Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

If there is any one thing churchgoers are repeatedly taught it is the concept of giving. Usually this teaching comes from the book of Malachi chapter three. The problem is, none of these verses apply to the church. In fact, Malachi was written specifically for the nation of Israel. These tithes discussed by Malachi are clearly the agricultural and firstlings tithe of ancient Judah. In other words, the “meat” spoken of in God’s storehouse was just that—food! And that was to be distributed to the needy, to the widow, the fatherless and the stranger in the land.Today we are witnessing an insidious spirit of greed and covetousness within Christendom. This insatiable lust for monetary gain has crept into every level of the Christian church. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy described this satanic “gospel of gain” as “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:5).

In recent months a certain typical so-called evangelist bragged about his great wealth, luxurious home, vehicles and ministry while asking for more money! People who call themselves Christians literally ran to the platform to stuff money into his pockets.

Every time I hear or read of this incident (and others like it), I hear Satan’s mocking laughter. This blatant wickedness causes my heart to grieve along with the grief of the Holy Spirit of God. What’s wrong with people? Don’t they ever read the Bible?

God’s heart has not changed! His heart is still with the poor, the widow (this includes single women) the fatherless, the strangers and the oppressed. God has not changed. But countless numbers of men and women, called by His name, prove that He is not their LORD by their indiscriminate giving practices. Many are in that great multitude of people foretold in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; that is, those of the falling away.

These deluded followers of the rich and famous give to get. They give while on an emotional high. They give in public to be seen of men. They give to be part of the “new thing”. And in so doing they shall be judged with the same judgment that God shall bring down upon the heads of all those who use the precious name of Jesus for ungodly gain.

Bottom line, those who give to deceivers
and false workers are partaking of their sins.

Be not deceived! Where you sow, there shall you also reap. If you habitually support dead churches, heretics, hireling shepherds, wolves and ungodly men, make no mistake, you are going to be held accountable.

Proverbs 22:16 says, “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.” You see, every time you overlook someone in need (who is probably right under your nose) because you feel you should give to build some “kingdom” or support someone else’s “cause”, you have just disobeyed the Lord.

Whether we like to admit it or not, God is
always testing us to see where our heart is.

Jesus put it this way, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”How easy it is to forget that God does not see the way we see. Or, in other words, He does not make the same value judgments that we humans do. For example, we tend to judge the success of a ministry by numbers and worldly gain. Big ministries with big names attract carnally minded Christians. (This is not to say that many well-known ministries such as World Challenge, Inc. are not of God). The difference is, larger ministries such as World Challenge and Impact Ministries in Redmond, WA do not exist to help themselves but rather exist to help others. And this they faithfully do. True ministries are giving ministries.

God looks at the heart. He sees the motivation for giving. He knows full well whether a person gives out of a heart of love and obedience to God (not man) or whether that person gives in order to get something in return. One way to test yourself is to give to someone you know who is in need without letting them know where that gift came from. Try it and you will discover the truth of Jesus’ words in Acts 20:35b, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This verse also states to labor to support the weak. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 states, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”

In our pride and vainglory we do not want to labor to support anybody but ourselves, let alone the weak. The weak are not highly esteemed in today’s Hollywood-style mentality. Who are the weak anyway? The weak represent the folks among us who cannot fight for themselves. They are those who have been beat up by life. Perhaps they have been left in an impoverished state due to illness, misfortune or divorce. Know anybody like that?

It’s easy to say, in our most pious
tones, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

There is nothing that will turn a person away from following Christ faster than religious platitudes. Christians are so good at it too. Just slap a scripture on that hurting person so they’ll see it your way and shape up (and shut up). We can shoot scriptures at needy people faster than Geronimo shot arrows at the U. S. Cavalry. But is this Christ-like? Is this how you enter in with a person so you can minister the life of Christ to them?

Among the Thessalonian believers of Paul’s day there were some able-bodied men who were lazy and unwilling to work. In fact, they had become busybodies! These people believed that the Lord Jesus would return at any day to take them out of the world. Therefore, they idly sat around waiting for that day. It was to such lazy men, who were able to work and who should work so that their families not suffer and go without, that Paul was speaking when he uttered the words, “…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). These men were not laborers for the gospel but were simply waiting for something to happen and they were a burden on their community and the church.

The word clearly tells us to occupy so we can be found faithful when He does come. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” (Eccl. 9:10). Jesus stated, “…the labourer is worthy of his hire…” (Luke 10:7)

Therefore, we see that this scripture concerning the idle, is not to be taken out of context and used to justify not supporting true ministries who are struggling, (poverty is an oppression that hinders the Gospel), the poor, the widows, etc. This, too, lacks integrity and is sin. On the other hand, to give financial aid to someone who refuses to work who is fully capable of working when suitable work is available is also sin.

There is another subtle sin in the area of giving and that is when a person substitutes money for surrendering their whole self to God. These people, operating in deception and/or pride, give for the outward show. God is not fooled and neither are the discerning Christians around them.

Sometimes we are truly moved by the plight of another person. We see their outward struggles and want to solve their problems with large sums of money. The problem is, unless God calls us to lift their burdens or supply their need, we may be interfering with what God is doing in their life. Many times I have met people in hopeless situations and my heart went out to them. I’d think to myself, “If only I could get very rich, then I could rescue them.” But God would close that door and put a check in my heart. In time, I would discover that He was working out something greater in their life. Sometimes I could see that any interference on my part would not alleviate the cause of their problem. So often people are in cycles and what they need is to step outside of those cycles and allow Christ to step in on the scene.

Giving to the dishonest wicked and rebellious for their gain is sin. Giving to those with false doctrines is sin. Giving to those who want to start a ministry but have not been faithful in the small things in front of them is sin. Giving to those who have a “cause” and who want to build a following is sin and wickedness. (This is how cults get started, by the way).

Giving tells on you—your heart, priorities and spiritual condition.

What are your motives for giving? Ask the Lord to show you. Do you give out of pride to show how good you are? Do you give to get? Do you give conditionally so you can have a say in someone’s ministry? Do you give out of guilt, manipulation and control? Giving out of the wrong motivation is giving out of a wrong spirit. It is not acceptable to God.

Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives, not because
of their giving, but because of their treachery.

You see, when you make a vow to give a certain amount to God (a ministry, group or individual) and then justify keeping back part of the money, you have just lied to the Holy Ghost. We often wonder how many people would be left standing if God still struck them dead for this sin. Something to think about, isn’t it?

Giving to Christians in need is a priority. Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”We read in the book of Acts , that the offerings that the disciples collected were for the purpose of helping the poor, the widows and the fatherless. How different from the church system today that, instead of feeding the sheep, fleeces the sheep in order to build bigger and more impressive church edifices and monuments to man.

Giving out of the wrong spirit is a stench to God.

Even in giving money, you can rob from God’s blessings when your heart is not pure. Real, genuine sacrifice to God COSTS YOU SOMETHING. A sacrifice is giving the very best. It is costly. It is a sweet savor to God. It is like the precious, costly ointment Mary poured out of the alabaster box upon the feet of Jesus. King David declared, “…neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” (2 Sam. 24:24).

God gave His best when He gave us Jesus Christ.

Considering all of the above, what constitutes giving that is pleasing to God? First of all, we need to go to Him and ask Him where He wants us to give and how much. (What a novel idea! Asking God!) We must ask Him to give us sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Then we need to check out our motivation for giving. Is it because the Holy Spirit has shed the love of God abroad on our hearts? If not, then we need to repent and ask God to change our hearts and renew a right spirit within us. John wrote in 1 John 3:16, 17, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

Of course, God will not accept giving that does not come out of a cheerful (hilarious) heart! Giving must line up to Spirit and Truth. Giving is true worship. Giving is a privilege. It is a ministry. It is an honor. It is a holy office. It is an act of faith, love and obedience. Unconditional giving declares we are the sons and daughters of God.

Giving is God’s nature. Therefore, if we are indeed partakers of the divine nature, we will automatically be generous people. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our lives. And, all of the fruit of the Spirit touches those around us with benefits and blessings. (See Gal. 5:22, 23).

We pray God’s richest blessings on those of you who have helped lift our weary arms through your faithful giving, prayers, friendship and many acts of kindness. You who have stood with Gentle Shepherd Ministries are truly team members with us in God’s harvest field!