by James A. Fowler
Paul refers the Corinthians to the giving of the Macedonian Christians, and explains, "they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." (II Cor. 8:5). Christians have long sought to understand the "will of God" in their Christian giving.
In the most general sense, the will of God is always to express His own character within His creation, unto His glory. The will of God for the Christian is always to allow the life of Jesus Christ to be lived out in giving to, loving, and serving others.
As Christians we are to discern the specifics of God's intent for the giving of that which He has entrusted to us. We must consult with God in the communion of prayer to determine how God desires to give through us: when He want to give, to whom He wants to give, how much He wants to give. We do not give just because the offering-plate is coming around and we have been conditioned by Pavlovian responses, or out of fear of what someone will think if we do not drop something into the "plate - a response of false-guilt.
Too often, because Christians know that it is the will of God to give and fail to understand the expression of God's character of givingness, they give to "the wheel that squeaks the loudest," to the person or cause that presents their "need" most persuasively.
We need to understand that Christian giving is not just responding to a "need." There are a thousand and one "needs" that bombard our consciousness every day through the various mediums of news-awareness. There is no way we can respond to all the "needs" of the world. Major W. Ian Thomas writes:
"The Lord Jesus Christ refused to be committed to the parochial needs of His own day and generation; He was not committed to the political situation in Palestine, or to the emancipation of the Jewish nation from the Roman Yoke! He was not committed to the pressing social problems of His time, nor to one faction as opposed to another... Christ was not even committed to the needs of a perishing world; He was neither unmindful nor unmoved by all these other issues, but as Perfect Man He was committed to His Father, and for that only to which His Father was committed in Him -- exclusively!" 2
Christians are to be submitted to whatever God is committed to in them. Specifically we are to be submitted to discerning His will for us in our Christian giving.
"Thousands of earnest young Christians are challenged with the outworn slogan, 'The need is the call!' -- swept to their feet on a wave of sentiment..." 3
"You are not committed to a church, or to a denomination, or to an organization; as a missionary your are not committed to a Mission Board nor even to a 'field,' and least of all are you committed to a 'need'! You are committed to Christ, and for all that to which Christ is committed in You, and again I say - exclusively!" 4
It should also be noted that it is not wrong to make known a "need." Paul was making known the "need" of the poor Christians in Jerusalem to the Corinthians. As Christians we do not merely respond to the "need," but we respond to what God wants to be and do in us, the will of God in our Christian giving.
2 Thomas, W. Ian, The Mystery of Godliness, Zondervan Publishing House, 1964, page 17.
3 Thomas, W. Ian, Ibid., page 19.
4 Thomas, W. Ian, Ibid., page 19.
©1999 by James A. Fowler
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