Not that I am against Christian stewardship by any means–after all, some of my best friends are Christian stewards. Rather, as I wrote in the two prior posts on the subject noted above, I am against the idea that the primary giving image/category/role discussed in the Bible is that of the steward, and I am against the idea that our primary goal is to be “rich toward God”.
That being said, one of the truly great “rich toward God” verses in the Bible that never gets much play in the Christian stewardship movement is Matthew 6:1-4, where Jesus says:
Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Would you like to be rich toward God, asks Jesus? Then give unrewarded in any way so that only your Father may reward you.
Most of us are able to discern the grosser form of such rewards–I mean, it’s been at least a good three or four years since my wife and I have had a building or a communicable disease named after us due to our largesse.
But think about the subtler forms of being “seen by men”.
How about, say, donation receipts for income tax purposes?
“Wait wait wait wait wait,” some of our Christian stewardship friends may say. “Being able to deduct your donations on your income taxes is good stewardship. It enables you to be able to give more money away.”
Again. Enough with the stewardship talk. There’s more going on in biblical giving and generosity than maximizing the total dollar amount you give away or the impact your donated dollars can have.
There’s Matthew 6:1-4.
And understand that Matthew 6:1-4 isn’t an ode to random acts of generosity. In other words, just because you’re giving in cash doesn’t mean you need to (or get to) be any less strategic in your giving than we’ve talked about in the previous posts in this series.
It just means that before you go to church you run by the ATM, withdraw your weekly offering in $20 bills, and put it in the plate in an unmarked offering envelope.
Or your next gift to a nonprofit organization involves you stuffing their enclosed reply envelope with a fat $100 bill…instead of a check or EFT auto-deduct.
I suspect that for most of us, giving in this way will actually be harder than increasing the percentage of money we’re giving away to charity.
So let’s work our way up to it.
Once you set your giving percentage for the year, set an initial percentage of that percentage (1%? 5%? 10%?) to give away anonymously and unreceipted…and then increase that percentage each year. Absorb the tax hit as part of the cost of giving in secret, consoling yourself by noting that charitable giving may not be tax deductible forever the way things are going, and you’re just getting a jump start on the training to be generous when the only reward you’ll get for your donations comes from your Father in Heaven, who sees what is done in the secret places of our hearts.