Thursday, July 12, 2007

It’s all in my motive!

Flipping channels the other night I dropped in on a ‘televangelist’ making his plea for money. He made lots of promises about the prosperity of those who sent in their cash. Keeping in mind what I read yesterday, I wasn’t convinced that his fund-raising methods were biblical.

Churches do need money to operate. There is rent to pay, utility bills, and the normal cost of maintaining a building (the early church met in homes). Ministry has a price tag too, for everything from hymn books to feeding the homeless. Remember, money isn’t evil, but the love of money is, so God’s people need not apologize for making a budget and trying to follow it.

The churches that I’ve attended raise money by free-will offerings from their congregation. They (and I) believe in a 10% tithe, which is a scriptural principle, but also an over-and-above generosity, which is also biblical.

I’ve never gone to a church that did fund-raisers, like bingo games and bake sales. These often rely on people outside the church to supply their operating money. I’ve not found that method mentioned, condoned, or condemned in Scripture.

Many of the preachers on television have a different method that is against what the Bible teaches. They give an appeal based on human greed: a ‘give and God will make you rich’ notion that they claim comes from God.

There are verses that look like they say that. One of them is Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

In my opinion, this, and other verses like it, are not talking about taking care of yourself by giving to the church. The Bible speaks against giving to gain, and warns about the sin of greediness and making money the ‘treasure’ of your heart. Many do that, and I suspect there is a host of disgruntled people who soon quit giving because this only emptied their pocketbooks and didn’t ‘work’ for them the way they hoped.

Most of us are very tight-fisted. Giving is not one of my strong motivations. However, God speaks to that too. He knows that the reason some hang on to their wallets is fear of not having enough left over to take care of their own needs. My husband, as a new Christian, struggled with that. However, he began to understand God’s giving principle and soon overcame his fears.

God’s giving principle is this: no one can out-give Him. No matter how much I give away to help someone else or to support the work of my church, God is totally able to take care of all my needs. The more I give, the more He gives back. This, and verses like it, are not about giving to gain, they are about giving in spite of the logic that does the math, and the fear of being impoverished.

Giving is definitely a faith thing. It is not about exploiting the generosity of God (who knows the heart and has the option of not cooperating with those who try it), nor is it a method of getting rich. Those who know the Lord Jesus Christ and belong to His kingdom are already “heirs of all things” and as we learn how to live as children of the King, we realize that all His resources are available to us. We can be totally generous with the little bit that He entrusts to us because there is more where it came from. It all belongs to Him anyway!

I’ve never fallen for the line, “God wants you rich . . .” or any of its variations, mostly because I’ve been both poor and not poor, discovering that my bank account has little or no relationship to my sense of security. God takes care of me. Sometimes He uses money, often He does not.

With that understanding in place, I’m learning that if a need pops up and I’ve the resources to supply it, I can do so without worry. If the next need is mine, God has it covered.

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