Question: When was the last time you talked with someone about your giving?
Yeah, me too…
It seems we talk with our brothers and sisters about many aspects of our lives – our personal righteousness, purity, evangelism, Bible study, prayer, relationships, family, work, school, and more. However, money in general and giving in particular are frequently untouched.
That disconnect leaves us vulnerable to the temptations of greed and deceit, with the result that our giving can be inconsistent and ungenerous, which doesn’t glorify God.
Perhaps we misunderstand the instruction in Matthew 6:3, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”. But Jesus’ command isn’t about our being open about our giving; it’s about giving with the wrong motive (to be seen by others). One has to wonder: Had the hypocrites been open about their giving plans, would they have seen their error and been spared Jesus’ condemnation?
In fact, the New Testament passages on giving are examples of seeking and following advice. Most prominent is 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, were Paul addresses “the collection for the Lord’s people”, a reference to a worldwide collection to support the poor disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17). It appears that, in an unknown letter to Paul, the Corinthians asked for guidance on how to handle this collection, and 1 Corinthians 16 provides his response. His advice can be summarized in four steps:
1. Follow the pattern. Paul instructs the Corinthians to “Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.” In turn, he uses the Corinthians as an example for the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 9:2), and then he uses both the Corinthians and Macedonians as examples to the Roman disciples (Romans 15:26). The insight we gain from these passages is that the early church had a practice around giving that every congregation and every disciple were encouraged to follow.
Ask yourself: Am I following the Scriptural example, or do I do my own thing? Do I look to the Scriptures when I decide what and how I will give?
2.Budget your income. What we give should reflect what we’re given, with the same generosity that God gives it to us. Since our incomes tend to be constant week-to-week, our spending (including giving) should be constant as well. The only way to make this generous and consistent is to have a household budget and to be disciplined to follow it.
Ask yourself: Do I have a budget, live within my means, and seek input on my finances? If I’m in financial trouble, have I gotten spiritual (in addition to financial) help with this?
3.Set aside your contribution weekly. Paul’s desire was to avoid a collection when he arrived in Corinth at some unknown future date. Perhaps this was because he knew that if the Corinthians waited for his arrival they might be tempted to spend these funds on other things?
Ask yourself: When I miss a Sunday service, do I make up my contribution? Setting an automated transfer on our e-giving platform is one way to avoid a miss, but the real issue is how you think about your giving. Is it yours, or is it God’s?
4. Make it your responsibility. Paul tells the Corinthians to appoint representatives to accompany their collection to Jerusalem. Paul’s intent was that each church should feel responsible for what happened with its gift, and in doing so would feel confident about how that gift was used (to support the poor).
Ask yourself: Do I understand how my giving is used to advance the gospel and meet the needs of the poor? Do I feel a personal responsibility for this, or do I expect others to shoulder that responsibility?
The openness the Corinthian disciples had about their giving gave them the chance to be connected to their brothers around the world – disciples working together to further the mission of Christ. As we strive to be more connected in 2017 let’s make sure our giving is a part of that connection.