Thank you! Thank you for your continued faithfulness in giving. Whether you give a traditional tithe of 10 percent of your income or more than that or less than that in cheerful offerings, your giving is evidence of faith. I am humbled and inspired by your generosity.
While our monthly giving records show that we are covering our expenses, not every church can say that these days. This viral pandemic has affected many people and their finances, and therefore, it has affected many churches. I know several churches who are struggling to pay their ministry and support staff, as well as their mortgages and utilities. In the couple of preacher groups I participate in, I know several preachers who have had their salary reduced and a couple who have been let go because the church cannot afford to pay them. I know of many churches who have had to reduce or cancel programs because of budget cuts.
Please understand, that’s not an indictment against anyone’s faithfulness, but it is a harsh reality for many. I praise God that we have not had to respond to the pandemic in this way, but I’m not so naive to think that it cannot happen with us.
I continue to praise God because faithful giving reflects God’s generosity and Jesus’ sacrifice. As we give, we are witnesses of Jesus; that is, disciples give. Paul encouraged the Christians in Corinth to reflect Jesus in their giving:
But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-9, NIV 1984)
Jesus gave; so Jesus’ disciples give. Giving is just as much a characteristic of Jesus’ disciples as our faith, our speech, our knowledge, our zeal, our love. In fact, Paul tells us that our giving is a test of our love.
Our giving is a test of how much we’re becoming like Jesus. Earlier in the same letter, Paul wrote, “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). As we become more like Christ, we give like Christ, who gave his own life for our sake. Even though giving our time, talents, and money doesn’t compare with Jesus’ death on the cross, it is evidence of the same kind of sacrificial love.
In fact, Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians to excel in giving in 2 Corinthians was in the context of an offering being collected by many predominately Gentile churches for the sake of the church in Jerusalem, who were suffering. Paul described this offering in Romans 15, where he told the Roman Christians that since they owed their faith to the Jews, through whom Jesus the Messiah was born, it was right for them to give their material blessings to the Jewish Christians. Just as Jesus gave his life so that we might have eternal life, we also give so that others might find life in Jesus.
Yes, our tithes, offerings, gifts help us keep the lights on, the temperature just right, and the preacher fed (again, thank you!), but that’s all for the sake of accomplishing our mission: to make disciples of Jesus. We give as disciples to make disciples who make disciples. Let’s follow Jesus’ example together.