the baby and the bathwater


Wisdom 8: Refreshment
March 24, 2009, 10:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11: 25)

One of the biggest theological struggles I have in the 21stC church is the challenge that the prosperity gospel brings to me, my faith, and my experience as a follower of Jesus. And the reason that I struggle with it, is because much of what I hear and read and see about it is very, very close to what I believe.

Very close.

You see, I do believe that you can’t out-give God. I do believe that he rewards us for faithful service. And I do believe that his reward, fulfilled in eternity, breaks through to us in to our now-and-everyday lives. And I do believe that this reward is often financial. Not always. But certainly it is my understanding from scripture and from experience that this is often the case.

And I also believe that in this current day and age, the church needs money to grow, succeed, extend the Kingdom. We need money for our buildings, for our staff, for our technical infrastructure, for food. And I do think that the church generally in this country is pretty poor when it comes to a theological understanding of giving. So I totally understand so much of what I see in prosperity teaching: the desire to inform and teach on giving, the desire to talk about a God who prospers us and blesses us and rewards us.

It’s very close.

But there does seem to be a line that is crossed – maybe a very fine line, only just visible in the sand – when suddenly the picture changes. Suddenly, we are not dependent on God revealing His grace, we are insistent on it. Suddenly we are not moved to rejoice when we receive a financial reward, we are compelled to question our behaviour if we don’t receive it. Suddenly we are not perceived as a church who joyfully gives of what they have, we are seen as a church who is perceived as hungry for money.
It is a fine line. But when it is crossed, then the world changes for me.

And the line is this: motivation. What is our motivation.

When we are generous, what is our motivation. Are we using our generosity to gain influence and power (‘If you don’t do what I want, vicar, I won’t pay my tithe’)? Are we using our generosity to be manipulative towards others (‘If I give a bit more, I may well be asked to join the preaching rota’)? Are we using our generosity to manipulate God (‘If you give me this new job I will give start giving more than 10%’)?

Or is our motivation the refreshment of others.

Refreshment.

I love that word. It’s so ‘otherly’ – not expectant of a return, not expectant of something back, not manipulative or controlling.

Just something to provide relief and joy to someone else.

God even.

What’s your motivation when you give?

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