Money. Stereotypically, churches love to talk about how you should give it to them - often employing guilt and shame as extra persuasions. The great irony, though, is that Jesus talked about money more than anything else, because he understood the power money has to make us feel like we're in control and self-reliant - qualities precisely opposite of the trust and faith that's at the core of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
At Pathway, we'd love to avoid talking about money. But the reality is that money is necessary to sustain our community - to provide for worship space, office space, electricity, telephones, web hosting, staff compensation, coffee and snacks on Sunday mornings...and the list goes on.
As God has faithfully provided for Pathway through the years, our desire as a community is to continually grow and be challenged to give according to several biblical principles:
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were consistently commanded to give from the firstfruits of their crops as an acknowledgement that everything they had came from God. Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. God does not ask for what's left after we've paid for everything else. Our giving to him should be from our firstfruits.
In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus was watching people put their money into the temple treasury. Rich people threw in large amounts. And then a poor widow came along and put in a fraction of a penny. Jesus commended her. The others had given out of their wealth, but she had given sacrificially - she put in all that she had to live on. Jesus makes it clear that our gifts to God should be substantial enough to be considered sacrificial. And giving isn't sacrificial unless it's a sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 9:7 says each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Giving sacrificially from our firstfruits should be done not because we have to, but because we want to. God doesn't want us to give out of duty - he wants us to give because we love him. And so we should give what it is in our hearts to give with joy and thanksgiving.
God wants us to demonstrate our love for him through obedient giving. And when we give obediently-from our firstfruits, sacrificially, and cheerfully - we allow God to prove his faithfulness to us, both as individuals and as a community.