The first time I read the statement above I must admit that I reacted against it. The guy who wrote is Francis Chan, one of those hippy Christians who is pretty bonkers but nevertheless can write what turns out to be frustrating biblical stuff. By which I mean that I want to disagree with it because Mr Chan is a little weird and I don’t like his writing style but he backs it up with the Bible and I can’t really argue with that. The book in question is called Crazy Love and it’s in part great and in part not so.
One of the most challenging chapters in the whole book is when Mr Chan goes through various signs of true Christianity and one of those signs is giving to the poor and to the work of God. When I read this sign then my conscience troubled me for while I was telling myself “Oh, I’ll give to God when I have a job” I realized that I had to give when I had little otherwise I would never give when (if) I had more. As Jesus says:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 12 v 33 – 34
Now the sell part of the verse is fairly cultural in the sense that two thousand years ago people’s wealth would likely be caught up mostly in their possessions with cash balances not as common as today (still, by all means sell and give!). But the giving to the poor part is entirely applicable!
Mr Chan’s point was that if you’re not giving then there is something seriously wrong with your Christian walk. As in, it’s time to start questioning your salvation. This is a strong point. And I’m still not sure how much I agree with it but let’s look at where he is coming from.
We know that saving faith results in deeds (notice, our deeds spring from our salvation they don’t make us saved). Faith, as James puts it, without deeds is dead. This means, literally, if you’re not showing signs of saving faith through obedience to the word then you are likely not to be saved. That’s the first truth.
The next is that giving to both God and the poor is a big deal. The Bible mentions it constantly, Jesus taught it and the rest of the New Testament confirms it. What we do with our money matters to God. As Jesus says: “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our giving, or lack thereof, reflects our hearts. It reflects our hearts very accurately. Spurgeon said that the last part on a man to be converted was his wallet and there’s a lot of wisdom there.
Someone should be able to look at your bank account and tell that you are a Christian. Yes, it should be that obvious or at least approaching that obvious. Imagine handing your latest bank statement over to a complete stranger and asking them if they could guess what religion you follow. Would they say Christianity?
It is chilling to read through the many judgements on Israel and see that while outwardly they maintained the outwards signs of Judaism (sacrifices, prayers, feasts, etc) they oppressed the poor and the needy and this was an accurate reflection of their hearts. Likewise, not giving is an accurate reflection of a heart untouched by Christian love, disobedient to the Lord, selfish with wealth and greedy for possessions. If you go to church but don’t give to your church then you heap the same judgement on yourself. If you lift your hands in praise and keep them closed to the poor then be warned by these judgements!
Common Objections to Giving
When it comes to these objections then I do admit to having an unfair advantage in the sense that I’ve used a lot of excuses not to give myself so I know what we think in these matters…
Can’t afford too
Using this excuse in the Western World is almost laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. Yet I’ve used it before when feeling the urge to give and the urge to hold on. Yes, we need to be wise in our giving but that presupposes the fact that you’re actually giving. Those of us who live in the First World can always afford to give. Even if it just £1.40 because we walked instead of busing it.
We use this excuse to cover the fact that we don’t want to engage in sacrificial giving. And we lose sight that wonderfully it’s not about giving a lot in gross terms but about the attitude of the heart. If you really do feel that your budget is stretched thin then bring it the God in prayer and ask him to show you what you can give up. There is much that we can stop spending on if we wanted too.
I’m on a student loan
This is a bit of a classic in student terms and in first sight it seems fair enough. This was my excuse for a long time. I was living off borrowed money so to give it away was irresponsible of me. But did that stop me buying anything else? Not a chance. In every other way I was treating my student loan as income except when it came to giving. That type of inconsistency should be eliminated. My view is that Christians should give from their loan or they should strictly use their loan for necessities and nothing else. Again, it’s the heart attitude. Pray about it, listen to conscience!
What if an emergency arises?
Ok, so I give now but what if tomorrow something unexpected happens and I need money that I now don’t have? It’s a good question. And it’s likely to happen, after giving then I often find unexpected expenses come upon me. The challenge is to maintain trust in God. He has promised to provide and he is faithful. It’s no coincidence that it after his talk on trusting God that Jesus talks about giving. When we trust God for the future we are free to give more in the present. Bear in mind as well that giving carries with it the promise that as we give so shall it be given to us. If we give generously we can be sure of the generosity of the Lord for he has promised it will be so!
I don’t know any poor to help
This is another good excuse in the sense that many of us student types don’t mix with the poor and the needy. My advice would be to start praying to God for opportunities to give, you will be surprised what comes your way!
At heart all reasons not to give are because we prize the money we would have to part with over the act of giving. Ah, we are fools. Giving destroys the idol of wealth, it slays the god of money and brings a freedom from that love which corrupts. Who hasn’t been on the end of generosity and not appreciated it? Let us do unto others as we would have done to ourselves.
Reasons to Give
Well, God commands it. But he does more and attaches a whole host of promises to giving. Did you know that the current interest rate is actually negative due to inflation being higher than nominal interest rates? The interest rate for giving is 10, 000% Yes, you read that right. By giving we store up treasure in heaven that will be a hundred fold what we give. Get your eyes of this world, look to eternity, open your hands and give! Think upon all that God has given you, his beloved Son, and give! Remember that all we have is God’s anyway and give! Count the promises of the Word with regard to giving and give! For the sake of love, give.
“The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”
Proverbs 11 v 25
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Acts 20 v 35
“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
James 2 v 15 – 16
“The multitude of your sacrifices--
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations--
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”
Isaiah 1 v 11 - 17