By John Worley
After pastoring for 20 years, I did project fundraising for a Bible College for 7 years and for a missionary organization for another 7 years. Most nonprofit Christian ministries employ many of the world’s ways of motivation for giving money. Why? The world’s approach is commonly used because it seems to get results, but sometimes with the sacrifice of integrity.
What should be the approach in reminding us of our accountability in giving? The same means employed in our church to hold us accountable in all other aspects and roles of life, the Word of God.
Basically, a steward is one who manages gifts on loan from God, answering to Him for his attitude about and utilization of those gifts. These may be the spiritual gifts God gives every believer for the work of the gospel and the building up of one another in the faith, or they may be financial resources entrusted to us while on earth. These gifts are grace, and we are accountable for the grace given us by God. Our world believes that money is the medium for measuring value.
The Bible, however, teaches us of the unseen evidence of spiritual and relational realities that have true and lasting value. These can give contentment, with or without money.
There is, of course, a practical side to money. It is, in effect, the fluid form of things; it makes property portable and serves as a medium for exchange of both material things and services. For this reason, most people come to view money as what matters most, that is the objective for life’s enjoyment. The status or influence that comes with money, and the so-called security of money, they view as their motivation in achieving this objective. Consequently, they buy things they do not need, with money they do not yet have, from people they do not even trust.
Our society has come to think of money only in terms of accumulating and spending, like the farmer who desired to make more money so he could buy more land, so he could plant more corn, so he could sell more hogs, so he could buy more land, plant more corn and so on. The Bible, however, deals with money mostly in the context of giving. When Jesus taught his
disciples about living for God, he invariably ended up teaching them about giving to God and to others. Half to two-thirds of our Lord’s parables deal with our attitude toward and responsibility for material possessions.
In 2nd Corinthians 7, Paul explained the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. In the next two chapters, he taught the difference between worldly charitableness and biblical giving. 2nd Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us,
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, that you may have an abundance for every good deed.
Verse 8 gives a promise, but one that is conditioned upon its context. There are two conditions to the promise of verse 8. One is the bountiful participation of verse six and two is the cheerful attitude of verse 7. The promise is abundant grace; all-sufficient provision. This gives grace for all-sufficient contentment with what we have, all-sufficient confidence in the Lord who gives it and all-sufficient convictions about how we should use that which he gives.
Is this bountiful giving from God intended for the abundance of things for ourselves? No. Rather, Paul says, it is for the enablement to undertake every good deed (verse 8c). Christ Himself is our example, as indicated in verse 9. “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever (from Psalm 112:9). Verse 10 tells us, “Now he who supplies seed for the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (taken from Is. 55:10 and Hosea 10:12 and providing the sowing/reaping principle of verse 6). We are doing the sowing, but God provides the seed. The reaping is not in material things, but rather reaping a harvest of righteousness (vs 10c). This is the same truth presented earlier in verse 6, that “…you may have abundance (“increase” in vs 10) for every good deed.” These acts are done in right relationship with God and with right intentions. That is, in submission and in sacrifice through service and giving. It is this right attitude in our giving that God loves (vs 7 “cheerful giver”). The harvest (results) is our increasing in right behavior and increasing in developing in right character. We honor God by purposing in our heart how much and when we give, and God provides the righteous enablement to us. The reason for our giving (vs 7) is that God loves it (that is, it pleases Him). The resource for our giving (vs 10) is out of what He supplies (vs 8), that is, all-sufficiency in everything. We sow in attitude and service and we reap spiritual enablement and spiritual, material and physical contentment.
A promise we are all familiar with is Philippians 4:19: “and my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.” Yet this, like the 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 passage, is a conditional promise. The preceding context of Philippians 4:13-18 reveals that this promise of God supplying all our needs is conditioned upon our meeting the needs for ministry as the Philippians did towards the Apostle Paul. They were actively engaged in sacrificially, voluntarily and thankfully responding to the opportunity. The conditional promises of 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10 and Phil. 4:13-19 are tied to the practice and the practicality of our present, responsive obedience to God-given opportunities, and to our enjoyment of our relationship with God through Christ our Lord.
2nd Corinthians 9:7 identifies how we are to give, “just as he has purposed in his heart.” To have “purposed” is to have chosen beforehand. “Heart” is used here in parallel to the word “mind,” as it is in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 where it says that God has put the light of the knowledge of the glory of God “in our hearts” (minds). Chapter 9:7 goes on to present two negatives and one positive truth about giving. It must be “not grudgingly” (that is not with regret or grief over the giving, and not to view it as a loss) and “not under compulsion” (that is out of mere obligation, duty or embarrassment). Rather, to give cheerfully is to have joy over the privilege of the opportunity.
We are in the midst of raising funds for our new building. How should we each respond? In accord with a Christian liberty principle Romans 14:5 “let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.” Make a deliberate, predetermined response based on personal conviction before God (read Romans 14:17-19, 22-23). As an American businessman was visiting a pastor in Korea several years ago they came across an unusual scene for the American. A strong young Korean was in a field pulling a plow with straps upon his shoulders, while his father guided the plow. The American commented, “they must be very poor.” “Yes, they are” replied the pastor. “Do you remember the small new church that we just passed? The people of this village built it themselves and the family had no money to give, so they prayed about their desire to participate. They then gave what they had, their most valued possession. They sold the ox and gave the money to the project.” We might not need to choose to postpone buying a new car or to take a less expensive summer vacation in order to give. Some will give out of their abundance and some will give out of their meager assets. The amount given by one person may differ substantially from another, and yet the sacrifice may proportionately be the same. As Pastor Tim reminded us recently, we serve a God who can do all things, including things which seem improbable and things which seem impossible.
John Worley was a former FCC elder, the beloved husband of Judy and father of Jackie Rebiger.