I was called on to help with a funeral in Selma recently, and the visit gave opportunity to remember many experiences and friendships from the years we lived there. I also remembered one of the most interesting telephone calls I ever had.
A pastor’s wife called to ask for advice. She said her family gave so much to their church that they didn’t have much money left for the family’s needs. I admitted this was a unique problem and I’d never known anyone else who gave “too much” to their church. She explained that their church had a particular way of receiving and publicizing offerings.
“At the end of the service one of the officers announces the gifts given that morning and the names of the donors,” she said. “My husband is the pastor and he knows he has to set the example so he most often gives a larger amount than we can really afford.”
I’m not sure I had much wisdom for this nice lady that day, though I tried to be sympathetic. I have reflected on this experience many times over the years.
In my denomination we encourage sacrificial giving, but we try to make giving a private matter.
We had a boyhood pastor who made no secret that he looked over the giving records.
“Some of you don’t pay your share of the power bill!” he thundered.
This pastor did nothing but generate resentment.
One church I served began a fundraising program for a new children’s building. Our consultant explained that the pastor must announce his financial commitment to the church as the program began. I wrestled with this more than just about anything else in my life since I was not accustomed to calling attention to our giving. I finally talked about our commitment obliquely, comparing it to the price of a premium cup of coffee each day. At the time, this was a sacrificial gift for our young family in addition to our regular gifts to the church.
Jesus taught us not to “sound a trumpet” when we give. He used the well-known exhortation, “Let not your right hand know what the left hand is doing” (Matthew 6:2-4). The point is that giving is a commitment between us and God. We either choose to let him reward us, or we can give in a way that calls attention to ourselves and choose to receive the praise of others as reward. Jesus gave the same warning about prayer and fasting, too.
On the other hand, a mother and father’s giving can be one way to model generosity to their children.
Giving to God’s work through our churches requires careful thought, earnest prayer and a proper attitude.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.