During Pastor Kevin’s sermon, “Blessed to Be a Blessing” given on Sunday, October 19th 2014, Pastor Kevin mentioned the different examples of giving. For those who are interested in more detail, this is an additional explanation about Storehouse Giving vs. Giving to Need.
This document is intended to concisely summarize what each position states and then look at relevant Biblical precedent pointing to a balanced approach.
Storehouse giving can be described as view that emphasizes the leadership function in allocating resources to needs and opportunity based on the best information at the time. The spiritual leaders of a church prayerfully and mindfully consider the opportunities and the needs and then call people to give as a lifestyle and or spiritual discipline. The giving appeals are not tied specifically to needs, but rather are “laid at the apostle’s feet” (Acts 4:37, 5:2). The spiritual leaders make the decisions regarding where the funds are used. Storehouse giving would see these instances in Acts as normative for the church today. Likewise, this view emphasizes that the local church should receive these funds, not parachurch ministries. Many combine the storehouse view with the idea of tithing. A tithe goes to the storehouse/church while offerings (over and above) go to parachurch ministries (Malachi 3:10).
Need-based giving is a response often motivated by some apparent need. To pretend that responding to need is not a part of the giving decision is a fiction. Even when giving is done out of discipline and habit, there is nevertheless some aspect of responding to need. In fact, compassion is a response to need. Mercy is a response to need. To ask people to give without this fails to cultivate these essential outworkings of the Holy Spirit.
Major cultural factors that influence the conversation:
- IRS laws that state a 501c3 “shall demonstrate control of the funds.” That is, when funds are given to a church or a non-profit, that group must demonstrate control of those funds and where they are allocated. The donor cannot exercise exact control over how those funds are spent. The donor might think of their gift as doing this or that but in financial terms, if the linkage is very direct this is seen as outside the bounds of what the organization can receive. Grey areas include: benevolence, targeted giving and very specific projects.
- Sometimes organizations will demonstrate the power of a dollar, but these are not to be taken as a promise to use the funds exactly that way. Example: “For only $10 you can send fifty Bibles to Africa”. Your $10 donation might actually buy an appetizer to take out a million dollar donor to lunch. Now that doesn’t sell, so they don’t present it that way. People often confuse “power of a dollar” statements with a promise to use the funds for only that purpose.
- Massive culture of marketing – We are bombarded with thousands of images every day designed to produce a response. We become resistant to this, which requires more and more imaginative ways to get around our defenses. Over time this produces a group of cynical individuals who are accustomed to see things as “marketing” and therefore readily ignore them without much thought.
- Desired control – One way to control an organization is to control its money. We vote as consumers with our dollars. Many feel that voting politically is a waste of time, whereas voting with our feet and with our dollars almost always produces results. Some may desire to control systems through the introduction or withholding of resources.
Biblical precedent for giving based on discipline:
• The OT tithe is based on a discipline which had little to do with how the resources would be used. It is considered irrelevant if the individual identified with the end use or not. This concept of giving is taught as a duty rather than an emotional appeal to do the right thing. Basing spiritual disciplines solely on feelings is a dangerous thing and has eroded a principled-duty-based decision-making framework. The Bible strongly advocates a duty-based system which also connects to the heart.
• Not giving as we ought is described as robbing God (Malachi 1). The rationale is that God is owed our giving. If the appeal is primarily to give in response to need, then it could be argued that when we fail to give, we are not robbing God, and that what we do choose to give is “extra.” We may prefer to think of things this way, but if God sees it as robbing Him, who is right?
• Train the heart by calling for the action, and your heart will follow. The Biblical model is calling for the behavior and the heart will follow. Basing giving only on the need asks for the effect prior to the cause. Jesus says that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. By giving our treasure to God we move our heart in the process. The emotional basis assumes a set of values that is so often not present.
• Giving is a way to honor God which is not based on need. (Genesis 14:20)
• Giving confirms the idea that we are not our own; we are purchased at a price. This has nothing to do with need. (Numbers 3:51, I Corinthians 6:20)
Biblical precedent for giving as response to need:
- People gave as a response to a need for building the tabernacle and the temple. This was a willing response that greatly edified everyone.
- Giving to a need allows someone to feel personally connected to something in ways that “laying it at the Apostles feet” doesn’t. There was a higher level of investment and identification when they gave to a specific need. (Exodus 25:1-8, 36:2-6)
- Paul repeatedly raised money for relief and support efforts on behalf of the believers in Jerusalem. (I Corinthians 16:1-3, Romans 15:26-28, Acts 15, Gal 2:10)
- From everything we can tell of these efforts, they were very need-focused. In one case, there was a famine that was predicted and that occurred during Cladius’ reign. (Acts 11:18)
Key Passage: Paul uses need as a motivator in presenting a giving opportunity. (II Corinthinans 8:7-15) Even in this presentation of need, Paul calls for regular and systematic giving.
- The early church based allocation of funds on need. (Acts 2:45)
A balanced approach:
Acts 4:34-35 — “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”
I think it is ironic that even in the passages which use the phrase “lay them at the apostle’s feet” also say the word “need(y)” twice. This verse itself points to a middle way. (cf Acts 2:45, which also uses “need.”) God has given both forms of giving for specific reasons, one of which is regular and predictable, protecting us from excessive preoccupations with our giving motivations. This form reminds us that we owe God honor when that motivates us and when it doesn’t. We are not our own and giving is an act of worship which is due God no matter how He or others might use those funds. God has also given us a form of giving to a known need. This allows us to grow in expressing compassion as we respond to needs. Even in this response to need we give systematically.
God’s word calls us to lay resources into the hands of spiritual leaders entrusted with the stewardship of faithfully using these funds to meet the most pressing needs. Determining what the most pressing needs are should be a collaborative process. Presenting needs and allowing needs to motivate giving is appropriate, but if that is the only motivation for giving, then this represents a problem. Our goal is more than fundraising. Our task as spiritual leaders is to grow the whole body into the full stature and measure of Christ. Enabling immature desire to control systems through targeted giving may be an effective fundraising strategy and yet fail to advance people into God’s vision for Christ-like character.
God has given both regular/systematic forms of giving, and special response-to-needs forms of giving to help us accomplish all that God desires in our lives. Both forms are necessary and have their place. The primary form in Scripture seems to be regular giving, yet giving to need is never absent.