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.

Summary:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

Want to blow up a social event?

Pull the pin with a few choice comments on religion and politics, then stand back and watch the opinions and emotions explode. Since the point of gathering together is to come together, we learn early in life to leave the tear-people-apart explosive topics at home.

When we gather together as a local church, one emotion-packed, explosive topic most people want left at home is money, and especially sermons on how some of that money belongs to God through the local church. There are many reasons for this. Some of us have been utterly church poisoned by our pockets being patted down in the name of Jesus. Others have happened by give-now-or-God-is-going-to-kill-me televangelists on cable. Still others have come out of churches that teach offerings are payment for services to God, or quarters in God’s slot machine of financial or physical blessings. Now add to these bad experiences Jesus’ warnings that money can replace God, or that the use of our money shows our heart condition and priorities, and let’s face it, it’s no wonder no-talk-rules have been put in place in many churches. In fact, for some churches, the very fact they don’t talk about money while other churches and ministries are abusing the topic suggests to them that their wise silence demonstrates their special trust in the provision of God.

moneyI have been processing and praying about this speak-up or stay-silent dilemma, and I feel I need to repent. I have been too silent on this subject for too long. I have tried to comfort myself that, in my commitment to primarily preach through whole books of the Bible, I just haven’t been in those books recently which speak much on God’s view of how we manage finances. But it seems clear to me that while some are growing in this area, others are not experiencing God’s blessing of aligning our treasure with our hearts.

The question how is how to strengthen this body. How I don’t want to do this is with guilt and pressure. It may surprise my church family in the pews, but as one who sits in the pew with my family two services each Sunday, I too, feel the reality of pressure and guilt when it comes to giving. Since Emma and I normally give in the second service, when the offering bag comes by in the first service, there is always that awkward moment I find this almost irresistible desire to explain to the usher why I am passing the bag by. I hope it will ease worries that I have been there and don’t like how that feels. I also hope it will help you to know how I long to create a grace-saturated environment, in which God speaks clearly about financial stewardship through the instruction of God’s Word, not through the condemnation of the Enemy.

What does God want from us in giving? Why does this matter? Beginning in June, I want to start to robustly explore God’s view of the heart-treasure principle – that there is a strong relationship between our heart and our treasure. Where one goes, the other goes. We will fund what we value, and we will value what we fund. I am praying that God will continue to transform us as we break the silence in this important area of our lives.

Today I want to grab one theme that has been stirring in my soul as we come out of our annual meeting and look to the next year. As we storm into the Christmas season, there are lots of plans to be made. It means going to relatives’ homes,special programs, holiday parties, and much going and doing. For some it means staring at an empty chair around the table- powerful reminders of loss that can’t be ignored – please know your pastors and church family are praying with you this Christmas season.

One theme that echoes through so many conversations I’ve had recently centers around relationships and connectedness. If I could give you a gift this Christmas – beyond knowing the abiding, and transforming power of Christ – it would be for you to know deeply significant connectedness. You see, these days many are lonely in a crowd. The busyness of life numbs the pain; but the ache won’t go away. Here at Calvary, we hear people saying, “I don’t feel connected, I need meaningful relationships.” I encourage you to take advantage of many opportunities to experience community.

Deep friendship

When Emma and I first went to the mission field, we naively believed that authentic community “just happened.” We thought that we would just naturally have deep friendships because of our situation; but the assumption proved to be false. Instead, we learned that significant relationships take time. One of our closest friendships was sealed when they phoned at three o’clock in the morning.

My friend said, “You are not going to believe this; but my wife left Germany yesterday to come home on the train. They diverted the train to another city in the middle of the night and are going to a city almost 300 miles from here. I need to leave now in order to pick her up; but my children are asleep. Can you come and be with them until I get back?”

Of course, I replied that I would be there in ten minutes. This was the beginning of a new level of deep and lasting friendship. These same friends shared their struggles with us again a few weeks ago. That same man who called in the night is suffering intensely from the aftermath of a brain tumor. They started their cancer journey just months before ours, in July 2007. This time they picked up the proverbial phone again and asked for help. Emma and I have prayed and we feel that God has said, “Go!” So, as I write this, I’m getting ready to board a plane for Germany to be with my dear sick friend. I remember so very many times when he was there for me, when we were in tight spots together, serving side by side.

Giving and accepting help

I am realizing that part of connectedness is reaching out in times of need, to both give and accept help. In many ways, it is easier for us to give help; yet in the struggle of accepting help, deep relationships are formed. If we are a people who pretend we don’t need each other it will always be difficult to grow deep and significant relationships.

One of my prayers for Calvary is that we would call to each other in our need. I pray that you would know what it is to make the scary call in the middle of the night, wondering how the person will react, and then have the deep joy of knowing that they care enough to come. That is the contagious community that “spread through the known world” (Acts 2:42-47).