Monthly Archives: October 2011
Suppose someone decided to become a member of a biblical local church. Suppose that someone was convinced that giving regularly was a good and right thing. Suppose that someone asked: “What do I have to give to God and this church?”
As a pastor, if someone did ask this question I would probably ask them to repeat themselves. I’ve done over one-hundred membership interviews now at Eagle Heights and no one has yet to ask that question. As a matter of fact, no one has said to me: “Pastor, when I become a member of Eagle Heights you can count on me to tithe/give.”
But there is something wrong with the question. Namely, the words “have to.” It smacks of legalism.
What would be really exciting and gospel-centered is if someone said: “Pastor, I want you to know that God has blessed me abundantly and I have the desire to give as much as I can away that God might use my blessing to bless others through the work of God’s church.”
And I hope that one day it happens, and I hope it happens a lot. Especially in light of 2 Cor. 8:9. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Contextually, this is a passage about joyful and generous giving and Jesus’ example should be our motivation for giving our money.The gospel is the reason we give. How could we not?
Barnabas sold a tract of land and laid it at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:36). The Acts church epitomized radical and sacrificial giving (Acts 4:32-37). We have biblical examples of giving above and beyond what is expected.
I was recently doing some reading and came across a sermon by John Piper from 1995 titled: “Toward the Tithe and Beyond; How God Funds His Work.” In this sermon Piper gives the example of John Wesley and his generosity. This is an amazing challenge for all of us as we seek to honor Christ with our money – after all it is His money anyway (Ps. 24:1). Piper writes:
John Wesley was one of the great evangelists of the 18th Century, born in 1703. In 1731 he began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. In the first year his income was 30 pounds and he found he could live on 28 and so gave away two. In the second year his income doubled but he held his expenses even, and so he had 32 pounds to give away (a comfortable year’s income). In the third year his income jumped to 90 pounds and he gave away 62 pounds. In his long life Wesley’s income advanced to as high as 1,400 pounds in a year. But he rarely let his expenses rise above 30 pounds. He said that he seldom had more than 100 pounds in his possession at a time.
This so baffled the English Tax Commissioners that they investigated him in 1776 insisting that for a man of his income he must have silver dishes that he was not paying excise tax on. He wrote them, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”
When he died in 1791 at the age of 87, the only money mentioned in his will was the coins to be found in his pockets and dresser. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his life had been given away. He wrote,
“I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence; but in every other respect, my own hands will be my executors.
In other words, I will put a control on my spending myself, and I will go beyond the tithe for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.” (Quotes from Mission Frontiers, Sept./Oct. 1994, nos. 9–10, pp. 23–24.)
I’ve been reading The Pastor as Scholar & The Scholar as Pastor with John Piper and D.A. Carson. Piper leads off, giving a synopsis of his childhood, high school days, college days and so on to help the reader understand how he has come to the place of being a pastor but also a scholar.
Along the way he offers nuggets of wisdom as a result of his own experience. One is particularly helpful for university students about the local church. He writes on page 36-37:
When I went to Fuller, I was detached from the local church. In college I had not seriously engaged with one local church. That was foolish and immature. It continued for a few months in seminary, and then I got married and needed to grow up. Noel and I went to Lake Avenue Congregational Church where Ray Ortlund Sr. was the senior pastor. There we fell in love with the church-the local church of real people with real relationships. By the time we were done, Noel was caring for the mentally disabled, and I had taught seventh grade, ninth grade, and young marrieds. We were in five different small groups. Eventually, four years after I left to go to graduate school, I was ordained at that church. Never again did I play fast and loose with my attachment to the local church. To cut yourself off from the local church with a sense of self-sufficiency is, in the long run, suicidal.
These are strong words about himself and strong words for the edification for people of all ages right now. You can’t learn to love the local church unless you give yourself to Christ and His people in a local church. Most people today are just casually dating local churches and have no intention to biblically settle down and commit for better or worse – and sometimes its both. But that shouldn’t deter us, after all, Christ gave himself for you and I that we might show the love of Christ as local churches. May we head the wisdom of Piper and follow the example of Christ, and biblically give our lives to others.