The availability (or lack of availability) of wealth, today, is a determining factor in how people live. It can be used to live a life of opulence, or it can limit people to a life of poverty. The same is also true of the church. It can free up the church to do all sorts of things, or it can restrict the church to a life of mediocrity.
Money and finance affect us all—people and church alike. There are those who have it, and there are those who don’t. But that’s not what God intended. Indeed, God’s Old Testament laws provide all the guidelines necessary for the sharing of resources and for the elimination of poverty. Furthermore, his laws on tithing, etc.—when taken seriously—provide all the guidelines necessary for the functioning of a healthy worshipping community.
So, what’s the problem? It’s us. We’re the problem. Which is probably why God felt the need to set out his principles in the form of his laws.
In regard to the worshipping community (Lev 27:30), God set the standard of a tithe—the giving of ten percent of one’s income to maintain its structure and so that ministry could continue unhindered. (And that meant ten percent for the rich and ten percent for the poor.) And, in the New Testament, Jesus raised the bar further, by encouraging people to give sacrificially—to give until it hurts. And, for some, that would mean an amount far greater than just ten percent.
Which is why, when we read passages like the one in Mark, we should understand that the rich may well have put in their ten percent, but the widow put in a far greater percentage. The widow’s gift may have been smaller in monetary terms, but to Jesus her gift was worth far much more.
At the heart of giving, is the spiritual life of the individual and the spiritual life of the church. Giving ten-percent may have been the Old Testament guideline to enable the religious community to function, but sacrificial-giving gives an opportunity for the individual to take their relationship with God a whole lot further.
Think of it another way … If God has given us everything that we have—and he has entrusted all that we have into our care—why would we insist on hanging on to every that we have for ourselves? Why would only give back a small proportion—a portion that we can afford—after we have attended to our own wants and needs? Because if that is our practice, then we have a severe spiritual problem. And that is the implication of Jesus’s response to the rich people in this story.
The lack of finances in a church, is usually a symptom of a bigger problem. And although a person’s pocket is usually the last to be affected by faith, our attitude to giving in the church does reflect our religious convictions. Of course, the amount we give, will be different for all of us. But what’s at stake is not whether we’ve put more—or less—in the plate than someone else. Rather it’s the level of our conviction and obedience to our God, and our commitment to his church and our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Posted 5th January 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis