I go to a large church here in Australia and am amazed at the perception that people have with regards to the church and money.
I once heard about someone wanting to go to the church I attend, who asked, “How much does it cost to go there?”
The church has definitely been its own worst enemy throughout the years. People bring up the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and how they took money from everyone. There are also many churches today that preach a “prosperity gospel” where they strongly encourage people to give more money to their church so that they in turn might be blessed financially.
It is important to realise that biblical Christianity teaches no such thing. God does indeed bless us, but it may not be with finances. It may be in our relationships, in our marriage, in the location he has placed us, with our time, with his closeness and the list could go on.
And it is indeed important to remember that God doesn’t give us blessings so that we can be blessed, but so that we can, in turn, bless others with our finances, relationships, time etc.
If someone is asking about this, I would definitely not try to hide the fact that we give to God through the church. Rather, be open about it and explain why you give. Explain to them that it’s not out of obligation, nor is it because a pastor or even the church tells you to give. It’s because we, as Christians, recognise that everything we have is from God, and this includes our money. It’s his money that we have been given, as stewards, to look after. The giving of a percentage to the church is a recognition of this and a declaration to God that money is not our first love.
In addition, we also give out of a love for our Saviour. It’s in response to his gift to us. Jesus died for us as a free gift and we give as a love response to God. In the same way that you would want to give a little something back to a friend of yours if they, say, took you on the most amazing holiday, we have this desire to give something back to God in response to the most precious gift that we could possibly be given—eternal life. We give, not because we feel obligated to, but because we want to!
This is not something that is easy for non-Christians to grasp. In fact, I would say it is almost impossible to understand unless you have been a recipient of God’s gift to us. Why would you want to give away 10%, 20%, 30%, or more of your hard-earned cash? Especially in a place like Sydney where I live, where it’s so expensive to live?
So, how do I communicate this to someone who thinks the church is just after their money? Firstly, I would talk to them about my beliefs. Tell them that I don’t give because the church expects it. It’s my own decision and it’s because I want to. I would give to God’s work even if the church didn’t ask for it and even if I didn’t go to church. And then secondly, I would invite them to church! Let them experience church as you know it, and the home it is to you, instead of just hearing about it from the media or other sources.