mail this to a friend, thanks again.

  8. Cool, Leonard, I hope it helps in some way.