TITLE: Lukewarmness in Giving
By Michael Okyere Asante
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1. ‘Kofi ne Ama’ (Kofi and Ama) – A method of giving in most congregations in Ghana where giving is done according to one’s day of birth.
2. ‘Mmea ne Mmarima’ (Men and Women) – A method of giving in most congregations in Ghana where giving is done according to gender.
How well do we give? When we give, do we expect God to reciprocate? Do we give so that we would be applauded? Do we expect to receive in return what we have given to the rightful owner?
All the things we possess including our very being are God’s (Ps. 24:1); why then do we expect our gifts to be reciprocated when we know we have just given back to God what belongs to Him? Shouldn’t we just say “… we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Lk. 17:10)? I am not ruling out the expectation to receive God’s blessings when we give faithfully. Even God Himself has promised to bless those who give faithfully (Mal. 3:10, Deut. 14:28-29, Mt. 10:42). But the question is “If God should withdraw His blessings for giving, would we still give?”
Even though God has promised to bless us when we give, we still show signs of lukewarmness in giving. This has led to many congregations (in the case of Ghana) adopting various ways of coercing congregants to give.
In most churches in Ghana, when a congregation prepares to hold a fundraising to support its evangelistic programmes, invitations are sent to those who are wealthy to act as chairpersons and special guests. The day arrives. The sermon is very short. There might not be intercessory prayer and Bible Study that day; the day’s purpose is to get enough money as targeted. Then, there is the first offertory, then appeal for funds, then ‘Kofi ne Ama’ (Kofi and Ama) and finally ‘mmea ne mmarima’ (men and women). A fundraising that could have taken a few minutes to organize (note that the fundraising is just a part of the main service) could take more than an hour because that is the day to showcase different styles in dancing; that is the time to find out if the Friday born can raise a higher amount than the Monday born; that is the period to find out if the men can raise a higher amount than the women in the congregation – we eventually miss the purpose of our worship.
Let’s assume there is this gentleman in such a congregation. Let’s call him Kwame. Kwame has forty-five Ghana cedis (GH¢45.00) to give. This is how he may spread his money over the various sections of the fundraising:
First offertory – GH¢5.00
Appeal for funds – GH¢30.00
‘Kofi ne Ama’ – GH¢5.00
‘Mmea ne mmarima’ – GH¢5.00
Kwame gives highest during the appeal for funds because that is when the various amounts would be mentioned, say GH¢100, GH¢50, GH¢30, GH¢20, in that order (as if a product is being auctioned). When GH¢30 is mentioned, Kwame walks forward to give; everyone gets to know he has given GH¢30 and he is applauded. What is the essence of all these. Can’t we just spend a few minutes in bringing all we have to the altar? Can’t we give with simplicity (Mt. 6:1-4)? Can’t we save some time for other equally important issues? This won’t be possible until the Church wakes up from its lukewarm state of giving; until the Church repents of its lukewarmness and comes to understand the principles of giving. I thank God that some congregations have identified this problem and have repented. These congregations are now excelling in the grace of giving.
During a Presbyterian Students In Church Evangelism (P-SICE) programme in the Ga West Mission Fields (a mission field of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana), one of the rural folks asked me, “If everything belongs to God, why does He require us to give to Him? Can’t He just take what is His or what He wants?” Yes, He could have done that and we wouldn’t have any power to oppose Him, but He won’t because He wants to teach us to give. He wants to bless us and provide us the opportunity to worship Him through giving.
Lukewarmness in giving is mostly seen in the payment of tithes where many believers are either inconsistent in the payment of a tenth of their income or understate their income in order to pay less. Many believers have not realized that failure to pay tithes faithfully is a mark of lukewarmness and a possible step to backsliding. In Malachi 3:6-8, the Israelites had turned from God’s laws and had robbed God in tithes and offerings. These qualified them as candidates of lukewarmness and backsliding:
“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings”.
Giving does not only include the payment of tithes and making of monetary contributions to God’s work. It also includes the offering of our time, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts and above all, ourselves for God’s use (Mt. 25:14-30, 1 Tim. 4:13-15, Rom. 12:1). In 2 Corinthians 8:7-12, Paul admonishes us to excel in the grace of giving just as we excel in other Christian virtues:
“But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”.
Beloved, it is possible to excel in many things such as going to church, reading the Bible, having faith, studying the scriptures, making peace and showing zeal, but have we excelled in the grace of giving? Note that Jesus Christ excelled in a lot of things (healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, and so forth), but all these would have been fruitless had He not died to save us from our sins. The ultimate thing He did was to give His life for us. That is why we also need to excel in that grace of giving. How does one excel in the grace of giving? Paul provides an answer in 2 Cor. 8:7-12:
i. Have the desire to give (v. 10).
ii. Be the first to give (v. 10) – don’t be coerced to give.
iii. Be eager and willing to give (v. 11).
iv. Give according to your means or what you have (vv. 11, 12) – do not borrow to give.
v. Finish the work (v. 11) – do not quit giving, in whatever form. Offer yourself, your gifts, talents and abilities to accomplish every task God has given you. Jesus Christ finished His work on the cross. You must also finish the work He has entrusted into your care. That is why you need to give towards evangelism, church building, church planting, improving upon church worship, and the ilk.
Don’t just excel in some things and leave the rest – that would lead you into lukewarmness. Excel in everything God has for you and you would grow strong spiritually. God bless you.
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