There are many who don’t like to hear preachers or missionaries talk about money. I am one of those. If you’re like me, then you may want to skip reading this, because it isn’t going to be pretty.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, Jesus even turned some people off when He started talking about money. Remember that really rich, young lawyer?
It is always dangerous for people in missions to speak of money. It is far safer to stay with other issues. But frankly I can’t, for in our giving, the gap between New Testament Christianity and our American model is exaggerated. Let’s look at some examples . . .
Mission agencies do their best to devise schemes and programs that will not challenge our worship of mammon. How many fundraising plans have been launched that convince you that giving can be painless and easy? “A dime a day keeps John in Paraguay,” the poster reads. “With our spare change we will win the world to Jesus.” If we in the missions relm avoid offense and make it easy for people to give, we will get more nickel and diming the world to Christ than if we challenge people to dig deep and give, even though it hurts.
Biblical giving isn’t painless and discretionary. It is sacrificial. It costs us something. Yet most of our giving is from our excess. It costs us nothing. The IRS even rewards us for our charitable giving, allowing us to pay less taxes up to a certain amount. I am always amazed that people are rarely generous beyond what they can deduct. I recently heard of a church that can automatically withdraw your offering from your account, without having to bother you at all. It doesn’t get much more painless than that.
Must giving hurt? Yes. It must cost us something; it must be a sacrifice. Hear the words of David in I Samuel 24:24, “I will not burn offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” And neither should we.
Another disturbing trend is the idea that after I am dead and gone, then I will be really generous and give everything to some great mission agency. God asks us to be generous now with what we have now. It’s as though we’re saying, “Lord, I have taken the talent you gave me and intend upon my death to will it to the needy.” We are really saying, “When I have no more need of it, then sure, I will let it be used for Christ and His Kingdom.” That is the ultimate painless gift.
You are not responsible for the lost of prior generations who did not hear of Jesus, nor are you responsible for those who are yet to come. We are each responsible for the billions who today have no way of hearing about Jesus without some radical intervention of Christ’s servants. When we refuse to acknowledge the need of the unreached and leave it for after our death, we condemn our generation to hell. Your saving of your treasure for tomorrow’s generation sends this living generation to eternity without Jesus.
I made a jump. Is the proclamation of the gospel among the unreached dependent upon your dollars? Not entirely. But to act like there is no connection is wishfully ignorant. “How will they hear unless there is a preacher, and how will they preach unless they are sent?” And how will they be sent without your dollars? Our lack of sacrificial giving is one of the key reasons that untold millions remain untold.
The task to which Jesus calls us is not going to be finished through painless giving. So long as we are not sacrificial in our giving, not willing to become poor that they might become rich, they will never know Jesus. The gap between the primitive church and our “enlightened” age has never been more extreme.
Jesus is clear. He says, “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth” (Mt. 6:9, Lk 12:20-21).
Somehow I think Jesus is still in His temple watching the offering plate. I wonder if He would categorize our giving as the widow’s mite, given in poverty, yet given as a joyful sacrifice or like the rich people’s offerings, given painlessly. And if He asked us to sell it all and give the money away, would we, like the rich young ruler, turn and walk away?
By John Zumwalt