.......AND WHAT SHOULD SIMPLE CHURCH MEMBERS DO WITH THEIR
Actually I haven't got an answer to these important questions. You could even say that it's none of my business. (But the questions did get your attention!). But if you've been reading these SIMPLE CHURCH letters you will know that they describe a journey that I, my wife Averil and Waikanae Cafe Church are travelling. You may have even (rightfully) come to the conclusion that it has been a liberating journey. In fact I have had two friends tell me that they have heard that...'Jack and Averil have gone off the rails.' Well, there's some truth in that. Rails can be very restrictive!
The 'rails' that guided the giving of Averil's and my 'God' money (tithes and offerings) were very simple. Our main gifts went toward the support of the local church (the so-called "storehouse". Who ever thought up this unbiblical interpretation?) and other money to overseas missions. With the arrival of A/P's this could be done with impressive efficiency. But with the fresh insights into other aspects of our Christian/church journey we began to question this almost unthinking giving. The new freedom we were enjoying made us look at the challenge to be 'guided by the Holy Spirit' in the realm of financial giving. Just what should be our priorities? Where should we direct our giving?
I was struck by a statement in a recent "Tear Fund" publication which said, "There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about looking after the poor, the widows and the sick." Thinking about this made me take a hard look at what the Bible does (and doesn't) say about giving. The Old Testament shows God's compassion towards the poor, the alien, the widow and the sick and his directions to his followers to support and care for them, e.g., Isaiah 58.
The New Testament follows suit, e.g., Matthew 25:31-46. And, the apostle Paul gives us two whole chapters (2 Corinthians 8 & 9) on the subject of giving, but it is not giving to a church building fund or to pay staff or any other church programme, but to people who were suffering in a famine. A cross-cultural missions appeal. (c.f. Acts 11:27-30).
I started this letter with those two provocative questions and to get back to them with some sort of answer here are three things to consider.
1. Be Free. If you are under any sort of self imposed, church imposed or guilt imposed pressure to give, this is wrong pressure and I suggest you get out from under it as quickly as you can. I'm sure God doesn't take pleasure in receiving gifts that are squeezed out of us by any sort of manipulation, "...Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure..." 2 Cor. 9:7.
Be lead by the Holy Spirit. If your giving is locked into a predictable, boring, lifeless habit, ask the Holy Spirit for fresh guidance. Ask about your responsibility to the poor - especially the other half of the world who eke out a living on less than two dollars a day. If you don't (like me) believe in 'hand outs' find out about 'hand ups' like Tear Fund's, and other mission organisation's microenterprise initiatives. The Holy Spirit is never boring or predictable, so get ready for an interesting, surprising and exciting financial ride.
Be extravagantly Generous. But how do we compare our generosity? I can answer this question in Paul's words from the 'giving chapters of 2 Corinthians, "You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich....Thank God for his Son -- a gift too wonderful for words." (2 Cor. 8:9; 9:15, NLT). "God so loved that he gave..." So should we!
Enjoying His generosity