In speaking with a government official recently I was told that last year the average Canadian gave $85 to charity. He went on to say that for this reason, when someone’s charitable donations approach eight to 10 per cent of their income, they’re immediately suspect of making a false report and may be asked to verify their claim. (Incidentally, I’ve read that the average church member contributes between 1.5 to 2.5 per cent of their income to the Lord’s work and the lower the family income, the higher the percentage of giving).
The Scriptures’ teaching about giving and generosity to the Lord’s work, to the poor and to each other is multitudinous. The focus is typically upon attitude not amount. For example, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Alexander the Great, on exercises with his troops, rode by a poor man begging for alms. He threw the man several gold coins. One of his lieutenants said, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded, “Copper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.” While I suspect that Alexander’s liberality was somewhat vanity-based, the truth of the matter is that generosity speaks more about the nature of the giver than it does the need of the recipient.
A true story from many years ago, involves a 10-year-old boy who climbed onto a stool in the local restaurant. He asked the waitress, “How much is an ice cream sundae?” “Fifty cents” she replied, and the boy reached into his pocket, pulled out some change and began counting. She frowned and waited impatiently as he counted through his coins.
Looking up at the waitress he asked, “How much is a dish of plain ice cream?” Rolling her eyes. She snapped, “Thirty five cents!” He placed a quarter and 2 nickels on the counter and said, “I’ll have the plain ice cream please.”
When the waitress returned to clear the counter a tear came to her eyes. Tucked under the empty dish were 2 nickels and 5 pennies…the boy had enough money for a sundae, but he’d ordered plain ice cream so that he could leave her a tip.
C.S. Lewis speaking about generosity stated, “I don’t believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” And George Mueller, a man who experienced God’s provision powerfully and perennially said, “God judges what we give by what we keep.”
“The Lord Jesus himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection