Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Questions About Giving

For those of you who attended our services last Sunday, you know that we re-introduced the feature where people in the audience could text-message in their questions after the sermon for a short Q&A.  We haven't tried the text-message questions in a while, but when we know that we will be preaching on a topic that stirs a lot of interest and passionate debate, we want to make this feature available.  As I mentioned last week on my blog, I preached on money last Sunday and took questions after each service.  We received 5 questions after first service and 11 after second service.  Because I couldn't answer them all during the short Q&A session on Sunday, I wanted to answer a few of the questions here on my blog.  Here were three questions that I thought were very thought provoking...

Question #1: We are considering purchasing a new home.  It is not a necessity, but we do feel like we could use the extra space.  Obviously, this purchase will require us to spend extra money that we could give away.  How do you know when spending money on non-necessities is okay and when it is sinful/greedy?  This is a great question because it is a question that we all face every day - how do we know if it is okay to spend money on stuff that we don't really need but that we just want to buy?  I think two principles are in play in this discussion.  First, we need to make sure that giving is first in our budget before we make these kind of decisions.  If we can't give as we sense God is leading us to give because of our spending too much (like on a new house), then we should reconsider.  However, if we pray about how much our family should give away, we give that money away first in our budget, and we still have the margin left in our budget to get the new house, then we can probably move forward.  This leads to the second principle - don't make large purchases in isolation.  Buying a new house is a much bigger decision than buying a new pair of jeans.  When we are making large financial decisions, we need to make sure that we are getting good counsel from others around us who are wise financial stewards.  We tend to do this with every other decision that we make, but for some reason, we don't seek good counsel on financial purchases.  God's Word shows us that we need to find the counsel of the wise if we want to be wise - especially when it comes to how we handle money.

Question #2: I disagree with one of the points in your sermon about God not needing our money.  Without our money, there could be no church, and without the church, how could you reach people?  This is another great question, and one that I am glad to have the chance to respond to in detail.  In my sermon, I made the point from Psalm 50:9-12 that God doesn't ask us to give because he needs our money, but rather because he wants our hearts.  The Scripture says that God owns everything anyway, so we are, theologically speaking, simply giving God back His own stuff.  That being said, the question does raise the tension of how would the church operate without our giving.  Two answers to this important question - first, though God doesn't need the money we give (He can work without our resources), He does choose to use our giving in other people's lives.  In my mind, this is another evidence of God's amazing grace - the fact that my giving not only changes my heart, but can be used by God to impact another life as well.  Second of all, the question assumes that God needs the American form of church (large worship gatherings in public places with professional ministers) in order to reach people.  In fact, in many places in the world, God is using small house churches without professional clergy to rapidly take the gospel to millions of people.  In other words, God shows us globally that His Spirit can move even when great financial resources are not available.  In fact, I would argue historically that God's Spirit moves in the most profound ways among the poor.

Question #3: In the Old Testament, the Bible teaches that we should bring the whole tithe to the church, but in the NT, aren't we free to give the tithe to other places besides the church if it is helping to fulfill our mission?  If we are still giving to God, does it really matter where it goes?  Another great and common question that I encounter.  As I said on Sunday morning, I believe that we are under grace in the New Testament, and we have freedom to follow the Holy Spirit in our giving.  I don't believe that we are limit our giving to 10%, and that our giving should only be given to the local church.  I don't read the Bible to teach that the local church is the same as the "storehouse" referenced in Malachi 3, for example.  The people of the Old Testament were told very specifically what to do with their tithe, but I believe that we have freedom to follow the Spirit in our giving as NT believers.  This means that we can give to our local church, our local pregnancy center, our local college ministry, and missionaries around the world.  However, I would caution in one area.  The NT speaks of the fact that we should support those who teach us the Bible and feed us spiritually (see 1 Timothy 5:16-18), so I believe that we should be giving regularly and generously to the local congregation that is supporting us and equipping us in our walk with Christ.  In fact, one the blessings of being part of a community of faith and giving regularly to that local congregation is that you can be confident that your giving is supporting that local church and other ministries in the city and around the world that your local church is supporting.  In this way, giving to a local church is a very powerful way to impact the world for the cause of Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for thus post, Keith. We can't be there in body, but are following this series online. This is an area where we have struggled and need wisdom - and wise council.