November 29, 1994
The following joke appeared in a church bulletin: “I dreamed that the Lord took my Sunday contribution and multiplied it by ten and this became my weekly income. In no time, I lost my color TV and had to give up my car. My family went hungry and I couldn’t meet my house payment. What can a fellow do on $10 a week?”
As a child, I noticed when a collection plate was passed in church they put fabric on the bottom to muffle the sound of coins. Occasionally someone put in dollar bills. That seemed like a lot of money to me. How times have changed.
Today’s churches often operate with large budgets. For the most part, the money is used to send missionaries out, serve needy people in the community and maintain the educational and other ministries of the congregation. However, when giving or tithing are mentioned, the first pictures that form in some minds are large buildings, ornate decor, velvet choir robes and pastors who drive limos and live in 3500 square foot houses.
Irresponsible spending does happen but severely contrasts a biblical concept of giving. God’s purpose is not so some might wear fancy clothes and others be drained of their life earnings. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’”
It does not matter if the money collected is called donations, offerings, or tithes (based on 10% of one’s income). What is important is that two groups are responsible for what is done with it—those who collect it and those who donate it. Paul’s request in Corinthians illustrates how it should work...
Christians in one area put aside money for others who were experiencing financial need. He planned to come and collect it but added: “Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.” Those who gave went with the gift or sent it with people they trusted.
Second, whatever money is given brings benefits both sides, the giver and the receiver. The benefit to the recipient is fairly obvious, however the giver is also blessed. Paul again writes: “Brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.... For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8).
Notice these people considered giving a privilege and even begged to do it. For them, the motivation came from God who was directing their lives. Paul said, “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us, in keeping with God’s will.”
People who yield their lives to God understand the blessedness of receiving. They have received the ultimate gift. As Paul says, they “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Anyone who receives God’s gift of everlasting life responds with generosity because they now enjoy eternal riches. Anything compared to that is small change.