Tuesday, October 21, 2008

GIVING when times are tough

All of the talk lately in the media is about the economy. I have been thinking about how this affects peoples giving. People’s giving habits can have a great affect on the lives of others. At our church, Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, we have no paid staff, no building, no real overhead cost so a decrease in giving only affects what we are able to do.

But many churches and organizations are dependant on people’s generosity. In a small organization like Vision Nehemiah where I work, if people don’t give then we can’t make payroll (which unfortunately is the case right now). For the PURSUE program that I lead, if I can’t find people to give towards our scholarships, then we will have less scholarships to offer which could keep students from going to college. I also think of my friends at Breakthrough Urban Ministries where my wife works. They have two sites and over 50 people on staff. If people don’t give, then they will not only have to cut services, but they would also have to let go of staff.

That leads me to my thoughts about giving. Some of these things are my personal struggle in being generous when times are tough economically. So let me begin with a question.

Do we give first or do we give out of what is left over?

It seems to me that we have often given out of our abundance. After the bills are paid and we get what we “need”, then we give. As I consider this, I think of I Corinthians 16 where Paul challenges the Corinthian church to set aside money at the beginning of each week. I also had to look at II Corinthians 8,9 where Paul spends a couple of chapters talking about giving.

It seems to me that a main purpose in giving was to share in God’s resources so that there could be equality in the body of Christ. II Corinthians 8:13-15 says:
“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 almost sounds like a voluntary Christian socialism, but I will leave that point alone.

I see in chapter 9 verse 6 that “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

And also in verse 7 that giving is more about the attitude than the amount.
“man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

My favorite verses in these two chapters are verses 12,13 of chapter 9.
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

This is what excites me most about giving. Not only that it meets needs, but also that it will validate to a watching world the faith that we claim. Wow.
So I am going to strive to be a giver despite the economic outlook. I guess that is more where faith begins in the giving process, when you can’t see how it can all work out outside of divine intervention.

How has the current economic situation affected your giving?
What has God taught you about giving over the years?


Arloa Sutter said...

Great post Kevin. It is reassuring to know that there is no shortage of resources with God and God is the one we look to for everything that we need. I like the verse in 2 Chronicles 20:12 that says, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you." And 1 Timothy 6:17, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on God!

KG said...

Thanks Arloa,
I know that God has used different individuals over the years to teach me about generousity and giving. Often those people have been wealthy. No wonder God has blessed them with a lot. He knew that they would not hold it tightly, but would share with those who are in need as Ephesians 4:28 says.
Keeping our eyes on God and not money is the key as you stated.