Tis More Blessed to Give…
For almost five years I have been the primary teaching pastor at BLDG 28 Church. Over the course of those 58 months I have taught through the books of Galatians, Ruth, 1 John, 1 Peter, Esther, Acts, and now Romans. I have preached 212 different sermons – and that does not include the countless other Bible studies I’ve taught. Interestingly, and perhaps to the detriment of my church, I have never in two hundred plus Sundays preached on the topic of financial giving or Christian stewardship. I mean, those are boring topics that drive down attendance, and you don’t find these topics that frequently in Scripture so what’s the big deal, right? In my defense I will state adamantly that I have not purposefully veered away from the topic of giving out of fear that attendance would plummet (many mega churches talk about giving with great frequency) or because I believe it to be boring. I have always declared that I have not preached on this topic primarily because it has not arisen from the text. I assumed that at some point in the first five years of church planting God would give me that stunningly obvious “giving text” but now looking back I realize that I have in fact skirted the issue – mostly due to my desire that people know that we are all about the Gospel and not all about money – and in the process failed to disciple the people of BLDG 28 into Jesus-honoring stewardship. For this I apologize.
A couple weeks ago I clicked on an article entitled “Why Christians don’t give to the local church.” I realize the title of this article is not going to elicit many post clicks but as a pastor my curiosity was piqued so I indulged. I grimaced as I read the first three reasons the article stated:
1. Some Christians don’t belong to any local church.
2. Some “Christians” aren’t really Christians.
3. The people in your church haven’t really bought into the mission and vision.
Anyone who has heard me preach with any regularity knows my position on point number 1. Hebrews resounds the command and the book of Acts makes it clear: true Christians should be in covenant relationship with a local body of believers. I’ll save this debate for another day, though I can already hear the mental arguments of the non-committed deriding me as a legalist. That’s fine. I’ve been called worse and probably will be by the end of this blog.
Points 2 and 3 really bothered me as I thought about those whom I have personally discipled and who call BLDG 28 their home. Can a Christian – a man or woman who absolutely loves Jesus, trusts His saving work, clutches His truth, and lives for His glory – really drop 2% or less of their income into the baskets on Sunday morning? And if so, how the heck do they justify that decision? They’ll cry “Jesus means more to me than anything and His Gospel, His kingdom is my primary purpose for living!” All the while, their bank account, plasma TV, craft beer obsession, and idolized children rise up to contend that audacious declaration. It is a sad reality that some sold-out, Jesus loving, Gospel-saturated Christians across the United States have, in this Christmas season, determined that they didn’t have enough to sacrifice for the advancement of the kingdom but instead spent an inordinate amount – by comparison – on crap they didn’t need and others didn’t want.
Which brings me to point #3. How can we possibly say that we have bought into the vision and mission of the local church of which we are a part if we give little or nothing to the church? Simple answer: we can’t with any legitimacy – unless this is a discipleship issue. Down the page of that article on why Christians don’t give I found #7: Because Christians haven’t been taught Biblical stewardship and the joy of giving.
I’ll take the bullet on this point. As I attested to in the first paragraph, I have done a shotty job instructing my friends, my family at BLDG 28 on this subject of stewardship. The rectification of this may take some time, but I’ll lay the foundation here.
It is true that the OT principle of 10% (the tithe was actually more than double this figure but that’s not the point) was for the nation of Israel, and if we are going to eat medium-rare steak and shave off the corners of our beards then we probably aren’t going to be held to a national, storehouse tithe either. Young Christians (and perhaps some not so young) use the eradication of the ceremonial law to justify a dearth in giving. However, what some believers fail to realize is that Jesus often times builds upon Old Testament principles (i.e. adultery to lust, murder to hatred). True, we are not under the gavel to give a tithe, but we are under grace which should elicit from us a passion to give back in accordance to the spiritual riches with which we have been blessed. Biblically the standard we find ourselves under is this: As children of God and members of His body we are to honor God with our money (Proverbs 3:9) by giving generously (1 Timothy 6:17) and joyfully (2 Corinthians 9) of our first fruits to show our gratitude, build His church, and advance His kingdom. 10% should realistically be the starting point for most Christians and we should work our way up, as finances permit, from there. John Piper brilliantly wrote the following: “Giving to God what He does not need and what I could use conveys to Him that He, not money, is my treasure.” There is a unique joy that comes from giving back to the Lord and many believers are missing out on this act of worship.
There are few more telling passages in all of Scripture than Matthew 6:21. Jesus says to His hearers – you and I included: “Your money reveals where your heart is.” No caveat is given here. Kids, holidays, debt, or more stuff should not be used as excuses to justify our unfaithfulness. If my heart is with Jesus then my wallet will be as well.
My prayer is that we as His rescued bride, brought into the mission and vision of His kingdom through His church, will value Him as our greatest treasure and, as faithful stewards, give generously and joyfully to the God who truly has our hearts.