Thursday, April 3, 2008

Urban Legends About Giving, Part 6

I would like to give, but my spouse does not share my desire to give.
Both giving and marital unity are important biblical values, so this is a difficult situation, but not an impossible one. The marriage relationship is like the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Christ is the model husband who lays down his life for his bride, and his purpose in all this is to make us holy (v. 26). In a similar way husbands and wives should work hard to move each other toward holiness. Keeping the peace is important, but God desires obedience as well. It might take a lot of prayer and patience before husband and wife are able to give joyfully as a couple. But just as with so many difficult parts of marriage, God is more than able to bring spouses to agreement on this. A Christian should certainly not resolve to go on giving in spite of his spouse’s disapproval, but neither should he give up trying and make an excuse of his spouse’s current opinion. Rather, husband and wife should make it a high (and by God’s grace, attainable) priority to achieve joint obedience in this matter.

I don’t have the spiritual gift of giving.
This is a thoughtful objection. It is true that God gives different spiritual gifts to different people (Romans 12:6), so that some are better at certain things than others; and it is true that giving is one of these spiritual gifts (Romans 12:8). But it does not follow from this that those who do not have the gift of giving are therefore exempt from the responsibility of giving. Yes, some Christians are better at giving than others, but we are all alike called to give generously to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:7) because we have all received his generosity in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is the same with other spiritual gifts. We do not all have the gift of evangelism, but we should all be active in sharing our faith (1 Peter 3:15). We should excel in the areas where we have spiritual gifts, but we should be faithful even in the areas where we don’t.

God doesn’t need my money.
This is a good point; God doesn’t need our money. In the Scriptures he says, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. ... If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Psalm 50:9-12). Indeed, those of us who are the most enthusiastic about giving do well to remember this fact. But to say that God doesn’t need our money is not to say that we shouldn’t give. He doesn’t need our money, but he does want it—not for its own sake, but as a token of our total commitment to him in response to what he has suffered for us (Matthew 6:21). And as it turns out, giving to God is actually in our own best interest. We should give to God not because he needs it, but because we need it (Philippians 4:17).

The church doesn’t need my money.
Well, yes and no. Insofar as God sovereignly builds his church and will never let it expire (Matthew 16:18), no, the church does not need our money. But insofar as God’s normal means of providing for his church is through the gifts of the people (2 Corinthians 9:11), yes, the church does need our money. In other words, the fact that God provides for the church should make us more, not less, eager to give. If we really have been changed by the gospel, then we will consider it a privilege to participate with our Lord in the work of his church.