Below is a post that I’m stealing from Pastor Matt Kruse who wrote this last month for our brothers and sisters in Boston. It’ll be helpful as you seek to apply the Word we preached this past Sunday.
This weekend we are handing out to all Seven Mile Road givers a statement of their giving through the first 9 months of the calendar year. This has proven quite helpful for people in that it creates space for us to compare our actual giving to what our prayerful intentions were at the start of the year.
I’ve already been handed the Kruse family print-out, and in looking at it I thought, “So what questions should I be asking based on the accounting grid that now stares back at me? How would I know if my giving has been what it should be?” Since pastors are called by God to help their people in thinking through these things, I give you 7 (yes, 7) tests you can ‘run’ when thinking about how you are giving to the redeeming work of God that is happening at our local church.
(Below I simplify giving to the holistic work of the local church in making disciples, preaching the Word, administering the sacrament, disciplining the saints, and evangelizing its tribe all simply as “Jesus’ Church”.)
1, The Hesitation Test. We always need to begin with our hearts. Is there hesitation in my heart about giving generously to Jesus’ church? Do I look at this statement and go, “Oh man, I could have used that paper somewhere else!” If so, why is that? Is it because I don’t trust our good Father to meet my financial needs? Is it because I really don’t believe the gospel? Is it because I love this world and the things of this world? If there is any hesitation, we need to check our hearts. We should love to part with our money when it is going to Jesus’ Church.
2, The Duty Test. Do I give out of duty only? Giving is an act of obedience, yes, but it also an act of worship. Worship, like obedience, is supposed to be free, passionate, and glad. Christ has given us all things. Giving to his ongoing work should be a privilege, a joy.
3, The Leftovers Test. When I look at this statement, does it reveal that what’s really going in is that God is just getting my leftovers? Do I determine how much I am going to give after determining all that I need to maintain my preferred standard of living? In other words, does God come last? Many, many of us give this way. We give way less than we could or should because we work backwards. “Stand in the back of the line there, Jesus. I’ve got all these other priorities ahead of you. We’ll let you know what scraps remain.”
4, The Dunkin Donuts Test. Look at your statement and ask: in these 9 months, what have I spent more money on than on giving to Jesus’ church? Sadly, for some of us the answer includes pettiness like coffee. Of course, there will be things that do fit this category like housing or tuition or (painfully) taxes. But too much of us spend more money on trivial material pursuits – coffee, car washes, cable, Sox tickets, vacations, fill-in-the-blank – than on Jesus’ Church. These things are not necessarily evil in themselves of course, but when they trump our giving, something’s askew.
5, The ‘What The’ Test. Look at your statement and ask: if someone who has not responded in repentance, faith and obedience to the gospel looked at this giving statement, would they just shrug their shoulders, or would they do a double take and be like, “What the? You are serious about this church thing!” No double take means you are not giving enough. Our giving is not supposed to quietly hint that there may be something special about Christ. IT IS SUPPOSED TO SHOUT WICKED LOUD THAT MONEY EXISTS TO SHOW OFF THE INFINITE WORTH OF KNOWING AND HAVING CHRIST.
6, The Island Test. Does anyone else on this green earth know how much you give? Are you entrusting yourself to the helpful accountability of gospel community, living transparently before some trustworthy brothers and sisters so that you are open to correction and encouragement? Or is your giving done off on an island where only you and Jesus know about it? In His grace, Jesus has saved us into His family, and we should live with some measure of openness as members. I am not saying foolishly making your financial life public. I am saying confiding in a trustworthy community and saying, “Help me be faithful in how I give.”
7, The Face To Face Test. We are going to one day see Christ face to face. (If this isn’t true, please, stop giving to Seven Mile Road. We are just wasting your money and everyone’s time.) But that day is coming, and on that day, won’t it be awesome to say, “Look! Look! My treasure! I stewarded what you entrusted me with well. I gave generously and sacrificially to the work of your gospel.” I would so prefer that than hanging my head regretfully.
I am sure that you could come up with some helpful, Biblically-grounded tests of your own. Let’s be a generous people who take seriously this call to plant a church together that is amply funded for her work.
(Note: I have not mentioned The Tithe Test (multplying your gross income by 10% and seeing how you did) not because I don’t think that the tithe is a helpful benchmark (if all Seven Milers would just stick a stake in the ground and say, “done, we’re tithing” we’d have a $500,000 budget and would be getting immensly more work done for the gospel than we are), but because giving in the New Covenant isn’t about hitting a percent, but about having hearts so converted that our giving naturally flows from there.