By Mrs. Kelle Swanson
Originally published Feb 25, 2009
How many times have you heard someone say, perhaps in a joking tone, that “when I am rich I will…?” Or perhaps, “When we make our millions, we can…?” How many times have you said things which indicate your discontentment with your income level?
These kinds of statements so easily fall from our lips. When we express these thoughts, we aren’t usually motivated by a wish to help someone else and the regret that we don’t have the finances to do so; usually, we are thinking of some material thing we wish we had and can’t afford to buy. No matter how we try to wrap it in humor, the sin is still there, even when we’re smiling. It is discontentment with and grumbling against what our Triune God has given us.
We are facing economic difficulty in this nation. Some heads of families we know personally have had hours cut back or lost sources of income completely. They are wondering how they will continue to provide for their families. These are real needs and concerns. How will Christ’s Church face such difficulties?
In my lifetime, we Americans have been consumers on a big scale. We have been able to buy the things we need and many, many things we want as well. Catalogs and displays in the stores and our own sinful desires have driven us to never really be satisfied with what we have. There is always one more item we’d like to buy. And we have somehow always found the money for the things that are our priorities.
For instance, my husband and I have observed that if we buy and serve good quality tea to our guests, some of them remark that “it must be nice to be able to afford this.” However, we know that the same person who “can’t afford” good tea spends extra money on health-food store cleaning products and trips to the chiropractor. The point isn’t that any of these are sinful purchases. The problem is that we all wish we were rich enough to buy all of it! Whatever we want, whenever we want it. (And the current slavery to debt in our nation bears testimony against us.) We are discontented, and we voice our discontent in many ways. Even with all the stuff we have, we want more.
In our current day, families are finding they have less money for “extras” and feel very deprived. Determining what are needs and what are just desires is a new skill for many. Spending patterns have had to change by necessity. But, as we analyze our needs and desires, into which category should we put material and financial help for the people of Christ’s Church? What about helping those in our community who don’t even have means for their daily bread?
We have, until recently, been getting richer and richer as modern evangelical Christian people. However, if statistics tell the truth, we are only tithing 3% of our income.  We aren’t even giving to the God Who has given us all of the good things we enjoy the mere 10% He requires. If we don’t even give the tithe, doesn’t it follow that we probably aren’t giving beyond the tithe in order to help the people in our Church and our community?
In I Corinthians 16, Paul writes concerning the “collection for the saints.” He instructs the church at Corinth to put something aside on the first day of every week for the Christians in Judea who were suffering, probably as a result of the persecution they were enduring. As we see more and more of our brethren suffering want as the economy has declined, is this not a plan we could adopt? Could we not forgo some of our own pleasure and give to those whose basic needs aren’t being met?
Maybe you’re a Diet-Coke-a-Day person. Could you “suffer” through your week without that and put the money you would have spent in a collection for a family in need? Maybe you really have wanted a new music CD. You probably would have found the money for that in your budget. Could you instead “find” that same amount for the brethren you know who have just had an unexpected home repair? Can I give up my daily cup of tea (this is meddling, now) for the sake of helping a family to pay off a medical bill?
We are going to have begin to think differently as Christ’s Church if our economy continues to decline. Everyday needs will become more precious to us, and, I trust, we will be more thankful for the basics of life rather than complaining and grumbling that we don’t have our every desire met. But beyond just basic necessities, hasn’t our Lord been abundantly good to us? In our nation, even with the real economic hardship many face, we still are so rich. We have homes to shelter us, clothing to adorn us, food to eat, sources of clean water to drink. We have so much even beyond these things. We have been given mercies abundantly. In light of that, we all have resources from which we can give to others.
My first challenge: What can you give to someone in need? Is there a family you know whose husband has lost a job or had hours cut back? Next time you go grocery shopping, pick up extra items for them. Maybe you can eat more pasta or potatoes for a week to provide that family with more expensive items they may not be able to afford now. Can you put all of your loose coins for a month into a mason jar and give that to someone in your church who has had economic hardship? Are there ways you can sacrifice your own wants for the sake of others? Make up your mind to do something to help someone else with a need. That is what being the Church is. We die to ourselves, live to Christ, and serve our brethren.
Challenge #1 is easier for us. When we can see that there is a need in someone less fortunate, we may be more inclined to give. But, challenge #2 is where being Christ to those around us is even more apparent. What can you give to someone who apparently has more than you do? How can you sacrifice your own pleasures or wants or time to give abundantly to those who may not need what you give? You may think they don’t need your gifts. Does God needyour gifts? Doesn’t He own everything? You may even think they don’t deserve them. Did you deserve the abundant kindness of God? Doesn’t He give to you above and beyond your basic needs of life?
Think of even His provision of a basic of life–food–and how He has shown abundance. He could have provided some tasteless little pellet which would keep our bodies running. Instead, He has given us tastes and textures and amazing foods to enjoy. Let us give like that! My husband has made the observation that the people who think they are exempt from giving because other people have more than they do seem to be the ones always in financial crisis. These are often the people who never volunteer to help–-not even willing to give their time or service, let alone finances. They can have a resentful attitude when asked to serve in any way among God’s people. Let us examine ourselves and repent if we find this attitude in our own hearts. Let us be joyful givers, not selfish complainers.
In all these things, II Corinthians 9 is borne out. Let us live by God’s Word always, especially as we see increasing needs around us. Let us repent of our complaining and discontent and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us when we are indulging in these attitudes. Let us be cheerful givers!
 While Christians and conservatives do tend to give more than the population as a whole (http://blog.beliefnet.com/castingstones/2008/04/conservatives-give-more-to-cha.html), they still do not give as much as God asks them to give. According to pollster George Barna, when contributions are examined as a percentage of household income, giving to religious centers represents about 2.2% of gross income. (http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=36)
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