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 ones 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 Godâs (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? Shouldnât we just say ââŚ we are unworthy servants; we have only done our dutyâ (Lk. 17:10)? I am not ruling out the expectation to receive Godâs 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 âIf God should withdraw His blessings for giving, would we still give?â
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 dayâs purpose is to get enough money as targeted. Then, there is the first offertory, then appeal for funds, then âKofi ne Amaâ (Kofi and Ama) and finally âmmea ne mmarimaâ (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 â we eventually miss the purpose of our worship.
Letâs assume there is this gentleman in such a congregation. Letâs call him Kwame. Kwame has forty-five Ghana cedis (GHÂ˘45.00) to give. This is how he may spread his money over the various sections of the fundraising:
First offertory â GHÂ˘5.00
Appeal for funds â GHÂ˘30.00
âKofi ne Amaâ â GHÂ˘5.00
âMmea ne mmarimaâ â GHÂ˘5.00
Kwame gives highest during the appeal for funds because that is when the various amounts would be mentioned, say GHÂ˘100, GHÂ˘50, GHÂ˘30, GHÂ˘20, in that order (as if a product is being auctioned). When GHÂ˘30 is mentioned, Kwame walks forward to give; everyone gets to know he has given GHÂ˘30 and he is applauded. What is the essence of all these. Canât we just spend a few minutes in bringing all we have to the altar? Canât we give with simplicity (Mt. 6:1-4)? Canât we save some time for other equally important issues? This wonât 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, âIf everything belongs to God, why does He require us to give to Him? Canât He just take what is His or what He wants?â Yes, He could have done that and we wouldnât have any power to oppose Him, but He wonât 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 Godâs laws and had robbed God in tithes and offerings. These qualified them as candidates of lukewarmness and backsliding:
âI 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,â says the LORD Almighty. âBut you ask, âHow are we to return?â âWill a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, âHow do we rob you?â âIn tithes and offeringsâ.
Giving does not only include the payment of tithes and making of monetary contributions to Godâs work. It also includes the offering of our time, talents, abilities, spiritual gifts and above all, ourselves for Godâs 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:
âBut just as you excel in everythingâin faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for usâsee 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 haveâ.
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) â donât 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) â do not borrow to give.
v. Finish the work (v. 11) â 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.
Donât just excel in some things and leave the rest â 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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