'Tis the season of giving, and with it comes questions of where to give, and how much to give. Of course, this dilemma spans more than just the holidays -- opportunities for tithes and offerings present us with decisions all year. One of today’s popular teachings is that one’s offerings should be given only at his home church. I suppose some of this is a reaction to all of the televangelists of the 70’s and 80’s who urged people to send them their tithes. Local churches in many areas suffered as a result. Let me give you my perspective on this matter.
Without question it makes logical sense that a Christian’s first and primary commitment should be to the fellowship of which she is a part. Each year I travel to about fifty churches presenting the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar. Frequently we do the seminar on Sunday — I even preach at a lot of the churches. But do you know what I don’t usually do? I don’t usually contribute when the baskets are passed.
"Aren’t you the guy who teaches about Godly money management and giving? What a hypocrite!" you might think.
No, I’m not being a hypocrite. As a matter-of-fact, I’m doing exactly what I teach. You see, I save my contribution until I’m back home and can give it to my home church. After all, it’s my home congregation that relies on me. Those are the people who depend on me — they need and deserves my support.
So, if you are one who excuses not giving your contribution to your home church because you "just don’t agree with how they spend the money," then something needs to change. Either it's time to find another congregation that is more in line with the truth, or maybe it's time to do a check-up-from-the-neck-up of your own commitment level.
With all of that said, let me put a little different spin on the subject. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I fear anything that turns an act of love and charity into an act of obligation and legalism. As an active member of the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville, I know what our budgetary needs are. And, generally speaking, I’m pretty much aware of whether we are meeting those needs or not. At times when we are falling short, our family gives a little more than normal. When we are meeting and exceeding the budget needs, I feel more comfortable giving some of my money to other efforts.
So, while my first obligation is to my church, I try to keep my eyes wide open to other opportunities the Lord shows me from day to day. I don’t want to be like the priest and the Levite who (likely on their way to church services) couldn’t find the time to show compassion to the man along the road who had been robbed and beaten. (See Luke 10:30.)
One thing that appeals to me about Jesus is the way He moved and walked freely in the Spirit — always ready unto every good work. I want to see the poor people that God puts before me. After all, more than twenty of the Hebrew Psalms center on God’s love and care for the poor. John, one of Jesus’ closest Apostles, summed it up this way in 1 John 3:17: "But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
But it’s not just the poor in need of our help. What about the missionary you may know who has barely enough to keep body and soul together? What about the young lady who would go to school to become a third world doctor — but doesn’t have the funds? What about the flood victims who lost their homes? What about the fledgling radio ministry that reaches into China? Or, what about the mom who just needs a bag of groceries to get her kids through another week?
So, remember to "check in with God" on a regular basis. Pray over where your funds are needed most. This Christmas season is the perfect time to ask God to open your eyes to special needs in the world, and to perhaps give a little more than usual. Keep your home church as a top priority, but be open to helping others. Sure we can legalize our giving — but isn’t it more fun when we don't?
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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