People don’t like when pastors talk about money. To be honest, I get it. There are a lot of money grabbing pastors out there preaching to make a buck. In addition to that, pastors tend to not talk about money in a very helpful manner. It typically tends to be guilt driven and the worst kind. It is the I’ll twist your arm until you let go of that cash into the offering plate, type of guilt. As a result, their is an awkwardness when a pastor gets up to talk about money, largely because the pastor is dependent on the generosity of the church members for his livelihood. With all the awkwardness, pressure, and tension often we just ignore the issues of personal finance in church life. There seems to be an unwritten agreement not to talk about the issue. We do not talk about giving and we do not talk about the spiritual matters at the heart of the issue.
If you are like me, you are a naturally greedy and stingy person. Generosity is something that has not come naturally to me. It is difficult for us to be generous because we are so often very selfish. When we think about giving money to the church, so often it feels like a great obligation, not a great joy. If you do give regularly to your church (and I hope you do!), so often the task seems like a great burden. I’ve identified several incorrect attitudes when it comes to giving, most resulting from my own ungenerous heart.
The God-Gets-His-Share Offering
This is the way many of us think about giving. We take that magical little 10% number out of our paycheck and toss it in the offering plate and think that our task is done. God got his 10% and I get to keep my 90% to do whatever I want with. Got got his share and I get to keep my share. The heart behind this offering is not one of joy but of appeasement. We think we will appease God or get him off our back so we can spend our money how we want to do it. This offering more often than not is one motivated by guilt, not joy.
The God-Will-Give-Me-More-Later Offering
Pastors have unhelpfully perpetuated this type of offering, mostly from nicely dressed guys own TV asking you to buy a bottle of holy water for $50. This is the attitude of investment. If I give money to God now, then God will have to give me more later. If I give God $50 this week, I can expect a random $500 check in the mail sometime this week. This offering thinks of God more as a stock investment than a generous gift. With this offering, we give not out of love for God, but a greedy lust for more. In giving, we hope we can manipulate God to owe us more later. This attitude of giving has been perpetuated over and over again by the myriad of health, wealth, and prosperity preachers polluting our country.
The God-Will-Be-Happy-Now Offering
The person who gives this offering gives in some way to make up for his sins. His offering and gift is like penance in which he hopes God will forgiven him based off of his generous gift. Just like the pagan peoples of ancient times, the gods are angry and we sacrifice to make them happy with us. What we fail to understand is that no one has ever been saved by giving alms to the poor. You could be the greatest philanthropist in the history of the world and feed more starving children than Mother Theresa, and still be spiritually destitute. We are saved not by our good works, but by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
There are many who have adopted this attitude. They fill pews, raise their hands in worship, say amen loudly during the sermon, but do not give a penny to God. These people fail to understand that God cares very much about the way they manage their money. Not giving is a sin and is disobedience. These people get that we are not saved by our giving, but with an antinomian attitude continue in sin so that grace may abound. The apostle Paul speaks of just how foolish this attitude is. God cares very much what you give, and the reason for this is because God cares about the state of your heart. Your money follows your heart. Therefore an ungenerous spirit reflects a heart that has yet to be transformed by the generous grace of God.
However, there is no better spiritual litmus test to our lives than money. Our check books know us better than we know ourselves. Nothing will reveal your priorities, passions, and idols like your check book. The reason for this is simple. Our money follows our heart. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21, “For where Your Treasure is, there your heart will be also”. If you want to know. You may say you love God, you may say you love your church, and you may say you long to see the Gospel advance, but your check book is calling you a liar. Your money follows your heart. Yet at the same time where we put our treasure our heart tends to follow. As Randy Alcorn says in his book The Treasure Principle, “As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasure. Money leads; hearts follow.” You see at the end of the day our personal finances our a huge spiritual matter. It is an issue we should not neglect and we should not avoid.