"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury... Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.'" Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
I'm a little disturbed by the trend in churches today where the leaders talk about how much they gave to a particular church project and the sum they want individual members to give for the same or various projects. Maybe you can help me, but I don't see this in the bible. I'm not speaking of tithes and regular offerings; I believe that is widely supported in the scripture. However, the trend of asking church members/leaders to give a certain amount of money whether as seed offering or for anniversaries or building fund offerings, I find to be more of a man or carnal way to meet a need than a Spirit led practice. Let me clarify; it's not that I don't believe that the Spirit can and may have led in this way in various congregations under specific circumstances, however, our (man's) tendency is to take something the Spirit did once or twice and make it practice or tradition. This is what I find troublesome and a turn off to myself and many others.
I love to give. I love to see needs met and the body of Christ flourishing. I want to be able to give more and believe I will be able to give in abundance in the near future. However, is the church now a business moreso than a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led organism? In the world of business and finance we ask for specific amounts for loans, for seed money/investments and the like. We are taught to be specific and ask for what you want. Even in prayer, to be specific and ask for what you want, all of which I am in agreement with. However, in reference to giving in excess of tithes and regular offerings, how does this current practice line up with the spirit of Matt. 6:1-18 or Mark 12:41-44? Even though in Matt. 6:1-18 it specifically speaks of giving to the needy and not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing, or praying and fasting in secret, the overall message is that we don't do our acts of righteousness to be seen of men as the Pharisees were in the habit of doing and which, I believe, the current practice lends itself to.
In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus compares the giving of the wealthy with that of the poor widow who gave her all. Why was he pointing that out at the time? I believe it's because Jesus was revealing the heart of giving; that God loves a cheerful giver; one who gives from the heart and not one who gives out of compulsion. Isn't that what the scripture also says in 2 Corinthians 9:7? "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheeful giver." So then, where does this trend of telling people what to give comes from?
I wonder what Jesus is thinking as he looks down at our giving practices today.
Just musing and praying about what I find to be a contradictory practice that is becoming ingrained in many churches today. If you have some heartfelt and prayerful comments on the matter, I'd love to hear from you.