Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thoughts on giving

I've been thinking a lot about giving lately, and am not exactly sure how to post about it, so I figured I would just start writing and see what comes out. First off, I have to say that were it not for generous and sacrificial men and women, I would not be able to have the job that I have. Over my ten years on IV staff, many thousands of dollars have been given to enable me to minister to students and others full-time. Because people are generous givers, I have all of my needs and many of my wants, and I get to do a job that I love.

That said, I feel like I need to issue a call, a challenge to the Church (and myself) to reconsider how we give and how we live. We've fallen prey to the lie of Western consumerism and have allowed it to infiltrate our faith and how we practice it. This is a tricky issue, because I do not always practice what I preach in terms of simplicity and generosity. Also, money seems to be one of those things that we can't talk about or challenge each other on - it's our own private business and who is anyone to judge or tell us what to do with our finances.

But I think that the Bible inconveniently tells us a great deal about what to do with our money and what purpose it is given to us, yet we can be very selective in our reading and appplication of those verses and passages.

Before getting into those, let me outline my hopes for this little series. One is to call us to rethink how to live and how to give not from a position of guilt, shame, or law. I struggle mightily with living from those places, and can motivate myself and others from spiritual principles that are not rooted in grace and love. The New Testament does not set a specific guideline for giving, for instance. The tithe is a part of the Old Testament law, which all Christians are freed from following as a means of righteousness or finding favor with God. What we are called to give in the NT is what God puts on our hearts to give, and we are called to be generous and give joyfully. As Christ lives in us, He fulfills the law through us, and actually we often exceed the law's expectations (for example, the Law forbids adultery, but Jesus said that this extends past a purely physical act into the realm of what we look at and think about).

Second, I hope to bring Scriptures to the forefront which call us to generosity and sharing. My friend Alex Kirk has been blogging recently about the plethora of Scriptures dealing with justice, contrasting those with the verses dealing with sexual purity and suggesting that we overemphasize sex, though the weight of Scripture would call us to give more time and attention to justice. I think that a similar argument for simplicity and generosity can be made.

Third, I would like to share some strategies that have helped me and Diane to live more generously than is comfortable for us. A tension here is that I do not want to seem to be flaunting a form of self-righteousness or lifting myself up as a standard. The struggle is there, because one of the ways that I deal with my personal frustrations with the overall lack of giving in the Church is to become self-righteous in my anger. That is not living by the Spirit and it is not offering the grace and love that I have received from Jesus.

So, comments are welcome and I look forward to sharing more in the coming days!


Jenny said...

I look forward to reading more. God has been teaching me (well, trying to teach me anyway) about this issue as well.

askewheels said...

Hey Marshall, this is Leigh Gregory (Askew) from UNC, E-Haus. I followed stalker Jenny to your page and am enjoying reading it. Although, I will have to admit that I am a little scared to read about giving because I can feel God trying to teach me here also. Watch out! I think God might be getting ready to speak through you.