Thursday: Special Projects ~ Big Jar Giving
Research has shown that only about 9 percent of people’s assets are liquid and could be contributed as an offering on a moment’s notice. Cash, checking, savings, money market funds, etc., are generally considered liquid assets, at least for those possessing things like this. Most of our assets, about 91 percent, are “invested” in real estate, such as our homes, our livestock (if we are rural), or other nonliquid items.
The differences in the percentages of liquid and nonliquid assets can be illustrated by putting 1,000 pennies in two different glass jars, with 10 pennies representing each percentage point. So you would have 90 pennies in a small jar representing the 9 percent liquid assets and 910 pennies in a large quart-size jar representing the 91 percent of nonliquid assets.
Most people give their offerings or contributions from the small jar — from their liquid assets. This is what they have in their checking account or pocketbook. But when someone really gets excited about something, they give from the big jar. The Bible tells many such stories.
Read Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:2-8. Who were the main characters at Simon’s feast? What was the value of Mary’s gift? Why did she anoint Jesus at this time?
Mary’s gift was worth 300 denarii — a full year’s wages. It was, most likely, a “big jar” gift. Following this incident Judas betrayed Jesus for a little more than one third of that amount — a “little jar” gift, 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). It takes real love and commitment to make big jar gifts — from our investments. But when we get greedy, like Judas, we can sell our souls for next to nothing.
The work and activities of Barnabas are mentioned 28 times in the New Testament. We know him primarily as a companion to the apostle Paul and as a great missionary. But the foundation for all of this is established in the first passage where he is mentioned. In Acts 4:36-37, , we read of his giving, truly, a “big jar” offering. What a powerful example of Christ’s words: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NKJV).
|Why is sacrificial giving as important for the givers as for the recipients?|
Special projects giving. I have heard a lot of appeals for large donations, particularly at Camp Meetings where we used to have a very emotional meeting followed by handing out of pledges with special prayers to open our hearts and wallets. And then there would be the great announcement later in the day that the amount given this year was ...
I don't want to run a spoiler, but when it comes to giving big bucks, you need to think it through in your head about the consequences. It is not a time to get carried away by the emotion of the moment.
I am well aware of the appeal to "step out in faith", "the day is coming when our money will be worthless", "lay up treasure in heaven", and so on. The fact of the matter is that life goes on and sometimes the consequences of the "big donation" come back to bite those you love the most.
A couple of examples. The husband and father who pledged a substantial part of their yearly income to a major project only to have to appeal to the church for help to pay his children's school fees.
One particular case I have mentioned previously that I am familiar with. The farmer who left the family farm to the church in his will. Like a lot of farming families, the son followed his father and became a farmer deriving his income from his father's farm in the expectation that he would someday inherit it. Imagine his reaction when his father died and he suddenly found that virtually his whole career had been taken away from him.
This is not theological advice but if you are going to give big bucks to the Lord, think it through and plan for it. Understand what you are doing.
There is another aspect of project giving that I want to mention in this context as well. I taught computing in an overseas "mission field" institution some years ago. They had state-of-the-art computer equipment at the time and it was a pleasure teaching there. Someone from the homeland had given them the computers. Five years later I went back to the same institution. They still had the same computers and they were struggling to keep up. Those of you who understand computer technology know that computers have a lifetime of about 3 years. After that, they struggle to run the software and typically have insufficient capacity. Those five-year-old computers were past their use by date.
The problem is that it is fairly easy to obtain donations for new projects but maintaining the use of those projects requires an ongoing commitment.
That is an issue that I have seen repeated so many times. Brand new tractors on mission farms that don't get maintained. Offices with photocopiers that they cannot get parts for. The list goes on and on.
I don't have the answers to all of these problems but most of us who have been involved at the business end of these projects have seen the issues repeatedly.
What is the takeaway from this discussion? Big bucks donations should be thought about carefully. We should not get carried away with some of the platitudes we hear about generosity and the Lord's work. Generosity comes with responsibility for both the giver and receiver. And sometimes that requires some hard-headed business wisdom.
Maurice, I was waiting for the author to bring up Acts 5:1-11. I do wonder why they didn't. Maybe it doesn't fit the narrative of the argument? The thoughts you articulated run through my mind every time I see a church add instruction on how to put the donation of some "large" gift into your will, or something to that effect. I don't recall ever hearing mentioned your advice of counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30) before making those decisions.
The widow not only made a big bucks donation but she gave it all. For outsiders it seemed too little.
The amount of tithes and offerings reflect the fidelity of people towards God, thus the worries of clergy should be the spiritual development of church members. Faith and works have to meet. When the focus is God first, everything else follows, including the worship with material means.
‘Special Project-giving’ still falls under the principles which guide good stewardship. Some meeting places for a church family are established by borrowing money from its members to generate the needed funds. Borrowing money for building projects, if not considered very carefully, can bring the welfare of all the members of a church family into possible danger due to insolvency.
I prefer the careful planning of the collection of funds from all who want to support a large project instead of borrowing them, making sure that all are informed of the 'downsides'.. In my opinion, one should never go too far ahead of one's current ability to pay one's financial obligations. Financial circumstances can change quickly, and even well laid plans can be affected by developments no one anticipated.
In my opinion, especially prudent stewardship governs the giving and receiving when church members engage in funding a big project with their money. Unless everyone is party to the acceptance of the dept obligation, members not party to this obligation can be trapped by suffering the effects of that dept obligation when it becomes a burden to all. This could lead to the demise of the church-membership at large.
One example would be the purchasing of low-interest or no-interest ‘building shares’ by some members which is then paid back to them using the general income received from all members over time.
I have always considered the saying from the Bible that the borrower is the lender’s ‘slave’ – Prov. 22:7. Personally, and for our family, we apply the principle of living within our means, meaning that we have to have the funds first before we expend them.
God has blessed us greatly in that we have not had any catastrophic circumstances develop, and have been able to pay all our debts on time; for this I am extremely grateful.
Sacrificial giving is important for both the givers and recipients as it demonstrates an act of selflessness and compassion. It shows that the givers care deeply about the recipients and are willing to sacrifice something of value to show their commitment to helping them. From an emotional perspective, it can also bring a sense of fulfillment to the givers. Seeing the recipients benefit from their sacrifices can bring a sense of joy and satisfaction to even the givers.