The subject of money is inappropriately taboo in some churches. Preachers feel awkward talking about it, Christians feel awkward listening to it and often, the result is a lack of teaching on this vital aspect of discipleship.
Jesus obviously speaks of it often. He says our heart will be where our treasure is and that we can’t serve both God and money. He praises the widow for her mite-sized offering and warns the rich of the dangers of wealth. This is just the beginning. To sum it up, how a person handles what God entrusts to them matters a great deal to God. More important than supporting the ministry of the church (though that’s important) is opening ourselves to Jesus’ conforming of our greed, materialism, need to possess and selfishness to the cross.
Yet, when choosing elders, ministry leaders, hiring staff, many churches find it offensive to suggest one’s giving be examined in a discussion of spiritual maturity. I believe it should. At New Vintage Church, staff is required to tithe, and any future elders we have probably will as well. This doesn’t mean they’ve reached the summit in this important area of discipleship. However, it does:
• Ensure we can ask the church to tithe with integrity and without hypocrisy.
• Increase authentic investment of one’s whole life in the church—avoiding compartmentalization of physical and spiritual.
• While tithing doesn’t represent a summit, it creates a placeholder in our lives for the vital spiritual discipline of giving. Research shows tithers tend to be the most generous to causes outside the church as well.
• Regular giving is a sign of spiritual maturity. A person who claims spiritual maturity and doesn’t practice generosity toward their church is similar to a person who claims spiritual maturity and doesn’t show up on Sundays. Giving isn’t the complete measure. It is one measurement. Regular giving to the church is a sign that one understands the reign of God over their finances.
There are other reasons, as well.
Creating a culture of generosity in your church begins with cultivating generous leadership. Ask your elders to commit to it and be held accountable for it and do the same with staff. If you are paying staff so little it becomes a back-breaking burden—consider practicing generosity toward your staff by raising pay. Paying little and not expecting them to give holds back everyone involved. It’s better to pay them generously and expect them to give generously.
If Jesus said where our treasure is, there our hearts will be, how can we ignore treasure in our efforts to touch and shape the heart into the likeness of Christ?