Posted by: pastortomvabeach | February 5, 2014

Thought For The Week February 9, 2014

I began several weeks ago to provide an indepth review of Jeff Anderson’s book, Plastic Donuts. I intended to finish it before now but was waylaid by a brief hospital stay that caused me to “think” in other directions for a few weeks. So I want to continue where I left off on January 12. Jeff shares some well thought out guidelines for giving that he has put together through a long term study of the scripture. We’ve covered a couple of these such as, “when it comes to our gifts, we know the amount matters. And when selecting our gifts, we determine the amount, in order to delight out Father.”

The guideline that follows is that we give acceptable gifts to God because we can or as the Bible puts it in many places, according to our ability. Jeff presents several instances in the Scripture where it says very plainly that what is acceptable to God in giving is a gift that is based on the giver’s means. In urging the Corinthian church to send an offering for the Judean Christians, Paul says, If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. (II Cor. 8:12). In Acts 11:29, we read, The disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. In other words, the believers gave because they could give, since they had something to give, and each gave what they had.

The same kind of standard was followed in many Old Testament instances. At the annual feasts the people were commanded to come with an offering: They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you. When bringing burnt offerings one was to offer according to his possessions. If he owned cattle, he would offer a bull, if he owned sheep, a lamb, and if he had neither, he could bring a turtledove or pigeon. When Jesus was presented in the temple, it appears she and Joseph could not afford a lamb since Luke says, they brought according to the law, A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. (Luke 2:24).

So what does all this mean today? If the amount matters and we get to determine the amount, yet acceptable gifts are gauged according to our ability, is ten percent (a tithe) an appropriate amount of giving? For some it may be, since that level is according to their ability. Many others may be capable of giving way more than a tithe, when we consider that many faithful tithers have more than enough left over to indulge themselves in lifestyles of leisure and excess. I don’t think Anderson means that we should not get to enjoy the fruit of our work, nor do I. I do believe he is correct in saying that “a decision to give more would involve trade-offs, meaning less of our income would be available for things we really enjoyed…things that involved amounts that mattered to us” (and therefore to God).

In our consumer culture Christians often make lifestyle choices that limit their ability to give amounts that matter, even if it is some minimum like a tithe. Anderson says, “many of us have already forfeited out giving ability due to poor financial choices. For many, debt is a big one…or maybe lifestyle indulgences that drain money every month from available income and assets.” He continues by saying, “The good news is that a few planned moves can also free up your ability to give.”

Choices like getting debt free, foregoing a planned (but expensive) vacation, eating in rather than eating out, continuing to drive the older car, finding less expensive or free recreation, etc., can help us free up God’s blessings so that we can give them back. Paul wrote to Timothy, Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Tim. 6:6-8). I often wonder, in all the blessings that God has given us in our rich nation, whether we have forgotten that His blessings are not only to make us happy. Does it take so much to satisfy us these days that we out spend our capacity from God to be givers and a blessing?

So the question should be not how much should I give but how much can I give, how much has God blessed me, and what am I doing with it? Anderson says, “Giving is not cut and dried, which is why discussion and investigation are important. How simply should I live? How much debt is too much? How much home is too much? Is going on a cruise too extravagant? How much savings do I really need? In measuring whether our gift is the acceptable kind, God measures it according to our ability. There will always be a healthy tension within us as we live the Christian life. At the same time, there is a growing peace deep within that comes through a connection to God – a connection that deepens with giving acceptable gifts to Him.”

Challenging and stirring thoughts, I think. What about you. You can find more of Jeff’s thoughts at http://www.AcceptableGift.org.

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