Giving 98% and Keeping 2
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.)