Giving and Generosity
People are always asking for money. After working hard all week, you have to buy the groceries, pay the bills, and put gas in the car. The kids need this. Your spouse needs that. You could personally use a whole plethora of things, but the paycheck runs out long before the week does. On top of all that, there are fundraisers for the school, for the community, and for countless non-profits hoping to get a slice of the pie as well. All the while, the price of everything keeps going up. We get it, and the last thing we would want to do is add to the financial burdens you face.
So why give to the church on top of everything else? We can't give you an answer to that question, mainly because it is the wrong question. The notion of "giving to the church," while frequently perpetuated is inherently flawed. We don't "give to the church" because we are the church. Neither do we "give to God." If there is anyone in this entire universe who doesn't need your money, it's him. Even if we wanted to "give it to God," we don't have his shipping address. The notion of Christian giving more appropriately can be understood as "sharing" what God has so richly given to us.
Its All God's
The foundational reason we give is because we believe it isn't ours in the first place. Nothing we have is ours. God doesn't need our stuff or our money because it is his anyway. Right down to the protons and neutrons of each atomic molecule, it is his. He has shared it with us because he is a good and benevolent God who blesses. God doesn't "want your stuff." He always has and always will hold the universe in his hands. If it is God's in the first place, then "giving" is simply committing to use it to the glory of his kingdom and for his purposes. When we put food on the table and a roof over our family's heads, we are doing God's work. He loves our family even more than we do and he has given us blessings so our families can thrive and be taken care of. When we look after our friends and neighbors, we are doing God's work. He created community and he is glorified when people take care of one another and show true hospitality to each other. When we invest in the future of our children by educating them and giving them rich experiences (our church believes especially in the ministry of church camp), we are doing God's work. They are actually his children more than ours, and he loves them and wants them to grow to be healthy and productive members of society, too. Everything we have - our money, our time, our abilities, even our accomplishments and our families - we are only stewards of. We have them for a while to use, but when the master returns and asks us to give an account, we will have to answer for how we used them and whether we used them to his glory and purposes.
Our personal piece of the pie is only so big, we get it, and sometimes we have to make hard choices about how we use our limited funds. There is no guilt here. Just understand that when we contribute to the works of the church and invest together in our church family, it is meant to be a natural extension of how we use all our time, efforts, and resources. It's all God's and we use it all for him.
Contrary to the assumptions of the economies of the world, we believe there is enough. We share what we have with each other because we believe "there is plenty more where that came from." As one of our members put it recently, "You can't out give God." People hoard because of the fear that there may not be enough for tomorrow. We are not called to live by fear, but by faith. God desires us to trust him and his daily sustenance, not our own storehouses and lockboxes. He provided yesterday. He provided today, and he will provide tomorrow. This is the attitude Jesus advocated for in his famous sermon on the mount. If we truly believe there is enough, then it will naturally lead to generosity in every part of our lives. When we give at church on Sundays, we aren't doing a singular act of generosity, we are simply continuing on in a lifestyle of generosity we operate in every day. If there is enough, we are eager to give with a "cheerful heart" when opportunities arise.
A Common Purse
We don't send a check to God each week, but we do pool our resources together as a church family so we can take care of each other's needs and accomplish our collective goals for furthering the kingdom. Out of our common purse, we give to the ministries and programs we are passionate about. Out of our common purse, we support the staff and their families who are committed to serving this congregation. Out of our common purse, we take care of the needs of others, sometimes from within our membership, sometimes without. Out of our common purse, we maintain (and when needed improve) our facilities so we can continue to gather together as the people of God doing God's work.
Do you know who owns the church building? Do you know who sets the church budget? Do you know who is in charge of all our resources and finances? The answer is you, or more accurately, all of us together. In Churches of Christ, each congregation is independent and autonomous which means there is no governing body which we are under and there is no regional headquarters which manage the finances. Therefore, when we give, we are contributing to the works and missions this church body is wanting to support. We don't send the money off for someone else to distribute and allocate. When you put the money in the plate or box, you aren't giving it away to someone else, you are simply adding to the common purse we all contribute to and we encourage you to chime in and express your views like everyone else as we decide how it is to be divided and used.
Make no mistake, however. Not having a headquarters or governing body doesn't mean we aren't careful with the funds. God himself is over us and knowing we will one day answer to him, we hold each other accountable with the finances and resources of the church body. We take this responsibility seriously, and we have our own system of checks and balances with numerous people involved in the book-keeping and budgeting. Our books are open and we seek to be transparent in how we use our resources. This is for everyone's protection and so the church can be an example of integrity in our community and not a place ripe for scandals which defame the precious name of our Lord and Savior we follow.
The shepherds we have selected to be over us make final approval decisions for our budget much like the early church laid their gifts at the feet of the apostles, but it isn't their money. When we take up the weekly collection, we aren't asking people to "give" their money to the elders, we are simply giving everyone the opportunity to share in our common purse, which like everything else in our lives, belongs ultimately to God.
An Eternal Hope
We are called to live free of worry and fear. The only way to do that is to put our hope squarely on our eternal destination - to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Our mindset of giving is not dependent upon how well the economy is doing or how strong the dollar is. Obviously, we can only give what we have and all of us are effected by such things, but our spirit of generosity is not. Even in the event of scarcity, famine, or crisis, we will still share what we have until it is gone because we aren't afraid of death. We wait in hope to one day sit around an immense table and share in the great feast of our King. In the mean time, we will simply use what we have today looking forward to eternity tomorrow. If our hearts are set on eternity, then our possessions and budgets and bank accounts are put in the proper perspective. During our little brief span here on this earth we will use what little we have for God's purposes and we will strive to do so faithfully. In eternity, however, we won't be fretting over balances and spreadsheets and black ink or red ink. We won't be worrying about investments and retirement accounts. If we aren't going to be worrying about them then, we shouldn't be overly concerned about them now. We want to be responsible with what little we have while we have it, yes, but if we live in light of eternity, we have all the motivation we need to live generously with joy and contentment in our hearts.
Generosity is a way of life which reflects the nature of our heavenly Father. Generosity is not just something that happens around a Sunday morning offering plate. We don't pass the plates in order to be generous, we pass the plates because we are generous and we long for our resources to be used for the purposes of the Kingdom of God.
How Much Should I Give?
The answer to this question is solely between you and God. You know how you have been blessed. You know your current situation and the pressures on your income. We impose no demands or minimums on the giving of our members. We simply encourage each other to be generous and trust in God to take care of us, not our money.
A term some Christian groups use when talking about giving is "tithes" or "tithing." A "tithe" is an expected donation of 10% off the front end of your income. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were instructed to "tithe" and give their tithes to priests. They tithed the first-fruits of their crops they grew, bringing 10% of their produce to the temple. They tithed their animals by offering sacrifices, too. They also tithed their gold and silver and sometimes even their plunder from battle. No such requirement is imposed on the followers of Jesus in the New Testament. While Jesus and the earliest disciples still participated in this practice themselves when going to the temple, the amount they expected members to give to the common purse of the church was never specified. They were simply called to give as they had been blessed according the needs of the church and of its members. Many Christians today have carried over the practice of "tithing" the first 10% of their income. It is a beautiful practice and admirable spiritual discipline to pursue, but here at the Winnsboro Church of Christ, no such practice will be imposed on you. The amount you give is up to you.
Regardless of the amount, the most important thing was that it was given honestly and humbly to accomplish the works of the kingdom, and that it was not given out of pride or for personal glory and recognition. (Matthew 6:1-4, Acts 4:32-5:11) If you want to participate in the offering, we welcome your gift, but do not feel compelled to and the amount is yours alone to decide.