Throughout the summer the FSU Wesley Foundation has been studying 2 Corinthians every Wednesday night (Not because of some divine revelation but because the chapters matched up with the number of weeks in the summer). Last week we entered into a discussion about giving. Preface: The subject of giving can be dissonant to members of the congregation and because generosity is mentioned so much it’s easy to get a sense that, “All the church wants from me is my money.” It’s not true, they want your heart, sweat, tears, and so much more. However, it would be difficult for the church to maintain its operation without funds. It was a fruitful dialogue so I will attempt to enumerate some of the talking points.
Person 1:How much are we to give?
Person 2: Ten percent, duh.
Person 1: Okay, that’s the . . .
Person 2: Is it before taxes or after taxes? You know since some of our tax money goes to things like welfare programs and such aren’t we helping the poor in our taxation?
See, I believe that people have that innate desire to do good for other people; I’m just not sure that innate desire when quantified lines up to ten percent of their income. People (including myself) enjoy generosity when it is convenient. Notice in that dialogue that people gravitate towards the bare minimum. In fact, ten percent is the baseline, not the ceiling. The theological argument for tithe is that all the money you are giving back to God is what God gave to you. All of the work of your hands, physical or mental, is from the blessing God has bestowed on your life. To give is also a form of dying to self.Person 1: Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s.
Person 2 (Thought Bubble): I really hate that verse. Does God not want to me to care about tax reform?
Person 1: It’s an issue of first fruits. We’re not just to give God the ten percent, but the first ten percent.
Person 2: I understand. Don’t give God the scraps but make Him the priority.
Over time I've developed a real aversion to the Caesar verse. Really, strongly, disliked that verse because I’ve only heard it being used when I’m bickering about taxes. I still don’t like the government taking my money but I do understand that it isn’t about government. It is about God. Regardless of much the government takes from me I will continue to honor God with that ten percent.
Person 1: Whomever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, but whomever sows generously will reap generously. The harvest is righteousness.
Person 2: By the way, don’t give out of compulsion for the Lord loves a joyful gift.
Person 3: But I give to joyfully outside the church to a cause my heart breaks over because the church is so limited in the compassionate activities that they’re a part of. The church has limitations.
I don’t in fact believe that the church has limitations. It was meant to be much more than it is right now. The limitations came in the form of us treating the church like our secret club and our spirituality as an individual sized cocktail that each person ought to have their own recipe for. The church can be more than we see it as today.
Person 1: Gee, I feel bad. We just talked about giving and I’m going to Starbucks to get a latte.
Person 2: It’s not a bad thing to want some coffee. One day this week when you would go to get coffee save the money instead and give it away. By the way, this is the marketing plan of Invisible Children to donate by drinking one less Starbucks concoction per week https://secure.invisiblechildren.com/donate/tri/
Person 3: Maybe some day when there are retained earnings maximizing non profits you’ll be able to go get a cup of coffee and feel better about the fact that the money is going towards digging clean water wells in Africa.