PERSPECTIVE: Generosity, obedience
In the midst of the vociferous discussions regarding a Great Commission resurgence among Southern Baptists, one glaring issue has taken a back seat. It is in many ways as important and fundamental to resurgence as the return to Holy Spirit-filled personal witnessing by God’s people. What is so significant? I believe it is the development and practice of Great Commission giving by believers.
It seems unbelievable that the average Christian gives only 2.5 percent of his income to the work of the Kingdom. Let me put this in perspective. People who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus give only a token to the spread of the Gospel in their town, state, nation and the world.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If His words are true—and you know they are—there is a large number of believers who are missing out on the riches of blessings attached to freely giving to the work of the Kingdom.
Confused theology and contemporary church practices have intimidated leaders into defaulting on our responsibility to teach the people of God the whole counsel of God. To continue to ignore our failures will only prolong and deepen the immaturity of God’s people in regard to giving.
Our confused theology swirls around the debate regarding tithing or grace giving. I have a simple answer. I believe tithing is biblical—it is the beginning point for Christian financial stewardship. But for those who reject tithing and instead believe grace giving is the biblical standard, I have a simple solution. Jesus continually called upon His followers to fulfill and exceed the law. So teach and preach grace giving that exceeds the tithe.
Perhaps the bigger issue is the total absence of biblical teaching on stewardship in the church. We have listened to our critics rather than our God. A contemporary movement in the church has called for us to not speak of money or tithing because lost people are put off by it. The phrase quoted is that people say, “The only thing they talk about at that church is money!” So the response of spiritual leaders is to declare that we will not talk about money. I must say it plain—that thinking is purely wrongheaded. The issue of giving is not money, but obedience.
There are many truths in Scripture that lost people or immature believers do not want to hear. Since when did that become our criteria for what we preach and teach? Teaching tithing or grace giving is thoroughly biblical and, in fact, a central teaching of Scripture. To fail to teach this truth is to fail to fulfill the Great Commission command to make disciples and teach all that He commanded us.
A return to the priority of teaching God’s people to give biblically, generously and faithfully is fundamental to a resurgence of the spread of the Gospel. The work of the Kingdom in the local church and beyond is undergirded by the committed giving of the people in the pews.
It is time that pastors and teachers of the church unapologetically, yea, excitedly, teach the people of God the blessing of generosity and obedience in giving. It will require the leaders to practice what they preach and preach what they practice.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.