On Giving

If you attend Headwaters Church I hope that by now you have been informed that our church is moving locations. Our church’s leadership has been working on this possibility for over a year and we are very excited about the opportunities that are to come for the Kingdom of God at our future location.

With a move and a building project ongoing it is that time:

 

(*****read like “lets get ready to rumble”*****)

 

CHURCH FUNDRAISING SEASON IS UPON US!!! . . .  that’s how everyone feels about church fundraising, right? I mean I just broke a very hard and fast personal rule against the use of multiple exclamation points, which must mean we are on the verge of an adult equivalent of a four-year-old’s Christmas morning.

I jest.

The original GoFundMe: Church building projects. If you have never been to a church service where they announce the building project and the amount of money that is needed to complete the project, then you are truly missing out on one of the 7 sociological wonders of the modern world (also on the list: the dollar dance at weddings, the use of the monopoly card in a contested game of Catan, applauding when a plane lands, not using the metric system, group projects in college, and all things related to family reunions). I have gotten to witness variations of this service at several different churches and there is almost an audible collective moan as the information starts to be presented.

“Asking for money” is routinely polled as one of the primary reasons people have negative perceptions of church. But now that I am a pastor on staff at a church and sit on the other side of the apt metaphorical fund-raising coin, it seems like it would be a good idea to help clarify, for myself and for our congregation, the underlying purpose in giving.

Before we get to the focus of this post I have two common objections to address:

  • It is worth noting that anyone who lives in America today is extravagantly wealthy by global and historical standards. This doesn’t even need to be stated for the biblical prescriptions to still hold water (after all Paul does write in II Cor. 8:2 that Macedonian believers gave in a “wealth of generosity” while being in “extreme poverty”), but inevitably people internally reject the notion of personal giving because it is “rich people” who should give, always being careful to draw the line that marks “rich people” slightly above their income bracket.
  • Many religions and pastors have abused, and continue to abuse, the biblical prescriptions on giving. Some of those abuses have been very public and some will never be known. That being said, we still need to give. Because someone has misused a practice does not make the practice inherently wrong. The existence of anorexia and bulimia does not make dieting an intrinsic evil and prosperity preachers who pervert the Bible do not give us a pass from giving.

Okay, quick potential objections aside: giving.

When I sat down to write on the topic of giving I quickly found that there are many potential pitfalls that one can make in their attempt to work through this topic from a biblical mindset; chief among them was writing in a way that didn’t come off as a bully with a Bible and an offering plate.

I have prayed and thought over this post for a few months attempting to avoid that tone and that has led me to simply focus on one specific way—what should be the primary way—to think about giving: giving as an act of worship.

There are many places that I could turn to in the Bible to show the connection between giving and worship but I think the clearest option is Philippians 4:18. In that verse Paul is thanking people who gave to his ministry and then goes on to describe their giving as “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

This language immediately evokes thoughts of the Old Testament sacrificial system where God’s people sacrifice to him and their sacrifice is found as a pleasing aroma to God (mentioned six times in Numbers 15 alone, a text about sacrifices). Paul grabs this concept and rightly connects it to the New Testament version of worshipful sacrifices: giving.

At Hope when we would finish our morning with an offering I would almost always say some variation of, “We are going to close our service with an offering. There is no expectation to give, if you feel pressured into giving money I don’t want it and God doesn’t want it, but if you came prepared to give out of the joy of what God has given to you please delight in giving to the Lord.”

At our church, giving isn’t an expectation it is an exultation.

I hope that no one that walks through our doors feels like the church exists to ask them for money. There are many a non-Christian who wander into a church service that need to be reminded that we are not a giant money laundering scheme. When people give it should be because they are motivated by the proper worship of their God.

At its most basic, giving is worship. It is a rightful understanding that God has given all things, and deserves all things. There is nothing in my life that I do not place under God’s control. I don’t get to surrender my life to God but keep my wallet for myself. We are to do all things to the glory of God. We work to God’s glory, we earn to God’s glory, we save to God’s glory, and we give to God’s glory.

There is not one hidden corner or unknown credit card that escapes God’s dominion in our lives.

From a pastoral perspective then, giving/offering is less of a pragmatic way of keeping the lights on and more of another avenue to direct the people of God to the glory to God. If I were to pastor a congregation and make a decision to shield my congregation from giving out of concern that someone might feel uncomfortable that would be as nonsensical as refusing to allow Christians to sing when they are together because someone can’t carry a tune.

Giving is worship.

To think about giving from the opposite perspective: for a Christian to refuse to give is a refusal to worship God. When being frugal results in a rejection of generosity the idolatry of wealth has taken hold and the worship of God has been stymied.

Now it’s important to remember, God doesn’t need our money. If God wanted our church to have massive financial resources we would find an oil well spring up in our parking lot. We give, not because God needs it—his pockets are plenty deep—we give out of gratefulness of the many blessings we have been given by God. Or in other words, giving is not for God it is for us. It is for us to worship, we give to be clearly reminded that God holds all things, provides all blessings, and deserves all praise.

We pass the plate to give our brothers and sisters another opportunity to worship. We pass the plate for a chance to delight in the extravagant blessing that has been given to us and to properly place ourselves in a posture of humility towards God.

So as a church when we approach our new building and the funds that are needed I hope that we get to look and wonder if there are new ways we can find to give more to God’s glory. We collectively get to wonder aloud, “Is there a way for me to expand the glorification of God through giving?” That is a worthy question and I would be hard pressed to find a single American Christian who cannot answer that question with a resounding “yes.”

Maybe you can find new ways to glorify to God through giving to your church and maybe God has other grand plans for a fresh desire to give— we should always be careful to not limit giving to simply finances for being a child of God demands much more from us than simply writing checks—either way, we are a people who have been given much, spiritually and financially, and we should be eager to contemplate how we can give more as a spiritual act of worshipping God.

Our Church is not in the fund-raising business, we are in the glorifying God business, and one of the many ways we get to do that is through giving. From the heart of a pastor, I can joyfully say you have given well; as you continue, do so with the glory of God in mind, a joyful heart, and the wonderful perspective of worship guiding the whole practice.

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