Why I’m gearing up to give again

An open letter to the people of Brickhill Baptist Church as we prepare for another church offering.

Headline from The Times, London: “Central banks in $180bn emergency action”. Headline from Time Magazine, USA: “How Financial Madness Overtook Wall Street”. Headline from Reuters.com: “Fear grips financials”. Headline from Brickhill Baptist Church: “We’re going to have a special offering for our partners in Africa.” Headline from Luke’s wallet: “Things are a bit tight”.

There are, in essence, two stories in the headlines above. The first is the one we are all very familiar with: the results of changing economic circumstances and financial mismanagement. How this has come to pass and where it is all going are not my concerns here. What matters is how those of us who follow Christ will respond when He calls us to give again. This is the second story.

Let me point you towards another group of Christians who faced their own credit crunch and were invited to give. They were the churches in Macedonia and the apostle Paul told the church in Corinth about them: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

So the first point is fairly simple: you can be afflicted and still give generously. However the credit crunch is affecting you, it is possible for you to give to this offering.

Secondly, this is a privilege. The Macedonians begged Paul “for the favour” of helping to bless others. They were right: it is a wonderful gift of God that through His provision to us we can help people in need.

What caused this attitude? Perhaps they had received the teaching that Paul shared with the Corinthians: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-12)

Third point: there are no laws for how to give. Paul is very clear on this: “Each one must give as he has made up his mind not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” I remember our leader Paul Woodward saying a few months ago, “If you’re giving grudgingly I don’t want your money.” What a fascinating thing to say: that money given reluctantly isn’t of interest to us. Why say that? Because that’s God’s heart. God is more interested in why you do things than what you do. It is the things done in faith – trusting God – that please Him. Nothing else does. The Bible goes so far as to say “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) So don’t ask us, ‘How much?’ Ask God and see if He speaks to you. If He doesn’t, pray and think of a number. Honestly that’s often how I start. And then God sometimes suggests something bigger!

Fourthly: God will help you with this. Isn’t this incredible: He gives you the money, and then He gives you the grace to give the money to others! It’s so important that you see money in this way: as a means of grace. God doesn’t give you money to increase your comfort, He gives it so that you can bless others and show that God is your greatest joy. Why should you be generous? Because God has been generous with you. Because you can be. What happens when you’re generous? You show how much you treasure God, others are blessed, you are blessed. Let’s be honest, that won’t happen when you use your money in other ways!

In Don’t waste your life (which you can download for free here), John Piper writes, “Jesus loves faith-filled risk for the glory of God… The issue is pervasive because it is crucial for the witness of the church. If we want to make people glad in God, our lives must look as if God, not possessions, is our joy. Our lives must look as if we use our possessions to make people glad in God – especially the most needy.” (p.111)

Our dear friends in Africa certainly can be considered among the most needy. They need roofs over their heads, and the heads of their congregations. Their children need education. They need start-up funds to create sustainable projects that will enable them to care for one another and preach the gospel all the more effectively. We surely have the resources, they certainly have the need. May their willingness be matched by ours.

So to summarise. Giving to this offering can be done by all of us, whatever our current financial circumstances. It is a privilege for us to do so. There is no law regarding what we should give – only that we should be generous and cheerfully full of faith as we do so. And the grace to do all this comes from God, who has richly blessed us that we might be a blessing to others.

Headline from Luke’s heart: “My God will give me all that I need so that I can give generously and cheerfully. Cheque made payable to Brickhill Baptist Church, right?”