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?