Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What about giving?

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading Francis Chan's book Crazy Love. With my current schedule the way it is, I only get in a few minutes at a time. But there are some great things in his book that either make a note about or just dog ear the page.

One such dog-eared page in my copy of Crazy Love is page 118. I marked this page because this is what is known as Stewardhip season in many churches throughout the land. Stewardship season is basically the time when we start asking people to catch up on their monetary giving for the current year and go ahead and make their pledges for the upcoming year.

For a lot of folks, this is "the part of church I hate." Money and religion together is a funny thing in our American culture, it seems. Churches, who can be trusted with the principles of eternal life, can't be trusted with money. Go figure.

I understand that a lot of this sentiment comes from the highly publicized cases of unscrupulous characters using ministry as a business. It also comes from movies, books, etc portraying people using Christianity as a front.

Most of all, I think it comes from a radical misunderstanding of what giving is and why we are called to do it.

Francis, on dog-eared page 118, has a good view, I think. He points out that giving is rooted in and motivated by love above all. Take a look at John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Why did God give? Out of His love.

Francis Chan on giving:
"Giving that is not motivated by love is worth nothing. Paul says that from this kind of giving we 'gain nothing'; however, when we give out of love, we gain much. Giving results not only in heavenly compensation, but also gives us great joy in out lives here and now. As we love more genuinely and deeply, giving becomes the obvious and natural response. Taking and keeping for ourselves becomes unattractive and imprudent.

Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy's small lunch? In that story, according to Matthew, Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would've been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who where gathered and hungry.

But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for asmall loaf. The god things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us a merely repeat the words thank you."

I think that if churches teach more along the lines of "giving motivated by love" the Stewardship season and pledge drives would almost not be needed as an institution any more.

What kind of difference would that make in your church and your life?