The twitching and knee-jerk reactions I get from many (not all) “organic church” believers when the topic of money comes up, reminds me of what the Holy Spirit said to Saul of Tarsus: “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.”
The topic of money and finance has been severely abused in the past, and continues to be, in Christian media and many church environments. This abusive “static interference” makes it hard for believers to “hear” God’s genuine frequency on this subject. What is heard stirs up echoes of a painful history and a reactionary protective (understandable) posture: “I’m not going ‘there’ again.” If our pain and desire to protect ourselves ends up desensitizing our hearts, we will be in a bad place. The Holy Spirit in us has to be, and is, greater than the pain of our past.
Many believers in non-institutional environments who experienced financial manipulation and coercion in the past have reacted and settled into a very unhealthy place. My good friend, Stephen W. Hill, says it like this: “For many, the freedom from the selfishness of tithing (giving to get, or to avoid a curse) has been replaced by the selfishness of not giving at all.” Well said. That’s the problem.
Historical abuse is being used as an excuse to deflect any scrutiny or criticism by others of personal financial giving habits and disciplines. In some circles we have gotten so reactionary that the mere thought of any personal discipline, in ANY area, is considered “performance,” legalism, and religion. Only the insecure with unhealed identities would think so. It is not about “performing to standard.” It is about being alive or dead. A good tree does bear good fruit: regularly, predictably, in season, and on cycle.
If our alleged Christian liberty and understanding of grace results in the decrease of the life of Christ and personal disciplines, it is neither grace nor freedom, but self-deception. Our freedom is not to be used for self-indulgence, but to serve one another in love.
The accurate reflection of our Father in time in space is the definition of being “Spirit-led.” Our Father is a giver and to proclaim one’s self to be Spirit-led, free, and spiritually mature, and to be tight with our time, talent, and treasure (money) is not only oxymoronic, it is high-level delusion. (I have written elsewhere in this blog on the joy of Spirit-led giving: Why I Quit Tithing: http://wp.me/pPFqI-Hk
We do not need any special “leading of the Spirit” to obey simple scriptural mandates. The Spirit has already led us, through the scripture! Now, we can seek the Lord for details (how much, to whom, or what entity), but the fact of the mandate to give financially and regularly, is not something we need to “seek the Lord” about. We just need to do it! (1 Cor. 16:2, etc.). I am not telling anyone what to give, or where to give. Seek the Lord for that, and be generous like your Father. But giving itself, and the disciplined regularity of it, are scriptural non-negotiables. Just do it.
I do not believe that our structures, meetings, meeting mechanics, what does or doesn’t happen in meetings, how they are conducted–open, closed, participatory, passive, “teaching vs. sharing,” “leading vs. facilitating,” etc., –have any bearing at all on how spiritual, mature, or “revelated” we might be. They’re all irrelevant to me. I’m more concerned about the cold love in my shriveled heart, than the spatial geography of my body during a meeting. There’s a better measure of the temperature of our love than futile OC/IC debates. That measure is our wallet. Closed wallets=shriveled hearts, regardless of how we do meetings. God looks on the heart, not our meeting mechanics.
Many try to rationalize their lack of financial generosity by saying: “Well, there are more ways to give than with just our money, and after all, Paul said that if I give all my money to the poor and have not love, I am a tinkling cymbal. It is true that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Indeed, love’s bandwidth includes much more than financial giving. But it does include financial giving! Giving includes the totality of our being! It includes all three dimensions of our life–time, talent, and treasure (money)—it’s not a take your pick buffet! God bought all of us, owns all of us, and has the right to distribute all of us, including our money.
So, Paul is right, but so is James. What is the essence of true religion? Winning Facebook debates about the deficiencies of the institutional church? Hanging around in eternal do-nothing holy-huddles in living rooms, swimming in our own sense of superiority because we’re in a living room instead of a sanctuary? Hardly. Seems to me that a cold, indifferent heart in either place is not a good thing.
My dear friend, Michael Rose, says it in beautiful simplicity: love has feet.
Let’s try a simple experiment, a self-reflective reality check to see if your love has any practical feet. Fill in the blank after each of the following regarding your giving of time, talent, and treasure (money), but particularly treasure, to what follows:
- Widows __________
- The Poor __________
- The brotherhood in need _____________
- Expansion of the gospel _____________
- Other general opportunities for charity _______________
(Going to meetings/gatherings with your friends does not count as giving of your time! That is what you enjoy. I am talking about practical expressions to others that have no derivative benefit to you.)
How did you do? If you are a westerner and have enough money for a computer, and are reading this, you are able to regularly give financially to some, if not all of these. If you are not regularly financially giving, you’re self-justifying behind the “not all giving involves money” argument.
- Most westerners could do a garage sale of their “stuff” and feed a poor family for a month or more.
- Most of us could drink water instead of wine, soda, or fruit juice at our meals and times when we eat out (let alone other alcoholic beverages at $6.00+ a pop) and easily fund $50-$60 a month to one of the above.
- Budgeting $2.00 a day–the price of a cheap hamburger or small bag of potato chips–would enable you to give $50-60 a month to something . . . can’t? OK, cut it back to $1.00 a day. Are you really saying that you can’t find $1.00 a day to give on a regular, disciplined basis to something that really matters? How about 50 cents a day?
- Do you have any idea of what a $5.00 or $10.00 offering done regularly can do for the poor or someone in the third world?
- You used to “tithe” faithfully to the institution based on self-centered manipulation and guilt, and now that you are out in “freedom,” you are giving what to whom? Nothing? Little? That’s not freedom. That’s just a different form of religious bondage.
The –“there are more ways to give than just money” or, “you might be giving in the flesh” etc.,–arguments are all bogus sophistry. It’s not that you can’t give financially. You won’t. Your love, personal discipline, concern for others, or creative thought (or all four) are so meager, that you won’t.
Closed wallet=shriveled heart, in need of a refreshing touch from Jesus. If Jesus touches my heart, and my wallet, and touches others there also, everything else will be just fine, without the distracting hyperventilating on other things. I think “how we do meetings obsessiveness” is a giant distraction from the essence of “true religion.” So, maybe you’re “right” about “how to do church.” Big deal. What are you doing for others? Does your love have any feet? And are your feet connected to your wallet?
I pray you and I will have a heart-touch instead of making self-justifying arguments about why we may not be giving financially.
Love is not a noun, a sentiment, an opinion about ourselves. Love is a verb and that verb has feet. Yes, our use of treasure does reveal our hearts. Our wallets are lighted highways that lead directly to our heart.
Copyright 2013, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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