Giving continues to be a “touchy” subject in our world today. Rarely does a day go by where we do not receive something in the mail asking for money, donations, or support. In ministry, the thing I dislike the most is asking for support as we go and make disciples and do the work of equipping the saints. It seems like ministries tend to boast of all the things they are doing for the Kingdom, in order to move people to support “their” ministry. The greater you “sell” your cause be it spiritual or secular, the greater your chances of getting people to financially support you. It is frustrating at the least, and humiliating at its worst when people choose not even to respond. Let’s be realistic – Sometimes the requests for money get so frequent we stop opening the envelopes or reading the newsletters and simply throw them in the circular file. We may even stop praying about who God wants us to support with His money, tiring of the constant barrage of requests. God has taught me some keys about “giving” making it a joy and privilege, taking the “guesswork” out of it, and celebrating the grace of giving. In this article I will share my personal struggles, explain the grace gift of giving, talk about our choice of giving, and then cover keys of this grace in following blogs.
From my observation and experience, it seems people have different measures in their ability to give freely. However we have all been given grace to give, it is simply a matter of how much we exercise what God has provided. Tapping into this grace brings freedom in every area of finances.
I have always known Jesus as My Lord and Savior and learned about giving through my offerings and tithes from childhood. I never struggled with this truth or felt hesitant about tithing. My struggle was in determining “what” to tithe on, our gross or net pay, housing or car allowance, gifts, and the like because I wanted to keep as much as possible for our needs. I was set free from this struggle nearly twenty-three years ago, but up until that time, worry about finances plagued me continuously, and I was extremely controlling when it came to money issues, which is why I struggled in what to tithe. Holy Spirit taught me some amazing lessons as I was getting free from concern about our lack of money though it was not an easy school of the Spirit. It is a humbling period of time when Holy Spirit has you one on one and ministers truth to your spirit. He revealed my fear, selfish motives, control and manipulation, and lack of trust as He ministered His grace of giving for several years.
Full-time ministry has its perks and pitfalls as every “job” does. Early on in ministry we were thankful to have a house (parsonage) to live in and money to put food on the table. We had our own perception of making money in ministry where we did not want to make “too much” because people might think we were greedy ministers. Pastor’s salaries are routinely laid out before every member to be precisely inspected at the annual meeting. I was concerned about what people would think if we had a new car, new clothes, if we went out to dinner, or went on vacation. My concern was reasonable as people would talk at congregational meetings about their observations of “how” we spent our salary, commenting about how they thought we should live. We learned to live on a small salary and were thankful when people brought us food, clothes, gift certificates, even giving us old cars and boats when they bought new ones. We were thankful yet I resented our lack of funds, our dependency upon the congregation for food and housing, our inability to buy what we wanted, and always living on hand-outs.
I was involved with a pastor’s wives group for many years, and it seemed we egged each other on in regards to our sense of unfairness along with the poverty mindset. Many of these women became so bitter they refused to minister in their church, making it clear their “husbands” were called to be pastors not them, and pursuing their own careers to make money in order to be free from the “controlling” atmosphere they felt in the church. All these ideas “fed” into my personal financial bondage, and though I knew and believed ultimately God was my Provider, it still felt and lived as though the people provided.
You can imagine how thankful I was when God began to show me truth and I was able to get set free from this kind of thinking. I stopped going places where the only thing people did was complain about their lack of money, time, freedom, or anything else. You know, negativity breeds negativity, even if based on facts. The more I pondered how unfair life was, the more unfair my reality appeared. The more my thoughts were consumed with our lack, the more lack we experienced. Though we were not living in financial abundance, I still believed it was an honor to be in ministry and was blessed my husband was a preacher. Focusing on what we “did” have not on what we “did not” have was a beginning but I had a long way to go in order to be set free and become a generous giver, a trusting child of God, a grateful receiver, and a joyful overcomer.
Holy Spirit began by revealing my resentment was a form of pride. I was more concerned about what people thought than about what He thought. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it, rather than how He chose to give and grow me. By repenting of pride and receiving every gift as from God Himself, I began to appreciate the motives behind people’s gifts. In turn, I learned to give more freely, a slow process but at least it was a start. I learned more lessons over a period of several years in order to get free, specifically how to fight “fear of lack” with faith, rebuke worry and live in the peace that passes understanding, trust God not the Church for giving us a paycheck, and over and above it all, becoming a liberal and cheerful giver.
Giving is a gift of grace God bestows upon the Church. Perhaps you know the acronym for “grace” – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Though simplified, this does provide the essence of grace. The Greek word for grace is “charis” meaning the favor, kindness, and goodness of God to His people. He gives tokens of grace or favor; benefits of receiving His goodness. One of those benefits is the ability to give liberally in all circumstances. Notice – the ability to give liberally in every situation is because of the grace of God bestowed on our lives. Understanding this concept takes away our “ownership” of finances and sets us free from the worry and doubt about not having enough.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 we read about this great grace of God. “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord.”
It is not often we see “abundance of joy” and “deep poverty” in the same sentence. The Macedonians were unmoved by circumstance, choosing instead to walk in the abundant joy provided them through Christ. Though afflicted, joy and poverty overflowed pouring out of their beings. In other words, personal distress moved them to rise up and take action on behalf of others. They discovered giving was still a choice in the midst of affliction. They chose to “give” according to their ability and God enabled them to give beyond their ability. They did not let their circumstances dictate what attitude to have or action to take, but rather let their faith and joy in Jesus Christ dictate their action. We can make this same choice.
I learned this “key” in my journey. It did not matter how much or little I had, I could choose to give liberally because of the grace of God in my life. When I learned to simply give – I stopped struggling with what I should tithe or give offerings from – I wanted to give as much as He wanted me to give, no limit, no frustration, no worry, and no fear. Tithing on everything that came in simplified my life, took the control out of my hands, and released me from worry about lack. The freedom that erupted from this one small step was amazing. When I chose to trust God and do what His Word said rather than hang on to our finances worrying about our ability to pay bills, I began to experience the grace of God in my life.
May you experience this same grace of God in your lives on a daily basis and may may the grace gift of giving begin to overwhelm your life in the midst of economic turmoil in our United States.