When the subject of money is brought up in the local church people get antsy. Money and giving have become bad words inside and outside the church. What got me thinking about this subject was a post by Tim Challies called “How Much Money Am I Supposed to Give Away?”
Christians shouldn’t shy away from the matter of money and giving. Jesus talks about money on a continual basis in the gospels. Paul talks about money regularly in his letters. James talks about generosity. The Old Testament prophets talk about justice, money, and generosity.
Why are we so afraid to bring up the money conversation?
I want to talk about creating a culture where giving and living generous lives is a normal part of being a disciple of Jesus. Here’s three things I think will move us in the right direction:
1. Stop treating money as a dirty word.
One of the best decisions (I think), we made as a new church plant, was to ensure that we talked about money consistently. That may sound backwards when you’re trying to reach people far from God. But, when we began meeting with interested people we talked about money and giving in natural ways. We knew that if we tried to backdoor the money conversation that later in the life of the church it would be much harder.
We talk about giving every Sunday when we take our offering. We talk about the joy of giving in our membership class. We talk about giving and money in normal and natural ways. As a result, we’re finding that our giving is quite good for a young, small church.
2. Motivate people towards generosity with the gospel.
I’m astounded at how many churches try to motivate people towards generosity with guilt, shame, and condemnation. The gospel is a perfect motivator. Remember how Paul motivates people in 1 Corinthians 8:9? Jesus becomes poor so that we could be rich in Him.
When we see God stoop down from heaven to redeem people who are undeserving, and He gives them every spiritual blessing in Christ, our only response is a life of generosity. Motivate people with God Himself.
3. Give until it hurts.
The tithe of the Old Testament does not apply directly to the New Testament way of understanding giving. Paul explains that we are to give generously, sacrificially, and joyfully (1 Cor. 8-9). In reality, if we gave from an Old Testament paradigm we would probably give more than 10% of our income away, closer to 30%. A tithe is a good start.
I suggest a better model for giving: give until it affects your lifestyle. Paul calls us to give sacrificially, that means giving that costs us something. If a tithe doesn’t cost you anything, give more. If it costs you too much, and causes financial troubles, give less.
Give enough away that you actually have to trust God with your finances. Give enough away that you are demonstrating that God’s Kingdom is greater than your kingdom.
The local church needs to give sacrificially as well. Set aside monies to give away for benevolence, church planting, global missions, community development, and other needs in the community. Give enough as a local church that you feel it and it compels you to walk in faith. Giving sacrificially will cause you to be better stewards of the money God has entrusted to you.
If we take an inventory of our wallets, ledgers, and software programs, where does it point? Does it point us to God’s kingdom or a different one?
Don’t be afraid to talk about giving, money, and generosity in the church. Jesus isn’t afraid, nor should you be.