John Kalsbeek is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Redlands, California. He will deal with the subject of Christian giving in two articles. The first treating the importance of personal giving and the second will deal with the methods used in our churches.
Some time ago when I was asked to write an article for the Beacon Lights, the staff suggested I address the question “Is our method of taking church collections proper? This is a legitimate concern and one that should be considered. However, before I become involved in this question I will first of all consider the idea of personal giving.
Giving is a personal matter. Every one of us has an attitude about giving. Either we are happy to give in order to help others or we find that parting with our hard-earned money is a burden.
Giving has always been a very important part of a Christian’s life and worship. When we as children of God give we do so and must do so out of love for God and His kingdom. Giving gifts is proper, good, and pleasing to God. Let’s consider together the question “Are our own personal giving habits and attitudes proper, good, and pleasing before God?”
Christ commanded us in Matthew 6:3-4, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret. . . .” A quick glance at the first two verses of this chapter tells us how not to give. Here we find that we must be careful that in our giving our chief desire and concern is not the praise of men. Many well-known philanthropists of our day leave large legacies to hospitals, universities, libraries and other charitable institutions in order to gain the praise of men. Such giving is condemned. Such giving receives no spiritual reward. It’s obvious that the motivation for such giving is wrong. We may not with a lot of fanfare announce our intention of giving alms before others. Further, it is equally important that we must not announce our giving even to ourselves. Christ says, “let not your left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” We must not keep spiritual accounts of credits and debits, of profits and losses. Give out of love for God and forget what you have given. So often we tend to pride ourselves in the amounts we give and the consistency of our giving. We take pleasure in the thought that we have given more than others and more even than the budget calls for. Christ says to give and to forget. Rev. Ophoff in a Standard Bearer article writes, “We certainly must give in secret if there is not cogent reason for making our gifts before the eyes of men.” Vol. IX pp. 37.
With the above as a basis let’s scrutinize our own personal giving habits. Many of us write out checks for the weekly budget and possibly for some of the special collections as well. I’m sure that the reasons for this are many and most of them are probably legitimate. It’s convenient to write out a check. One doesn’t have to carry with him large amounts of cash. It’s a good record for income tax deductions. It makes it easier for the deacons to count. Whether these reasons are proper or not the fact remains that we really are not following the principle laid down by Christ Himself in Matthew 6. By writing out a check we make a permanent record of our giving. A record chat not only the deacons see and know but also one of the bank officials can see and know. And when the bank statement arrives each month with our cancelled checks we are reminded, whether we want to be reminded or not, of the amount we gave last month. At the end of the year we are again reminded when we total up our contributions in order to gain the biggest deduction we can, hoping for that elusive refund. Obviously, we are not giving in secret-our names are attached to our gifts.
Along these same lines we often find it appropriate to give to worthy causes as a year comes to its end in order to avoid paying additional income taxes. These contributions are certainly welcome and appreciated but again is that really the proper, the Godly motivation for giving? Christ says to give secretly. Wouldn’t it be far better to give cash anonymously instead of writing out a personal check? Should we keep a record just to avoid paying Caesar what belongs to Caesar? Are we letting our government influence us to use questionable methods of giving in order for personal gain?
Do we in our personal giving follow the principle laid down by the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 16: l-2 “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him. . . .” Do we give as He has given us? Or are we holding back in order that we might save up for a more expensive car or home that we really don’t need? Or have we gone so far into debt that we have to hold back on our budget responsibilities in order to meet our financial obligations? Can anyone of us really say we have given the last farthing? Would Jesus be able to say of our giving “Verily I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”? Now Jesus certainly doesn’t tell us we must give all of our earnings to the neglect of our families, but He does insist that we give in proportion to now He has prospered us.
How do you react when the new church budget is proposed each year? And what is your reaction to the yearly increase in the Synodical assessments? The typical reaction is that we complain about it. But are we being fair about this. Fifteen years ago the budget amounted to a little more than a tenth of my wages. Today the budget I pay isn’t even double what I paid then but my wages are at least four times greater. I suspect this is true in many more cases than my own. Do we really have a right to complain about budget increases and increases in Synodical assessments? Such complaining is indicative of our attitude toward giving and certainly mars in God’s eyes our gift giving to kingdom causes. I personally believe that if we all gave as God blessed us we would have a surplus in our general funds and our mission efforts could be greatly increased.
Consider carefully your giving habits and your motivations for giving. Think about these things. Discuss this together as the members of the same household of faith. Make personal giving to kingdom causes your number one priority. God knows our attitudes towards giving. Is He pleased with what He sees? The angel came to Cornelius and told him “Thy prayers and thy alms are come up for a memorial before God.” Could this same angel say the same to you?
Many years ago, when I was still in high school I had the opportunity to go on a drive for our Christian school with one of the older men of the school society. Our first stop was at the home of a family with but one child. He was probably a fifth or sixth grader. In the driveway stood a fancy boat. In the back yard was a brand-new camper-a luxury in those days. A late model car rested in the garage. The home was richly furnished. It soon became evident that the father resented our presence at his door. Hurriedly he pulled out his wallet and handed us a ten dollar bill. Later that same evening we went to the home of a man with seven or eight children. Five or six of them were in grade school or high school. He welcomed us and expressed a Godly concern for the financial needs of our school. He wanted us to know how much he appreciated the covenant instruction His children were receiving there. We left that home with two hundred dollars-two hundred dollars I’ve always suspected he had to borrow from the bank.
To the one giving had become a burden-a rather disagreeable part of a self-centered life. To the other giving was a joy and a privilege. Judge for yourself which one was blessed in his giving.
Personal giving must be our prayerful concern. It must be spiritually motivated. Only when we give out of love for God and His kingdom will we give as we are blessed.