One of the characteristics of discipleship is giving. Disciples are called to make giving a part of their spiritual lives, whether it is through the giving of their time, talents, etc. One type of giving that continues to be a point of sensitivity and even embarrassment in the church is the giving of money. A key reason for this is the tele-evangelism scandals of the 1980s where glitzy and over the top television evangelists made incessant and heavily emotional appeals to their viewers for money. The appeals were often mixed with emotional tears and pleas that if they didn’t receive X amount of dollars by the end of the week, they would be forced to go off the air. By and large these appeals worked, until two of these tele-evangelists ran into scandals with one of them sent off to jail while another was defrocked by his denomination.
The end result was shame and disgrace brought upon not only these television ministries but to the church overall. Their practices reinforced the stereotypical view amongst skeptics and critics that churches are filled with lying, cheating hypocrites who only want people’s money to feather their own nests. The response from Christian pastors and preachers was to duck for cover when it came to talk about money. Pastors refrained from preaching sermons on giving as many feared it would give the impression that they were just being greedy, like those fellows on TV. As a consequence, teaching on the spiritual discipline of giving was lost on a whole generation of Christians who grew up not knowing what it was all about. The after effects of those dark days in the 1980s still lives on, with many Christians not making giving a priority in their spiritual lives.
Despite those horrific scandals, the teaching of scripture on giving still lives on and disciples of Jesus are still called to give to others in order to show generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). In this essay, I’ll go over some basic principles of giving that a disciple should consider.
Be Generous and Cheerful
When it comes to giving money, the first question many disciples ask is how much? That is an understandable question and, although the Old Testament teaching to the nation of Israel was to give a tithe of ten percent of their wealth, the New Testament teaching to the church defines no set amount. In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus points out the rich putting their wealthy gifts into the Temple treasury while a poor widow puts in two small copper coins. He notes that the widow put in more than all the others because they gave out of their wealth. It was not a sacrifice to them but, to the widow, it was a great sacrifice as she gave out of her poverty and put in all she had to live on. Although the ten percent tithe is a reasonable starting point, Jesus teaching on the subject and the rest of the New Testament should give the disciple pause and to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. Factors such as sacrifice, generosity and cheerfulness in giving should guide the disciple in deciding how much to give.
Another factor, which is even more important than the amount of giving, is being consistent in giving. Are you giving consistently, be it weekly or monthly, out of your regular income? Consistency is key because, regardless of how much you give, you are reinforcing a habit of giving where the release of your money to others becomes a regular part of your spiritual life. You do not hesitate about giving and you often don’t even think about it as you do it.
Consistent giving enables the recipients of your generosity to count on your giving to plan their own lives and ministries around it. You are not simply throwing your money into the wind but giving to help those in need live their lives and conduct their ministry of aid to others. In effect, you are partnering with them in their various enterprises and being ministers of God’s grace to them. Giving is a solemn responsibility.
Be Focused and Committed
In order to be consistent, a disciple needs to be focused on what charities to give to. While one cannot give to every worthy cause and ministry out there, a disciple can focus on a few and give consistently and deeply to them over a long period of time. Be committed to giving to a charity over the long term, especially if you believe in what they are doing and if you are benefiting from their efforts, such as your own local church. Such focus and commitment by disciples will help keep charities and ministries healthy and enable them to serve others over the long haul.
Disciples of Jesus should not hesitate about giving their money. It should be an integral part of their spiritual lives, like regular Bible reading and prayer. In the same way, pastors and teachers should not be shy in teaching about giving, from the pulpit, the classroom or the coffeeshop. Disciples need to learn, understand and apply this spiritual discipline in order that the church of Christ is built up to do the work Jesus commands her to do.
2017 © Ed LeBlanc