How much should I give to mission?
In the ancient world the followers of the Babylonian, Greek and Roman religions gave one tenth of their income to their religions. In the Old Testament even before the giving of the law (Exodus 20), Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20) and, under Moses, tithing was affirmed by God in the old covenant.
There is, therefore, an argument for saying that the least giving taught in the Bible is one tenth of a person’s income. And the challenge is: how can we as Christians give less than a tenth?
Can I suggest a practical exercise? Sit down with a pen and paper and make a note of what you might spend in a month on extras such as sweets, magazines, entertainment, etc. Then multiply the figure by twelve for the year.
Then add on the cost of such things as cosmetics, after shave, deodorants, perfume, visits to the cinema, football or rugby, and eating out. Then add to this list such things as CDs and DVDs, plus money spent on an annual holiday.
If you have made a reasonably accurate list, you will be surprised to discover just how much you have spent on yourself and your family and friends.
Now none of these things are of themselves wrong. But now list how much of your income you have given to God during the same period. You might feel ashamed when you compare how little by comparison you have given to God during the same period.
Giving in support of world evangelisation 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 to move forward the cause of the gospel in the remaining time before Jesus Christ returns.
So what can get in the way of our giving to missions? One big problem would seem to be thoughtlessness. Some Christians don’t give as they should, because they have not thought it through realistically.
We can be very much aware of what inflation over the years has done to our cost of living, but never use the same yardstick for our Christian giving.
The days when a missionary living overseas could live on next to nothing and small donations, and accomplish great wonders 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 very powerful, though sometimes an unrecognised hindrance.
Paul, writing to Timothy, says, ‘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’ (l Timothy 6:10). Covetousness grasps, hoards and withholds.
If there is no great desire to give sacrificially and generously, it is may be an ominous indication of our own poor spiritual health. Might it not indicate that we actually don’t love the Lord as much as we say we do?
Surely, genuine love for the Lord should find expression in faithful stewardship? You cannot serve God and money, but you can serve God with money. How you respond is a significant indication of your Christian discipleship.