An aged aunt lived with us for some years before she died. Latterly, she would often mistake teabags for currency and on tidying her room we found enough Yorkshire Tea stuffed under the mattress to keep a small café in business for weeks. When her will was read it soon became clear that she had chosen to use set figures rather than percentages for the family legacies with the “balance” going to the “donkeys’ home at Cleveleys”. Unsurprisingly, an elderly lady who confused cuppas for cash also misjudged the formula. While her family were appreciative of the few hundred pounds they were given, the donkeys lived royally on receipt of their £100,000.
Deciding how much to give (or how much to keep), is a BIG question. But deciding where to give is BIG too.
Whether you are writing your will, setting up a payment to your church or sponsoring someone who’s skydiving for a mental health charity, how do you decide who benefits from your philanthropy? I think the Bible guides us towards making giving to our church a priority. But in practice that’s sometimes difficult. Why? Here are three reasons why we might hold back:
1. I like to keep control
Although a gift, by definition, means relinquishing control, it’s nice to feel that my money is going to carefully targeted causes chosen by me rather than into the church’s general finances where someone else decides what to do with it.
Well, actually, in 1 Chronicles 29:14, King David prays, “But who am I that I am able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand”.
So, from this I’m figuring out that because it belongs to God, stewardship is what’s important not control. Although I dearly want to be able to influence and exert some sway through my giving I’ve got to learn to trust God’s financial strategy.
2. I don’t trust the leaders
It seems to me that sometimes churches don’t make wise financial choices or I don’t understand their priorities. I’d prefer to decide what needs money, do the due diligence and give directly or pay for things myself. My leaders may be fine people but I’m not sure I should trust them enough to let them spend my money.
Well, actually, there is a direct correlation between trusting your leader with spiritual oversight and with the finances. Paul tells us (1 Timothy 5:17-18) that we should honour the elders and entrust them not just with the affairs of the church but with a decent living for themselves.
The key issue is not whether the leaders are trustworthy but whether or not I trust them. If I don’t trust them with my money how can I trust them with my spiritual life? The two go hand in hand.
3. I lack conviction
It’s easy for charity appeals to make me feel ashamed if I don’t cough up – whether it’s a chugger stopping me on the street , a magazine insert, or the collector at the door. So maybe I should keep something back so I don’t feel guilty?
Well, actually, Paul teaches us that we should, “give what we have decided in our hearts to give, not reluctantly, nor under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
So, forget the guilt, I am going to proactively seek my Father’s will and just give as He says. It usually feels like a sacrifice but it means I can do it cheerfully and guilt-free. I can then feel able to say, “It’s okay, I don’t have to give to this because I have already given where God told me to give.”
Our giving to church should be generous and as we give we will learn to let go, trust our leaders and grow in stewardship confidence. And the result? Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 9:12, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”