In the work of the church, projects that cost money are inevitable. It is no if we require funds to undertake a certain work or project, it is when we will be called upon to give towards a special need or renovation project. Buildings need repair and renovation; new opportunities for mission work come before us; as our church family grows so does our need for various programs or additional staff. I mention all of this as an introduction to the theme of this series which is Successful Stewardship.
1Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
- I Corinthians 4:1-2
The word "steward" in the Greek refers to one who manages or administers, and the term "stewardship" refers to the thing managed. In this passage Paul sees himself as a manager in charge of the gospel message and its proclamation throughout the Empire. In the church we are also tasked as stewards of the gospel and its preaching to our community and the world. This is where the idea of money comes into play because the preaching of the gospel to the lost, and the teaching of Jesus' words unto obedience to the church has a financial requirement.
For this reason, our stewardship of the gospel is closely tied to our stewardship of money. I believe that good financial stewardship is necessary for effective church work because most church work requires money. This, then, is the guiding principle behind this short series of lessons on Successful Stewardship because stewardship begins with giving and successful stewardship requires not only generosity but giving with a right attitude.
Motivation for Giving
If you were to ask coaches in professional sports what their main job was, they would tell you that providing motivation was probably their most important task. Pro athletes know the basics, the rules, the game; the assistant coaches and special coaches continue to work with them on these things. The pros are already in top physical condition and there are other trainers and personnel who help them stay that way. The lawyers, agents and accountants keep track of the money and career moves.
But the head coach is the one who sustains the motivation for a millionaire player who does not need the money or attention anymore to give his best, beyond his best, game after game after game. With the right motivation a mediocre player can be great player, and a great player can become star, and star can become a legend.
When it comes to giving in the church, the same principles apply:
- It is not about how much money you have (many complain that it would be easier if we had a couple of millionaires in the church).
- It is not how old you are in Christ (some say that because we have so many young Christians, it is hard to raise a large contribution because they do not give much).
- It is not how big the church is (others think that a church this size cannot aspire to raise a lot of money because there are not enough of us).
It is not about wealth, experience or size, it is about motivation. If this group gives from the proper motivation, we will reach whatever goal the Lord puts before us. And make no mistake, if the growth we experience is provided by the Lord, the challenge to provide for this growth also comes from the Lord.
So the question is, "What is our motivation in giving?" We all give to a lesser or greater degree, but each has a different motivation for their giving. Dr. Kregg Hood mentions several giving motivations in his series, "Giving that Feels Good".
Motivation #1 - Guilt
This is "have to" giving. People give because they have to give, the plate comes around, the special collection is announced and they give because they feel guilty if they do not. Of course guilt is a strong motivator and gets money from people who would not otherwise give, however it is unbiblical.
Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7 that we should be cheerful givers, happy to give, not guilty. Giving out of guilt may help the church get money, but it does not help the individual grow out of materialism, selfishness or worldliness and it does not provide him with joy.
Motivation #2 - Responsibility
This is the "ought" to give syndrome. This is the legalists' or the perfectionists' approach to giving. For example, giving is good, biblical, and so I ought to do this. It is my responsibility as a Christian.
Again the church gets money, but usually not a whole lot because a legalist's approach is to give what is strictly necessary, what is basic. Studies indicate that 20% of members give 80% of the offering; 30% give 18% (these are the legalists) and 50% give about 2%.
This approach is better than the guilt motivation but again limits the amount of giving and the true reward of giving which is joy and satisfaction. Actually, the responsibility motivation may lead to pride and complacency thinking, "Well, I have done my part."
Motivation #3 - Need
I give because I want to give. God wants us to be concerned about meeting needs.
In II Corinthians 8:13-15 Paul says God provides us what we have so we can provide for the needs of others. Knowing that there is a need often kindles a desire in us to do something about it. This is the motivation level that most of us are at. We see a need, we want to take care of it. This type of giving is satisfying, feels good and does not rely on guilt or compulsion to give, but rather flows from a genuine Christian spirit. It also leads to sacrificial giving and motivates others to give. It is also a way to raise money from those who do not normally give because some people do not unless they see a need.
The downside of this motivation is that many times people do not see or agree with the need and will not give, and this motivation is not the most effective because it is still centered in self, "I will give for something I see or something I can relate to".
Motivation #4 - Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the "outflow" type of giving. It is the "I give because I cannot help giving" attitude. This type of giving is a way of saying, "Thank you" to God for all He has done for you. Paul said that his ministry was a reaction to all the God had done for him (I Corinthians 15:10). What Jesus in the Gospel has done to you, what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of you, what the church has for you makes you feel grateful to the point where you are so motivated to give back. This type of giving impresses people outside of the church, it is evangelistic giving. It also motivates and leads others in the church to not only give, but be thankful in there giving.
The only weakness with this motivation is that our giving is tied to our thankfulness. If we really appreciate the Lord, our giving is right. If we do not see all of our blessings our giving shows it .
Motivation #5 - Worship
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
- Romans 12:11
When one sees the giving of money in the same light as giving their confession of Christ, giving their trust in God, giving their lives over to His care. When our financial giving becomes a part of our spiritual relationship with God, then it becomes worship. It is motivated by a desire to honor God. There are no downsides here. The motivation is God centered, it brings joy to the giver and the church is blessed with sacrificial giving.
There is one other motivation for giving not mentioned by Dr. Hood but included in the Bible. It is a motivation that we cannot provide for ourselves but is given to us as a gift.
Motivation #6 - Holy Spirit
Sometimes, if we are truly blessed, the Holy Spirit will grant us the gift of a liberality (Romans 12:6-8). This gift is one where the spirit enables a person to give without fault; to seek out opportunities to give; to yearn in for more resources for the sole purpose of exercising their gift.
The spirit as direct motivator enables one to give graciously, abundantly, regularly, without fear, pride or reservation. While for most of us, giving is a struggle, a narrow road, a challenge to overcome our flesh, the one with the gift finds it natural, easy, joyful, exciting to reach new levels of giving. We have a few people in this congregation who possess this gift but I would not embarrass them by mentioning their names. I believe that God provides different gifts to different ones in order to inspire us all and to give us spiritual goals to strive for in our development. We would do well to pray that God would bless us with this gift or bless the ones who have this gift with abundant resources so they can use it to the church's advantage.
- Determine what your giving motivation has been.
- Choose a motivational goal and ask God to lead you to this level by providing this motivation in your life.
- Be here next week as we continue in our series.