There’s little else that supposedly upsets people in churches as much as talk about money. Really? It was spoken about by Jesus more than just about any other subject, probably because it so easily gets a hold on us. Consumerism is the “love of money” which 1 Timothy 6:10 says is the root of all evil, drawing us away from Christ, and it is surely as rife today as ever. What money can do or buy can unsuspectingly draw us into seemingly innocent interests that subtly conspire against the centrality of God in our lives. Let me illustrate, though, by telling you about the four kinds of Christians that I’ve never yet met in churches.
1. I’ve never met a Christian who was offended by their church speaking about money … and who was actually giving much!
Those who suggest that others are offended by talk about money would ideally help such people process their views just as they would on any other issue. In reality, offences are usually personally held by those who raise them.
However, what non-profit organisation in their right mind would not talk about money and try to raise some?
Churches typically have large budgets for big visions and receive far less than the biblical tithe, or tenth, by which most of them could be reached.
Hearts aligned to big visions look to achieve them together because they are a priority for people who live in the light of eternity.
2. I’ve never met a Christian who believes that giving a tenth of their income is not supported in the New Testament … so that they could give more than this amount!
‘Tithing’ was not overturned in the New Testament and it actually preceded the law in the Old (see Genesis 14:18-24). (People typically gave produce in the Old Testament because it was the fruit of their land, but they gave money in the New Testament.)
Tithing is a principle which God says to test Him on (Malachi 3:8-10). He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19) and to look after us (Psalm 37:25) as we give not just a tenth of our income from all sources but, by implication, significantly more according to even a casual reading of 2 Corinthians 8-9.
In fact, it is hard to argue that just giving a tenth is generous if the Bible regards it as our minimum giving (and just returning God His portion of our finances at that.)
Jesus illustrated generous giving, too, commending the woman who gave all that she had in Luke 21:1-4. He had opportunities to overturn tithing when he spoke about it too, but chose to uphold it (Matthew 23:23)
3. I’ve never met a Christian who was opposed to building funds … that didn’t want to own their own home!
Some people actually live simply, drive modest cars, take less expensive holidays and eat out less often so that they can budget money for the kingdom. No-one would seriously deny any person their basic right to spend as they see fit or to be blessed by God, but when Jesus is Lord, He guides our very choices.
Most would love to own their home as a smart investment, but equity makes sense for churches, too. Shared support for vision is what makes this a reality. Of course, reckless building projects are not sustainable, but churches would actually have more than enough to make basic loan repayments if everyone paid a tithe, even though it is supplementary offerings that reveal the extent of one’s heart for the house.
4. I’ve never met a Christian who couldn’t afford to give the way the Bible says to … when they give God His portion first!
Budgeting on eighty per cent of one’s income, after giving God back the first tenth will still leave a tenth for other purposes. This might be for savings, extra loan repayments, extra giving, education expenses, or a buffer for unexpected expenses. This may not always be possible, but it is a valid aim which for almost everyone makes the tithe more provably affordable.
However, when we have the idea of giving God the ‘firstfruits’ and returning what is rightfully His, we give that portion first, not as our see-how-we-go leftovers.
The taxman gets his portion the same way – up front – and Jesus showed in Matthew 22:21 that God and the government both get their cut from the same starting amount (which is why I have always tithed my gross salary).
If you’re squirming a little in reading this, relax! There is no obligation or compulsion to give. Even those who sign pledges and memberships in churches aren’t policed and pressured to be accountable for their giving. Simply discussing its practice, if this happens, will occur as routinely as for any other subject. When talking about money becomes a problem, that actually reveals there is a problem!
Giving, like prayer and serving, becomes a matter of conscience based on our personal conviction about what God says to us and what we believe His Word teaches. We may be challenged about it, but our response is our own.
And as with any other aspect of biblical teaching, or an interpretation thereof, would we not just discuss our opinions, concerns or reservations with people who see things differently to us? Would we not do so without fear, without anxiety, or without shame?
Even in disagreement we are strengthened. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” says Proverbs 27:17. Sparks fly when iron sharpens iron, but the sharpening happens nonetheless.
Surely, though, our priority for the work of God would constantly throw up challenges time and again to give extravagantly, generously and cheerfully.
Is there really any other way?!