The Economic Responsibility of Agape

Everything that matters in God is relational.

His Triune Being is relational in fundamental nature.[1] The Great Commandment[2] (that fulfills the law and prophets) and the New Commandment,[3] are both relational in essence. When any legitimate biblical topic looses its mooring in relationship, it will inevitably be unhealthy in application, regardless of how well-intentioned the attempts might be. The manifestation of the life of Jesus in us, and the exchange of His life between us, will never be realized through enthusiastic implementation of spiritual mechanics based solely upon revelation and conviction from the Scriptures. Everything is relational.

This applies to the topic of giving, finance, and money. At the present hour, this issue needs relational realignment.

Millions of believers around the world are being set free from the coercion of a mandatory tithe, or the extortion of a “seed-faith” cosmic lottery. However, many seem to be missing the middle road of joyful, disciplined, regular, Spirit-led giving. This causes God’s kingdom advance in and through human vessels, to suffer stagnation and loss.

It is appropriate to resist abusive extremes. However, if in our liberty our giving dries up, we need to reexamine the exercise of our liberty. Spiritual lethargy is not gospel liberty. It is not enough that we reform our thinking, doctrine, and meeting forms. Our giving must also be reformed in this present hour.

Rather than argue proof-texts back and forth for various points of view, I would suggest that the foundation of the conversation needs to shift. We have to look deeper at foundational values. I suggest that the context of our understanding needs to change

FROM:

TO:

organization

relationship

church

purpose

tithe

family

position

need

ministry

heart

authority

love

pastor

service

vision

generosity

God’s family is a relational community characterized by grace and gift exchange between people. It is up to each of us to recognize the relational lines of attraction, the bonds of Holy Spirit-birthed relationships, the “direction” of the flow of Holy Spirit love,[4] and allow finances to flow along those lines based on love, opportunity, and need.

It’s possible to be in a “place” organizationally, geographically, and situationally and have no relational bonds at all, other than the commonality of experiencing a Sunday lecture together. Sharing a pew (or a sofa!) with someone neither establishes, nor proves, any God-ordained relationship. God unites hearts in love, not heads in doctrinal accord.

Some might argue that past practices appear to have been blessed. I believe God’s redemptive grace covers all our fumbling and corrupt past efforts. If it were not so, none of us would have any hope for the present, or the future. His grace always sustains us, not our spiritual rectitude on any topic at a given moment. However, flowing in His redeeming grace does not mean that we should not educate ourselves along the way and abandon or change defective or deficient practices. Excelling in love does not require the entrenchment of ignorance.

Too much of the financial status quo is simply based on fear: fear of the loss of cash flow that sustains salaries, rents, mortgages, and community prestige. Rather than the perpetual maintenance of our own spiritual pleasantries, perhaps the most loving thing God would have us do for our communities is shut down our church or organization, and bring all the human resources to bear in ways that genuinely and directly affect our community for Jesus. That is a legitimate possibility. There is nothing in the Scripture that says that any of our groups or organizations are divinely commissioned to exist for perpetuity. Hardly. His increase in a community may be directly related to our decrease: individually, corporately, and “organizationally.” If I am married to the cultural financial status quo within church systems, such a thing is not even a consideration. “Jesus is Lord,” is more than a creedal confession!

I really doubt that the “revival” we seem to beg God for, will ever happen when all the dogs in the pound are scrapping for the same piece of meat, trying to outdo each other by the consumeristic leveraging of religious desires in a human soul. The love of God does not abide in such exercises driven by cultural definitions of “success.”

There is an Economic Responsibility of Agape—God’s E.R.A. if you will, and it summarizes my “theology of giving.” It is simple:

I love, therefore . . . I give.

If you find yourself removed from more traditional expressions of the faith, and if you formerly were a tither whose regular giving has virtually dropped to zero, I urge you to seek God to resurrect your regular, disciplined, giving along relational lines, as a simple matter of the overflow of a loving heart.

Fat notebooks and shriveled hearts and wallets, are kingdom incompatible.


[1] Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in interpenetrating, covenantal communion, one-ness, and love.

[2] Matthew 22:37-40.

[3] John 13:34.

[4] Rom 5:5 – the love of God is poured out, through our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. We need to recognize His presence, where it is flowing through us, and cause our finances to follow His lead!

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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7 comments on “The Economic Responsibility of Agape

  1. Amen to this, and it might also be good to examine the uses of finances in the ecclesia as in the early church. While we are not going back to the New Testament early church, and progressing into a fuller expression of the kingdom, Giving was originally used for the taking care of the needs of the lesser fortunate members of the body and those who could not care for themselves, not used for the maintenance of a sanctuary or a salary.

    Kris

    • Sorry, that last comment was not completely correct, there WAS the use of funds for those who taught they they might be devoted to prayer and study. The question of HOW that is done is another thing.

      It has transitioned from giving being “giver oriented by the Spirit” to preachers passing “the plate for themselves.” I have learned that it is important for others to honor the one “holding forth truth” by taking offering for them… This allows others the blessing of honoring God’s servants in giving rather then being asked., which steals the blessing.

      I remember by the Spirit apologizing to an African group of believers for the waste of finances of Billions of dollars on pretty buildings, the Spirit of God humbled me before them on this before I could share truth that was in complete opposition to what was being exported to them by the apostolic networks trying to land-grab them into their web…

      What is sad is much of the world has looked to the American church as a model of success when in actuality it is naked, poor, and blind…

      Kris

  2. As with every other defect, when it comes to giving, it is once again a heart defect. All the “problems” or defects with the American or Institutional Church are all personal – Human – problems. To paraphrase Pogo, “We have seen the church and it is us!”

    Each of us needs to pray “Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a right spirit and cause me to walk in thy statutes.” having receiver a new (natural heart” some years ago…i now realize my desperate need.

    As extreme as it may sound, i believe that the church is me! So I pray change me lord. Take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh taht i may be able to respond as you would respond to you and to the needs of others.

    amazingly god has been answering this prayer in a very quick manner. he has changed me and now one of the greatest joys in my life is looking for opportunity to give. for God so loved the world He gave…”

    hE HAS PUT LOVE IN MY HEART AND FNOW ALL THE REST IS JUST PROCEDURE AND FLOWS FROM THAT LOVE.

  3. As with every other defect, when it comes to giving, it is once again a heart defect. All the “problems” or defects with the American or Institutional Church are all personal – Human – problems. To paraphrase Pogo, “We have seen the church and it is us!”

    Each of us needs to pray “Create in me a clean heart and renew in me a right spirit and cause me to walk in thy statutes.” having received a new (natural heart) some years ago…i now realize my desperate need for another miracle.

    As extreme as it may sound, i am convinced that the church is me! So I pray change me lord. Take away my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh that i may be able to respond as you would respond to the needs of others.

    Amazingly God has been answering this prayer and with lightening speed. He has sensitized me and has kindled in me an anticipation of opportunities to give. Now, one of the greatest joys in my life is looking for opportunity to give and responding appropriately. i know its not about a “giving heart” but a loving heart and I recall that, “God so loved the world He gave…”

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