Giving To God

If you think for a moment, I’m sure you can think of a time (maybe even today) that you’ve given something. We give all kinds of things like time, love, attention, and money… The list goes on and on.

As Christians, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose behind our giving. We are taught almost from the moment we accept our Savior that giving is part of the Christian life. But do we really understand why that is? Let’s look together at what the Bible tells us about how and why we should give.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
– Matthew 6:1-4

There are plenty of Bible verses about giving, but this passage stands out to me. In just four verses, we are reminded of the most significant principle behind Christian giving.

  1. We are expected and required to give
    Reread the passage. Notice that Jesus said to His disciple “when you give” not “if you give.” Jesus is telling us that, as Christians, giving is a requirement. It is an expected part of our daily walk with God.

  2. Our motives for giving matter
    Immediately, Jesus warns against “practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.” He later goes so far as to say that your giving should be done in secret. This means that we should not give for our own glory, recognition, or praise. Jesus states that those who do “have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” As Christians, we give to honor God and bring glory to His kingdom.

  3. Ultimately, we are giving directly to God
    Of course, you aren’t literally placing your tithe or offering into God’s hands, but as mentioned previously, Christian giving is done to bring glory to God and His kingdom. When you give you are doing more than just padding the church’s budget – you are giving and offering directly to the Lord and He sees and rewards your gift.

The bottom line? When you give, do it for the right reasons – for God’s kingdom and glory.

Welcoming, Not Affirming

In today’s culture, the lines between what it means to welcome someone and to affirm their beliefs and behaviors have become blurred almost beyond comprehension. Many churches today are self-proclaimed “Open & Affirming” places of worship. You can even find maps online directing you to the closest “affirming” church. (Don’t believe me? Google it.)

Let’s talk for just a moment though, about why this increasingly popular trend is actually going against the Bible’s teachings and detrimental to one's walk with Christ.

If the title didn’t scare you away, I’d guess that by now you may have a few ruffled feathers, but I’d encourage you to keep reading.

So, what does it mean to welcome someone to your church? What do you think it would look like in your church? At Middle Creek, every person who walks through the doors is greeted with a warm smile and a friendly face. They are given a bulletin, find a place to sit, and mingle with members and other guests until the church service starts. No matter who you are or where you are in life, we hope that every guest leaves knowing that we were genuinely happy to have met them.

Your mental picture may be slightly different, but I’d be willing to bet there are quite a few similarities. Welcoming is something that all churches should strive to be. Jesus made it very clear that there was no exclusivity in Christianity. After all, I’m sure you can think back to many instances where he could have chosen to use an affluent person to carry out his will, but instead chose someone from the lowest of the low.

However, this idea of being welcoming isn’t synonymous with being affirming. To affirm someone’s behavior is to encourage it, to promote it, and to accept it as good. Across the country, churches are adopting the philosophy that a person’s lifestyle should not have to change in order to have a relationship with God. This is simply not God’s truth.

Each of us is born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5) and this sinful nature is the reason that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross became necessary. Though Christ’s sacrifice and offer of salvation, when we place our faith in Him, we are transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Here, the argument against affirming sinful behavior becomes apparent. How can a person become a new creation if they make no effort to change their ways and carry out Christ’s will?

A wise man spoke in our church a couple of months ago, and left us with a wonderful sentiment that has stuck with me every day since: “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.”

I hope this statement resonates with each of you the way it did with me. Because yes, we all struggle with sin. No matter how hard we work to follow God’s path, we are going to fail. That is our nature. The danger in affirming sin comes when we no longer try to grow in our faith, but condone our own sinfulness. We are called to turn away from sin (Acts 3:19) not to affirm it.

With this idea of affirming sins becoming so common in our society, it is only fitting to close with this reminder we are given in the book of James:

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  - James 5:19-2

What You Have Is Enough

In a small church, we are often burdened with the idea that we can't do enough to make a difference. Whether we look at how much money we can donate, how many times we are able to volunteer, how many programs we offer, or countless other areas, we look at our small church and see a deficit. Consciously or not, we are all guilty of viewing the small church as 'lacking'. The Bible however, tells us a very different story.   

The following is Mark's account of a story repeated in all four gospels:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."

But he answered, "You give them something to eat."

They said to him, "That would take more than half a year's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"

"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."

When they found out, they said, "Five - and two fish."

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Mark 6:30-44 (NIV)

If this isn't a powerful lesson and encouragement, then I don't know what is. Here we see Jesus, to the disbelief and astonishment of his closest followers, taking a few loaves and fish and feeding a hungry crowd to satisfaction. Not only did he feed them all the wanted, but there were leftovers! When all his disciples thought they couldn't possibly have enough to make a difference, Jesus showed them what could be done if they put the little that they did have into his hands.

We are a small church, like many others across the country. Our resources are limited. And it can be easy to compare what we have to what larger churches have and begin feeling inadequate. This passage serves as a reminder that God can do incredible things with what we give him, whether it's a lot or a little. Every little bit that we can give to God will play a role in growing his kingdom and making a positive impact on the world around us.