It takes money to get dedicated people to the mission field, and yet more money to keep them there and provide the tools they need for the job.
Faithful stewardship of time, talent and money are called for, if the work of God around the world is to move forward. As Christians, we cannot serve God and money, but we can certainly serve God with our money.
God’s Word basically gives us two reasons for giving, and each is related in some way to the character and activity of God. First of all, creation is a vivid reminder that God is the creator and owner of everything. Psalm 24:1-2 says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’. We actually own nothing in any absolute way. We are accountable to God for the way we manage the resources that he has entrusted to our care.
Secondly, God’s redemption in Christ is a call to us to commit our time, talents and money to him, in grateful response for his redeeming love.
So what should characterise our giving? The Bible makes it quite clear that giving is an act of worship. David said in Psalm 96:8-9, ‘Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name. Bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness’.
Giving must be with a free spirit and not of compulsion. Jesus said, ‘Freely you have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8). He then went on to say, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.
In fact, Jesus enlarged on this principle when he said, ‘Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ (Luke 6:38).
Regularity in giving is emphasised in Scripture: ‘On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income’ (1 Corinthians 16:2). Samuel Chadwick said, ‘Unless a man cultivates the habit of systematic giving when he had not much to give, he will give little when he is rich’.
In the ancient world, the followers of the Babylonian, Greek and Roman religions gave one tenth. In the Old Testament, even before the giving of the law, Abraham paid tithes (Genesis 14:20), and under Moses this was affirmed.
While there is a further New Testament dimension to what the tithe signifies, one tenth of a person’s income towards Christian giving is a very helpful guideline. The challenge for Christians is to express total consecration to God in giving as well as other areas of life.
So can I make some practical suggestions? Sit down with pen and paper and make a note of what you might spend each month on such extras as magazines or downloads for the I-phone, tablet or computer,
Then add on the cost of such things as cosmetics, visits to the cinema, football or rugby. Then add to this list coffees and eating out, DVDs and money spent on day trips and short or long holidays. If you have made a reasonably accurate list, you will be surprised to discover how much you spend on yourself, your family and friends.
Now, none of these things may be illegitimate or wrong for you. But now list how much of your income you have given to the Lord’s work during the same period.
You might feel ashamed when you compare how little by comparison you have given to God. Giving in support of world mission and your church’s missionaries needs to be sacrificial.
Paul commended the Macedonian churches for their sacrificial giving when he wrote: ‘Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability’ (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
But what do we, in our affluent society, know about sacrificial giving? It is comparatively easy to sing ‘take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold’. However, it is quite another thing to practise sacrificial stewardship of our own money. Yet this is precisely what is needed if our service and witness are to advance the cause of the gospel, in the time remaining until Jesus comes again.
So, what can get in the way of our giving to missions? One big problem would seem to be just thoughtlessness. Some Christians don’t give as they should, because they have never thought it through realistically.
We can be very aware of what inflation does to our cost of living over the years, but never use the same yardstick for giving to missions. The days when a missionary living and working overseas lived on next to nothing, and small donations, have gone for ever.
Are we giving much the same as we did 5-10 years ago? Maybe we need to take a fresh look at what missionary support actually requires from us. In our materialistic world, covetousness can be a powerful, though sometimes unrecognised, hindrance.
Paul writing to Timothy said, ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs’ (1 Timothy 6:10).
If there is no great desire to give sacrificially and generously, it may be an ominous indication of our own poor spiritual health. Does it not actually indicate that we don’t love the Lord as much as we say we do?
Surely love for the Lord should find some expression in faithful stewardship? As I said at the beginning, you cannot serve God and money. But you can serve God with money; and this is an important part of Christian discipleship.