Paul writes a few things about giving money. He tells us to be generous, to be cheerful, to give as God has given to us, but he never tells us to be shrewd with what we give. And yet, some of us treat our financial giving like we might treat a stock portfolio.
“I must get the biggest bang for my buck. I must make a good investment, and get the biggest return I can on my money…”
I’m sure, somewhere, that there’s a man who has compiled a spreadsheet, where he is comparing various good causes and working out the ‘Souls Won per Dollar’ ratio. I imagine that he also thinks that God is likely to give him a pat on the back at the end of the day, but I wonder if instead God might aim a bit lower down and use His foot.
Like everything else, our giving must be submitted to God’s agenda. And by God’s agenda, I don’t mean ‘what we assume God’s agenda is’. You don’t arrive at God’s agenda by dividing Middle Class Values by the Protestant Work Ethic. You arrive at God’s agenda by seeking, praying, fasting and listening.
Have you ever given to someone who is needy through their own sin and short-sighted mismanagement? Have you ever given to someone even though you know that there’s a better than even chance that they’ll waste or misuse your gift? Have you ever given to someone who has taken advantage of your generosity once already, and is coming to you a second time cap in hand? God has, and does every single day. And I’m not just talking about salvation, I’m talking about every aspect of His providence. I’m talking about how he gives to you and me. We are called to give as God does, and yet I know that some of us break out into a cold sweat at the thought of such irresponsible generosity. Yet, good stewardship is not about using your resources according to the values of Middle Britain. Good stewardship is about using your resources to the best of your ability according to the call that God places on your life. You give as He gives to you, whatever that may look like, and leave the rest to Him. I’m not talking about being stupid or irresponsible, I’m talking about being obedient and about not being self-righteous enough to assume that God only wants to give to the people that you think deserve it.
Fred Craddock once preached on the parable of the Prodigal Son, and was approached afterwards by a member of the congregation who happened to be a lawyer. He proceeded to tell Fred that he didn’t like that particular parable.
“What is it you don’t like about it?” said Fred.
“It’s not morally responsible,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Forgiving that boy,” said the lawyer.
“Well, what would you have done?” said Fred.
“I think when he came home he should have been arrested.”
“What would you have given the prodigal?” said Fred.