Giving in a tough economy.

This is certainly bound to be a sensitive topic.  “Giving in a tough economy”.  I can almost hear your thoughts. “Giving must be down, so the church is asking me to give more.”  Let me challenge that thinking right off the bat.  Giving is an important issue regardless of the economic climate of our country.  When Jesus spoke about giving, it had nothing to do with economic climate.  Whenever giving is discussed in the Bible, whether it be in the Old Testament or the New Testament, it is always about “Faithfulness” and “Responsibility”, never about economic condition.

I think that too often our decisions about giving have more to do with the state of our economy than about things like “responsibility” or “faithfulness”.  Don’t get me wrong.  I realize that if we have less, we will have less to give.  I get that.  But regardless of what we have, we are still called to give and be faithful with what God has given us.  Often a bad economy causes a fear reaction.  The economy takes a dump and we get scared.  So we stop giving because we’re concerned we won’t have enough to make it.  This is similar to the stock market.  Something happens to some big industry and investors get scared that the market will tank.  So because of FEAR, they pull their money out of the market, driving the market farther into the tank.  It’s a sort of “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

That’s why at Refuge, even though money’s tight, we’re giving more than ever.  We’re actively looking to help people through our BROKEN CAMPAIGN even though by conventional thinking, we ought to be raising money to help pay our bills.  But conventional thinking (which is usually fear based) isn’t always “God Thinking”.  Whether or not we have the money, our responsibility to our community goes unchanged.  We are still called to help our neighbor according to scripture.  So what do we as a church do in a tough economy?

It’s the same question for us as individuals.  What do we as individual givers do in a tough economy?  Do we stay faithful or do we let fear change the game?  Will we allow our fear to become a self-fulfilling prophecy?  What I mean by that is that if we stop giving because times are tight, we’ll see the economy of the church collapse.  If this happens, churches will be unable to help anyone.  Then the state of the community becomes that much worse.  So when things go nuts in your life and you need your church to help…it just won’t be there.  It’s a negative cycle and one that tends to gain momentum as fear rises.

But here’s a little good news.  The economy is starting to show some signs of turning around.  However that should not sway your giving decisions.  I would suggest again that our giving should not be tied to fear or optimism about the economic climate or our nation.  Instead, choose whether or not you will give, not because anyone’s pressuring you to do so, nor because you are afraid or optimistic about the economy.  When making giving decisions, there is really only one question to ask: “God, what’s the right thing to do?”

Clearly, the Bible encourages us to tithe as a sort of “minimum” to help us learn to be faithful and to learn trust in God’s provision.  So that’s a good place to start.  No one is promising you that if you tithe, God will bless you with a certain amount of money in return.  That would be symptomatic of the same problem this whole article is about.  This is a false theology and one that you’ll never hear at Refuge.  However, is it fair to blame God when things get lean economically in your personal life if you are not being faithful in your own giving?  That’s a very fair question and one that I don’t think gets asked often enough.

So what do we do in a rough economic climate?  In truth, I believe we’re supposed to do the same thing we do in ANY economic climate and I don’t think it should have anything to do with the economic climate itself… we should be faithful and responsible.  Let’s not let the prophecy become self-fulfilling.  Let’s change things God’s way.  That’s the economic hope of the church and the economic hope of our community.