CNN recently posted an article called “How passing the plate becomes the ‘Sunday morning stickup'” that is focused on the distorted teaching around giving in the church today. I read the article and as hard as it was to hear, I would have to agree with many of their findings. I would like to point a finger at the source of this whole scam but I would be cowardly in not taking some responsibility.
I am an American citizen, born and raised in the capitalistic dream of “work hard and get rich” that can quickly find its way into our church. The fact is that we exist as a spiritual entity called the church but operate with buildings, budgets, salaries and legal responsibilities that make us businesses. I know that I have had to come to grips with the idea that we have these responsibilities and need to be honest with our church that there is a demand for finances to maintain and manage these areas of business. I have even suggested that we could sell the entire church property and rent a facility or even better, meet in homes but usually never gets a yes vote. My point is that the article is spot on with the discovery of much manipulation and guilt given by church leaders to “make or guilt” people to give and I could not be more opposed to that methodology and theology.
What is our responsibility in giving? How do we talk about such an abused topic? Which of the three is it, an obligation, option or an opportunity? Does God care if we give at all? I have recently been struck with these verses below.
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:10
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty. Proverbs 22:16
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. Proverbs 28:27
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Acts 10:4
I do believe the scriptures gives us the call to give but maybe in some unique way its all three, an option, obligation, and an opportunity. As for me, I will continue to teach [ 2 Corinthians 9] that when God invades a heart it will in turn become “hilariously” generous.