Four ways to look at giving
“Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (See 2 Corinthians 97, RSV)
T. S. Eliot said, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” His insight is valuable. Motives are important. We may make mistakes, though our intentions are good. Or we may engage in right actions from selfish or unworthy motives. This applies to giving and acts of charity, including our support of the church and its ministry through the giving of tithes and offerings.
Some people look at giving (tithes and offerings) as “paying a bill”. They feel, perhaps, that they “owe” God. In fact, the apostle Paul writes that we are “debtors”, but he is addressing the gift of salvation and not our gifts to God. We are accustomed to receiving bills – water, gas, electric, mortgage, insurance, and many more. Tithes and offerings may be viewed by some as “the church bill” and the motivation for giving may become guilt or obligation or even fear.
Many see giving through the church as a matter of “helping others”, particularly those who are deemed less fortunate. Our church, like many congregations, helps people every week. We help people locally and we help people around the world whom we will never see. Truth is, if people don’t give, we can’t help. Needs will go unmet. People will suffer. The motivation is one of responsibility and, hopefully, compassion.
Still others give in an effort to “support the church” as an institution. Giving is necessary to keep the doors open and the programs running. A venue is provided for weddings and funerals (and for worship and teaching). The maintenance of the church provides a connection to parents and grandparents – a sense of personal and community history. The church is seen as one among many worthy and worthwhile investments and one that provides even some civic benefit. Giving becomes a way of “endorsing” these programs and activities.
The highest motivation for giving is the worship of God. Stewardship is an act of gratitude and thanksgiving – an “offering” which recognizes God’s goodness and greatness. This kind of giving is an act of love and devotion. The motivation is a desire to praise God! The Bible teaches us that for giving to become worship we should give proportionately (as God has blessed us), sacrificially, cheerfully, and regularly. Do you give? Why do you give? How do you give?
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.