Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thoughts on generosity prompted by Philippians and the Macedonians

I'm finishing Philippians tomorrow and have come Paul's thanks to the Philippians for their generous giving.

I think a lot about this issue of giving of our finances. I worry for the church in the U.S. because I think we are largely given over to materialism and really do not know what sacrificial giving is. I think our churches give a lot of money to support ministry, but not a lot of what we actually have. Giving "a lot" is relative to the rest of the church the world over. We give from our excess rather than our main supply...I'm guessing. Really, why does an economic crisis in the U.S. hurt ministries and missionaries? I think it's because people are worried about their net worth and savings, so they tighten up the purse strings starting with their giving to these entities. They don't necessarily take less vacations or cut back in various household expense categories, rather they scale back giving. This is just my opinion based on conversation and watching general giving trends in churches and among missionary friends. What about suspending regular contributions to our retirement accounts in tough times and raising the money we give to ministries? I would think tough times would require ministries to do more work, so they'll need more resources.

I am struck by what Paul says about the Macedonian Christians-

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

The Macedonian Christians gave from their poverty...begging to give to the cause of Christ. Come on now, how many of us give to ministry at the expense of something we normally do or buy? I fear we are slaves to our stuff and "security". I know I struggle to give sacrificially. Do you? Something is amiss in the church today. Is it too simple to say we are given over to materialism?

James Boice suggested something provocative but nevertheless wise-

"From my own observation of the various patterns of Christian giving today I believe one of the best things that could happen to many believers would be for them to be led to give away, all at one time, a substantial part of their savings. Why? Because there is something about giving away a sizable percentage of one's money that is spiritually invigorating. The Christian is thrown back on the Lord and learns that he is more than able to care for the one who trusts him. I have seen this happen in many instances. I have never known true Christians to be sorry for even the most sacrificial giving afterward."


Associated with said...

Very good article on giving. I am still meditating on, " We give from our excess rather than our main supply..."

Jim said...

Yeah, I agree. I think the U.S. church should think of itself as the breadbasket of world Christianity, with a massive outflow of capital for mission, ministry, and mercy.

That said, I wonder how much modesty is induced by what churches spend their money on - particularly in the building/mortgage area, or by the lack of transparency in the church budget, or in pseudo-ministries.

I hear pastors talk a lot about the obligation of the flock to give (an obligation I happily accept and receive). I hear a lot less talk about the obligation of churches to spend responsibly.

And just to be clear, I think pastors should be materially well rewarded for preaching the gospel (a la 1 Co 9.14, 1 Tm 5.17).

Reepicheep said...

Agreed Jim. Total financial transparency should be the rule for churches.

Woody Woodward said...

Dear Pastor, sorry we were not there Sunday to hear your last outstanding exegesis in Philippians. But as I was preparing for this week’s HFG group, looking over the Scritpures and reading the Sermon Notes on these last few powerful verses, talk about providential timing! Cheri and I took a Net Flix DVD with us and while we were in Branson we viewed the amazing story of the early 19th century Circuit Riding Preacher who lived the life of giving Paul. It was produced by Bob Jones University so the acting wasn’t great but the story was profound. Have you ever heard of the itinerate Preacher, Robert Sheffey? When he came to faith, he gave it all up and invested the rest of his life, riding horseback all over the Appalachians mountains. I had never heard of him before, but when your sermon was brought before me, immediately Paul’s life of sacrificial giving was exemplified in this brave warrior for Christ.