The gospel and God’s grace to us are not set aside in giving, but God himself, in his grace, is the one with the power to make this grace abound in us. God’s blessings result in good works.[v] And every good work is the work of generosity. In this, we return to Paul’s first reason for giving: it is a grace. Generosity is beautifully cyclical. When we actually cheer as money leaves our wallets, we are a place of delighting as God delights. It is then that we are experiencing the gift God intends to give us, the gift of generosity.
I worked for a few years in development and was trained in best practices for raising money. I was blessed to work for a Christian organization that was committed to raising money in a godly way, but the broader development industry doesn’t have many scruples in doing what they do best: separating people from their money. And they are clever! How does a development professional unlock the giving vault?
The secular handbook on getting people to give reveals a lot. There are three universal rules in development:[i]
1) Appeal to donors’ emotions, not their minds: tell a story that will move them;
2) Inflate a donor’s sense of importance and appeal to their interests;
3) Create urgency: donors need to feel as though the need is immediate and significant.
The Christian generosity handbook is very different. Having delivered his four strange reasons for giving. Paul is now going to five equally strange instructions for giving in his letter to the Corinthian church. Paul’s instructions contradict the development professional’s handbook at almost every turn. Paul tells us we should give this way:
2) Not reluctantly
3) Not under compulsion
5) Through the power of Christ
Paul explains his instructions this way in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” It is staggering just how different this is from today’s secular handbook for giving.
Faux Christian Generosity
But shouldn’t we take tithing seriously? The LDS (Mormon) Church takes tithing very seriously. In an official publication, they state that a bishop may move forward with disciplinary action on that member including “information probation, temporarily restricting his privileges as a Church member – such as the right to partake of the sacrament, hold a Church position, or enter the temple.”[ii] That’s a far cry from our evangelical churches today. On the one hand, the LDS Church is to be commended for the seriousness with which they take stewardship and generosity. On the other hand, these guidelines draw very near overturning two of the ways in which Scripture calls us to give: “not reluctantly” and “not under compulsion.”
The Beautifully Strange Difference
Where today’s handbook tells one to appeal to the emotions, not reason, Paul tells us our giving must be thoughtful. Where the secular handbook tells us that any giver, even a reluctant giver is okay, Paul tells us that true generosity requires that there is an eagerness.