Monday, December 12, 2011

Giving and sharing: Are They The Same Thing?

Tim Challies is doing a series on giving over at his blog. So far it is pretty much boilerplate stuff and you can see where it is heading (i.e. give 10% to your local church first and then to other ministries or direct giving if you have anything else above and beyond that). As I read over it, I started to think about how much I dislike the term "giving". Is "giving" the same thing as "sharing"? Do we see the model of the New Covenant church as "giving" or as "sharing"?

First a couple of definitions, at least in my own interpretation of the terms.

Giving implies that what I have is mine and I give some of it to whatever cause I choose, whether that is a church or the Salvation Army or the National Rifle Association. I give a certain percentage and the rest is mine. It is a gift I choose to give.

Sharing implies that within the community of faith what's mine is yours. I make no claim on what is "mine" because truly nothing is mine. Anything I have is available to any brother in need at any time, without strings attached and without the need for budgets or committees to determine where it goes.

Those are clumsy definitions but I think they are a starting point. When we look in Scripture what do we see, specifically in the New Testament is the church giving or sharing? Clearly the Old Testament/Old Covenant model is "giving" but what about the New? Do we see our traditional notion of "storehouse giving" or is the church "sharing"?

In the one case where the church gathered up money, the example often cited as "proof" that Christians should "give at church", 1 Corinthians 16:1 (see also Rom 15:26 and Acts 11: 29-30 dealing with the same issue), Paul is telling the church in Corinth to set aside money to take to Jerusalem. The church was sharing with their brethren in Jerusalem who were in need and not keeping the money "in house".

In Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32, perhaps the most uncomfortable passages for many Western Christians in all of Scripture, I think what is happening is "sharing", not "giving". They were not writing a check on Sunday morning at church. They were sharing directly to those who were in need and perhaps as importantly were not paying operating expenses but rather meeting the physical needs of the church (presumably food and clothing?)

I have argued in the past that we never see the church in the New Testament treating money as we do, i.e. the giving of offerings to the local church where it is primarily used to fund the offerings of that local church with a small portion being distributed outside of the church organization. I think the distinction between Christians sharing with one another and giving to the local church is enormous and very, very important. What do you think? Is there a difference between giving and sharing and is the way we understand and view money important to how we relate to one another?

6 comments:

co_heir said...

I agree with you that theres is a difference between giving and sharing. Giving supposes that we own something and that it is ours to give. Sharing recognizes that it all belongs to the Father, and that he directs when and to whom we share. Too often we're like little children who forget that the toys they play with really are gifts from their parents, and as such should be shared with siblings or others who are there.

David Rudd said...

Arthur,
I like where you are landing better than where it appears Challies is landing, but i would rather use the word "stewardship" and take the time to fight for it's original meaning.

Everything I have is God's and I ought to use it as He would (of course, that probably means that everything I have is for the good of the community and should be used as such).

Perhaps Jesus' parable of the talents is a good place to camp for part of this discussion?

Arthur Sido said...

co-heir, that was kind of my line of thinking as well, giving presupposes that it is our money (or food or clothing). if we are indeed a family, why would we not share with one another?

Arthur Sido said...

David

That is a valid point about "stweardship". The term has lost its original meaning and been hijacked by tradition but it is a perfectly good word to use. Maybe you can expand on the parable of the talents and how it applies in this case? I like where that is going!

Debbie said...

Arthur,

It's good that you defined your terms, because it turns out my perception of them is very different.

Sharing, to me, means that we both have access to something and benefit from it. If I share a meal with you, we both eat. If I share a book, car, clothes, etc. with you, we both use it.

Giving something, though, means I no longer expect to use it again. If I give you food, I won't be eating any of it. If I give you a book, car, clothes, etc., I will never use it again (unless you share it with me!).

Of course, all of this is under the understanding that everything I have in my possession is God's and I am the temporary steward of it. I agree that stewardship is a good starting point for a discussion of this.

(Now you've got me thinking about the terms we use when discussing Jesus - He gave His life so we can share in His righteousness.... hmmmmm....)

Arthur Sido said...

Debbie

I think of it (His righteousness) in terms of imputed righteous (He who knew no sin became sin for us...)

I do like your defintions as well. Giving is more of a transaction, I give you something and in doing so it changes possession from me to you versus sharing where we eschew possession in the first place.