Saturday, June 24, 2006

Giving: Too tightly controlled by expectations

A friend of ours has returned home recently after completing their studies. Along with it also ended some of the financial support they have been receiving. The message was clear. "As a student, you need some support. Once no longer a student, you do not need any more financial support."

It is easy to make decisions on support when one is working in a professional well paid job or studying. For the former, one certainly is able to support himself or herself financially, so there is no need for any charity. As a student without income, the giving is justified. What about the in-between? What about those who choose to work in a socially needful environment, a church, a mission field where the pay is extremely low (if any) and the expectations of charitable work is ultra high?

Expectations rear its ugliest head for this go-between situations. I have heard stories about people entering into the ministry and struggle even to maintain their current level of living. In some situations, the church have to resort to a bank loan just to pay the salaries of the pastor! Giving should not be primarily geared towards one's level of expectations. Instead, all giving must be prayerfully considered, and offered firstly to the Lord as an act of worship. Any expectations is not what the Christian worker ought to do for the cause, but how much the person trusts the Lord to use that money. Giving is an act of worship. It is also an act of faith. Certainly we have read about news on financial mismanagement by certain groups. However, these are never the majority. When CNN plays one scandal over and over again, it does not mean that ALL of the charitable organisations are scandalized!

My understanding of true giving goes like this. Firstly consider the amount one is prepared to give. Second, offer it to the Lord. Third, then consider where to give to. It is when we reverse the order, that giving resembles a rich man giving pennies to a beggar. Even worse, under the weight of unhealthy expectations, the Christian worker may become too bogged down by the need to please the donor, that the Christian cause suffers as a result.


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