FIRST-PERSON: Gleanings on giving
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- Many churches struggle with finances. Some struggle because they simply don't challenge and equip their members to give sacrificially. In that light, here are some things that my wife Pam and I have discovered about giving over the years:
1. We believe the Bible assumes at least a tithe given to God's work. I understand the arguments that the tithe is only an Old Testament obligation, but I see New Testament obligations as even higher -- giving ourselves sacrificially, going two miles rather than one. For us, the tithe is the starting point.
2. We genuinely believe that nothing we have is ours. We've lived long enough to know that (a) all the "stuff" we have can't bring joy and (b) all of it can disappear with the winds of a storm or the flames of a fire. None of it is eternal, but our life with God is.
3. We've learned that God never lets us down. I gave a $5 offering when I received my first ministry paycheck of $45, and that step began a lifetime of giving tithes. God has never not come through for us. Ever.
4. We budget well and spend wisely. Some folks struggle giving to God's work because they misspend the rest of their income. Pam and I spend little on ourselves (e.g., we don't buy Christmas gifts for one another) so that we have more to give to God and others.
5. Our local church is the primary recipient of our giving. We do support other ministries but our tithe always goes to our local church. It's that body of believers with whom we most closely serve.
6. We know that our giving affects the world. Through our church and our denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, our giving goes to missionaries around the world. Our few dollars then have an eternal impact.
7. If we struggle with trusting God financially, we actually increase our giving to God's work. That's been our pattern since we first married almost 26 years ago. Faith means trusting God more, not trusting Him less by pulling back funds from His work.
8. We do claim our charitable giving on our income tax. We would give the same even without this option, but this benefit makes it possible to give even more.
We seriously love giving. Early in our marriage, giving sacrificially was harder simply because we had less to give. I'm so grateful, though, for those early patterns God challenged us to develop. Today, giving to support God's work is one of our greatest joys.