There are lots of good reasons to give to your church. (My last post gave seven). Here are seven not-so-good reasons.
- To “give your fair share.” It’s a mistake to think people should give equally. We’re called to give in proportion to our resources, as a response to what we have received. If you’re not sure how much to give, figure out what a tithe (10% would be). If you’re not ready to tithe, start with a smaller percentage and work up.
- To make up the difference. I know of one church with a giver who asks at the end of the year, “How much do we need to finish in the black?” and writes a check. There is nothing wrong with an end-of-year appeal to the congregation. But when one giver makes up the difference, especially every year, that’s overfunctioning. Shared responsibility is better for everyone.
- To get the leadership to do what you want. Givers rightly expect leaders to be responsible stewards. And there’s a time for a principled statement of what you will and won’t do with your giving. Yet I have known givers to say (straight out or by implication), if you don’t do what I want, I will withdraw my giving. This is not helpful, for the giver or for the church. Leaders who give in to blackmail are not good leaders, and those who blackmail are not good followers or mature Christians.
- Because you ought to. “The Lord loves a cheerful giver” is one of the first Bible verses I learned as a child. Grim giving out of duty does not contribute to vital stewardship.
- To get into heaven. Christian faith is all about grace. Giving comes as a response to God’s grace and generosity, not as a condition of it.
- Because you like the pastor. Christian stewardship is not about personality. Of course, effective pastors provide leadership and articulate a vision for ministry. That vision helps motivate givers, as does the pastor’s relationship with the people. But mature givers know that simply liking the pastor is not their primary motive for giving.
- In response to an emotional appeal. Giving at its best is a thoughtful and principled decision. Leaders develop a vision and make the case for it, and members prayerfully consider their response. Special appeals have their place, but are best presented thoughtfully. Our emotions naturally play a part in our giving decisions. But rather than giving to the latest disaster that tugs your heart strings, prayerfully consider how to apportion your giving, and when you should give above and beyond.
Why do you give?