Earlier this year our Congressman invited me to attend a small roundtable meeting with several other pastors from our town. Someone asked him, “What do you like least about being in Congress?” His answer surprised me. “Fundraising,” he answered. He has to make calls every day to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a campaign every two years. “I hate asking people for money.”
There was a time when I felt much the same about taking an offering at church. It felt like fundraising and I often shied away from being direct in the appeal. What a mistake! There are preachers who love the money, who make false promises to get their hands on people’s money to enrich themselves. Some use gimmicks and gifts to entice more contributions; prayer clothes, water from the Holy Land, trinkets, ‘insider clubs’ for big donors, and the like. Those were the things I despised!
True giving is an act of worship, a decision of stewardship, and an investment – all at the same time. A person who understands the grace of God, who has experienced His love, forgiveness, and acceptance in a transformative way, will become a giver because God is a Giver, a Generous One. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, Who brings order from chaos, is reflected in us when we become masters of our resources. A Christian who says he cannot afford to give is actually saying that he has not learned to trust God as his resource and/or that he is unwilling to live within his means. Jesus was near the treasury of the Temple with his disciples. As they passed by, they saw wealthy men dropping large sums of money into the offering. The coins (there was no paper money then) hit the receptacles with a clang, announcing the ‘generosity’ of those donors. “He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.” (Luke 21:2-3, NIV) Her tiny offering barely made a sound as it fell into the coffers, but God noted it. Why? Because she was generous in proportion to her resources and, implicitly, she was full of faith in God’s provision.
Could it be that many of us live with a sense of need because we have not learned faithfulness with what we have? Jesus says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12, NIV)
I don’t buy the notion that giving to God obligates Him to make me rich. But, I am convinced that consistent, generous, proportionate giving creates the kind of life that God can trust with greater blessings. One of the principles Jesus taught says it clearly: “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:38, The Message) Giving our money is just a start. When we have learned to give that way, we also become generous with our time, our love, and our forgiveness.
In the longest sermon recorded in the Gospel, Jesus’ discussion of Kingdom life that we nickname the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), about a fourth of the material is about giving and money! He reminds us to invest in eternity because life is brief and piles of treasure we accumulate here are left behind but what we send ahead is never lost. He tells us that we must become the master of our money or it will enslave us. He says that all our anxiety about the future is a fool’s game and that when we trust God, not just emotionally but with ALL we are and ALL we have, we find unshakeable security.
There is no reluctance in me anymore about ‘taking an offering’ as part of Pastoral leadership. God does not need my money or yours, but when we give, we become His partners in feeding the hungry, teaching the Kingdom, and pointing the Way to the Light for those who are in the dark. We honor Him when we give and that is our basic reason for existence – to love and serve God.
Here’s the word from the Word – “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9, NLT)