Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bless the Gift and the Giver

The topic of giving is one where preachers often step very gingerly! Perhaps this is for fear of offending those who are faithfully giving already, or worries about 'putting off' new people who haven't yet learned the grace and responsibility of stewardship. Maybe it is for fear of being hypocritical telling others to do what they aren't doing themselves! So let me put in the obligatory "I'm not perfect in this either" statement. In fact, there have been times when my giving has been non-existent; other times when it has been very selfish; and yet times when I'm faithfully giving as well.

Have you ever felt like your only purpose and function at a church was to 'write a check'? That's been something I've struggled with in recent years. I've heard people express this before, but only recently could I relate to it. For example, I believe I could teach something far more valuable than whatever monetary amount my check might reflect, but that hasn't been asked for by the leadership. I could participate in some way in the service, which may be a bigger blessing to someone than whatever money my wife and I might give that day. But when those opportunities don't come, I wonder why I'm there, or why I'd want to support that work. Is that selfish? I've struggled to come to grips with that.

Excuses for not giving are many, but none are valid. It is a responsibility, opportunity, and a blessing to support God's work with money. From the Sermon on the Mount; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Galatians 6, and the list goes on, supporting God's work monetarily is not an option! But we do have options available to us.

For some time we visited a number of congregations trying to find a "fit." And we wrote checks to a lot of different places in that time as well. Whatever became of those funds, and how they were dispersed remains a mystery to me. You hope that principles of wise stewardship were used and that the money was used wisely. But when you aren't plugged in at a local church you never really know for sure (and sometimes even when you are!!)

But I wasn't satisfied with this. We wanted to give to a ministry where we knew there was a need, and one where we trusted in the leadership to do the very best they could with the gift. So we chose a mission organization. There are many great missions out there that are doing fantastic work. But we chose one in particular where we had first-hand knowledge and confidence, and that is where we've been doing the majority of our giving, for the time being.

I expect that as we again find 'our place' of service in a local church that we will again support it with both our talents and abilities as well as with money. But I'm no longer content with just being a 'check writing spectator' at a church somewhere. To be blunt, if they don't want me then I will choose to give somewhere else. There are many fine ministries where I can give with a cheerful heart and will choose to do so, not grudgingly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7).

Perhaps my sentiments are shared by others. As we involve people in ministry I believe they will see giving as a partnership rather than a 'price of admission' each week at the Sunday service. Their financial support will complement other means they have for serving and expanding the work of a local congregation. When members treasure their role in a congregation, and enjoy a sense of involvement in that community of believers, their checkbook will begin to reflect that priority in their lives as well. Where their heart is so will the checkbook follow!

I'm thinking that when a congregation only focuses on young people, or young couples with children, and sends a signal that older people have but one function, namely to financially support what is being done for young people and young couples, there will be problems that develop, and financial issues won't be far behind. Catering to just one demographic will have negative repercussions somewhere along the line. And yet, if only the mature givers are ministered to, there probably won't be many new members to become involved either. This is why it should not be one or the other, but all have something to offer in terms of their service and their stewardship. Leaders must work to assimilate all into the life and program of the church, including both their abilities as well as their finances.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve and for the opportunity to give. The treasure we hold in earthen vessels is priceless (2 Cor. 4:7). What we can faithfully give in our finances can be multiplied as well (2 Cor. 9:9-11). I desire to give both!

C'mon, Murphy, let's go outside!