A couple of weeks ago I held in my hand my first million. There’s a lot of power in those words: ‘my first million.’
There isn’t space here to establish a comprehensive theology of giving, but perhaps the most important aspect can be summed up with one word: ‘stewardship.’ As caretakers of God’s creation Adam and Eve were given the mandate to ‘have dominion,’ to care for the earth and all that’s in it (Genesis 1:27- 28). The created order belongs to God, but we’re given the task of not only looking after it, but as people living cross-shaped lives, we’re engaged in renewing it. From the beginning, we’re called to be stewards.
That has an impact on the million that was in my hands. Such a vast sum of money opens so many possibilities, and so many pitfalls. Some people just don’t have enough each day, and here I was with more banknotes than I could stuff in my wallet. It was helpful for me to recognise that, as a steward, it wasn’t mine to use as I wished. The money in my hands was actually the property of God.
MORE THAN MONEY
It’s the same for us all, and for all of our resources, not just our cold hard cash. Everything we have comes from God (Psalm 24:1). It’s tempting to think these things are our own, that we’re the masters of our own destiny, that we deserve what we’ve got because we’ve earned it. Giving helps keep our pride in check. When we accept we’re stewards not owners, words like ‘earned,’ ‘deserve,’ ‘entitled’ drop out of our vocabulary.
Giving challenges the greed that’s so pervasive in our society. In Beyond Greed, Brian Rosner observes that “slavery to money can affect those at every level of society, and may even be thought of as encompassing society as a whole. … But worst of all, it can cause people to act in hard, unfeeling and even self-destructive ways.” To borrow a phrase from Batman’s Alfred, our greed – our slavery to money – can turn “good men cruel.”
Often our perceived needs stop us sharing our resources, our desires prevent us from seeing the needs of others, our lust for more keeps us from giving. We put ourselves first, using what we have leftover to build comfortable lives. But Jesus calls us to be people who forsake comfort so we can comfort others. Jesus calls us to be people who reject building bigger houses so that we can house the homeless. And sometimes Jesus calls us to leave our houses and possessions behind to move to someone else’s neighbourhood. Jesus calls us all to be cross-shaped people living to please our Heavenly Father rather than striving for the pleasures of this short life.
Giving is hard. It can hurt. It means sacrificing our desires and enabling someone else. But giving helps us develop Christ-like character, and this is by no means limited to financial generosity. We can give a meal. We can give a spare bed to someone in need. We can give our time serving, interceding, stuffing envelopes at the NZCMS office. In fact, when ministries and mission organisations talk about giving it’s easy for us to roll our eyes: “here’s another appeal for more money.” But giving isn’t just about how much money you hand over. The truth is, sometimes giving money is the easier option. Are we willing to find ways to give that doesn’t include a $ sign – our time, effort, energy, talents?
When we’re generous with the things God has blessed us with we learn to trust him more fully. Instead of living from our excess and relying on ourselves, we rely on God and recognise his provision. We learn to consider others before ourselves – I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about that one. We learn to give thanks for the excess or the talents and gifts we have instead of chasing after what we don’t. And when we give, particularly towards mission projects and Mission Partners, we partner with others and enable them to serve God in ways we may never be able to ourselves.
So let’s start. Start giving. Maybe a small sum of money to bless someone else, maybe a meal to someone who needs it, maybe a bit of your time. Then, when you’ve started, or if you’ve started already, evaluate. Evaluate your giving. What impact is it having on you? What impact is it having on those around you? What impact is it having on your closeness to God? Where could you give a little more?
It sounds easy for the guy with the million right? What could this 32 year old millionaire ever know about the struggle of giving?! Well just for the record, the million was Indonesian Rupiah ($106NZD). It doesn’t matter the amount, or what non-$ gift you’re offering, all the same principles above apply. It all belongs to God, and can all be used to glorify him and as a way to make us more like Christ.
We’re all called to be generous with all we have.
Zane is a member of the NZCMS Council and serves as a Chaplain for the New Zealand Defence Force.
Want to read more? Check out Brian Rosner’s Beyond Greed and Dr Omar Djeoandy’s Redefining Success.
For discussion Why is the subject of giving often taboo in our Christian culture? What difference does a broader view of giving make, one that includes but isn’t limited to financial giving?
As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to giving?
Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.