Giving (Bruce Hulme)

Bruce Hulme is an administrator and professor at Tabor Adelaide.

Giving by Bruce Hulme: The Spiritual Discipline of Giving

Thinking about giving as a spiritual discipline might make us wince a little. Surely our giving is to be a free outpouring of gratitude in response to the generosity of God, rather than something that is ‘under compulsion’ (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7) or in need of regimentation! Is considering giving as a spiritual discipline little more than a return to living under the law rather than the liberation of the gospel? I suppose that is possible, particularly if we view the discipline of giving as something we have got to do, or another box to tick in the Christian life.

Giving is relational; as soon as it becomes merely functional in our lives, it has moved from mercy to sacrifice.

Big one: What are the hangups about giving? What are you doing to make giving more joyous? In your church? in your home?

‘Discipline’ in proper perspective, however, actually frees rather than restricts. ‘In the spiritual life,’ writes Henri Nouwen, ‘the word “discipline” means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’  Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.’

Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied.  In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.’ When we understand ‘discipline’ in this way, regular giving cultivates the Yes! and No! of Christian spirituality in powerful ways. It helps us say and pray Yes! to Psalm 24:1: ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’; Yes! to creating space for God to act and surprise us; Yes! to a prayerful attentiveness to his work around us. It also helps us say No! to the cancer of a marketplace culture that defines people as ‘consumers’; No! to tearing down our barns to build bigger ones; No! to a fearful burying of what God has given us.

Giving as a spiritual discipline is never something we have got to do, but get to do. It is a gracious invitation to create space for our formation, and our participation in the Kingdom.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.chezman86.blogspot.com Kevin

    I have been thinking about giving a lot over the past few years. My tithing feels robotic and giving to missionaries is as simple as a direct withdrawal from my checking account/credit card. Although I would consider myself generous I feel very detached from giving and wonder if I am pleasing God with it.

    I’ve considered taking a tithing holiday and put all that I give toward my mortgage so when I am free from that burden my family can be more flexible for the gospel and ministry (we live in the northeast so home prices and taxes “tax” the budget). I don’t know if I have the guts to do this yet. I’m still working it through. Without a mortgage we could consider working part time, volunteering, being more active in our kids lives, study Scripture, understand our community, etc…

    I feel like giving to a local church is really giving to the vision of a few leaders (or just one) and you have to feel called to it or passionate about it. Every time I see some new gadget or piece of sound system equipment in the church I cringe. Pastors do not correctly explain tithing if at all (that’s my experience). It’s like it gets automatically transfered from OT to NT. I read that Jewish people don’t tithe but buy a seat in the synagogue. That is an interesting concept.

    Our family will take one month of tithe money and celebrate by having a party, buying plane tickets to see old friends, or buy new clothes. We fight consumerism and try to give sacrificially all year long so to have a “treat” seems appropriate.

    Buying fair trade, and gifts from artisans from other countries is rewarding. When we go to a kids birthday party we started giving animals to families in need through WorldVision as part of the gift. We also did that with end of year teacher gifts – a starbucks gift card & a donation in the name of the teacher to stop sex trafficking. Hopefully it is a witness and maybe start of a future conversation.

    I also like giving to organizations that do micro loans.

    I will think about what you said “giving creates space for our formation & our participation in the kingdom”. See where that leads me :)

  • RobS

    How about giving as a form of worship as well? Giving God back the first and best of what He has given to me… and financial giving is the tangible way I’m most likely to do that.

    I have recently been taking a look at the role of the church and how Jesus builds the church, how He is the head, and how He loves the church wants the church to be his instrument to make known the wisdom and glory of God. As that becomes more clear, I do want to give to His church. If the local church has a clear and compelling vision to do things for Him, then I have little problem giving to it. I know some “overhead” is always going to exist, but our church tries to keep it manageable.

    That said, after giving to church we’re seeing joy in being more direct. A couple ladies in our church we help from time to time with direct things (& others do to) and invest in their lives. We can’t handle huge numbers, but with a few helping a few others it’s a good way to learn other spiritual lessons along the way.

    All while giving, the blessings from Malachi 3:10 are recognized… even underemployed now (and challenges that have gone on with that over the last 15+ months) it’s very obvious that God pours out tons of blessings & has opened doors to teach from those circumstances and celebrate Him.

  • Lance Vaughters

    Dear brothers,

    Whether we tithe roboticlly or “give cheerfully” we are still obeying the instructions (torah) of the Father. don’t sweat the attitude part, let the practice of giving mold you to the image of Jesus.
    I got hung up on the whole tithing issue until i studied it a bit further and realized that tithing was tied to the good news of the kingdom. In the kingdom tithing is part of your vacation pay. It was to be saved for a once-in-a-year contribution at the feast of booths in which you were to spend a portion of that tithe to get to and from the place of offering (Jerusalem) and give the left over to the temple/Priest. Tithing was the mechanism by which the ancient people of God (Yahweh) were enabled to participate in a very important “holy convocation”. It was a time of joy, meeting with other brethren, taking a break from normal work etc. to go and worship the Creator in the beauty of separation. It is no wonder that tithing has taken on such negative overtones in the recent past. It is because the act itself has been detached from the personal benefits associated with it. One other point is that the tithe was to be calculated on the INCREASE of not the gross. Alms were a way of saying thank you for extreme increase. Jesus says that alms, when given properly, were given anonymously.

    Deut 14: 22-29

    22 ¶ Thou shalt tithe a tenth of all the produce of thy seed, the fruit of thy field year by year.
    23 And thou shalt eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to have his name called there; ye shall bring the tithe of thy corn and of thy wine, and of thine oil, the first-born of thy herd and of thy flock, that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.
    24 And if the journey be too far for thee, and thou art not able to bring them, because the place is far from thee which the Lord thy God shall choose to have his name called there, because the Lord thy God will bless thee;
    25 then thou shalt sell them for money, and thou shalt take the money in thy hands, and thou shalt go to the place which the Lord thy God shall choose.
    26 And thou shalt give the money for whatsoever thy soul shall desire, for oxen or for sheep, or for wine, or thou shalt lay it out on strong drink, or on whatsoever thy soul may desire, and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice and thy house,
    27 and the Levite that is in thy cities, because he has not a portion or inheritance with thee.
    28 After three years thou shalt bring out all the tithes of thy fruits, in that year thou shalt lay it up in thy cities.
    29 And the Levite shall come, because he has no part or lot with thee, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow which is in thy cities; and they shall eat and be filled, that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the works which thou shalt do.

    may you all be blessed this day as you walk in the ways of the kingdom by means of the Spirit.
    Grace & Peace,
    Lance

  • aaronlage

    I attend a great church of about 800ish people and about 90+ percent of them are faithful tithers! It’s both a discipline and a joy to give. I don’t think it’s right to polarize it – it’s supposed to be both.

    In a similar way to Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” I’m sure technically it wasn’t “joyous” to endure the cross, but the discipline of doing what was right was cause for joy. Obviously there’s no comparison between Him giving His life and us giving our money, but it’s still a discipline that should be done with joy. Giving money is probably one of the easiest things we will do in the Kingdom. I like that line: “Giving as a spiritual discipline is never something we have got to do, but get to do. It is a gracious invitation to create space for our formation, and our participation in the Kingdom.” We GET too – what an honor!

  • paj

    Giving is a constant counter cultural act, especially when it is done quietly and with little recognition.

    It’s a way of forcing us from a life of self-sufficiency and idolatry into a life under God’s provision and care.

    I’ve found the only way to be generous is via prayer, the recognition that generosity is a one of the gifts that the Spirt grants and then celebration of God’s provision in my life.

    Lastly, I’ve been suprised how far I’ve come and also how slow my rate of progress has been over the last 20 years…God’s got more work to do!

  • Steve Robinson

    Can we look those we are called to give to in the eye?
    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/stevethebuilder/homeless_hungry_god_bless

  • Megan

    @#1– Kevin, you said you like giving to micro loans. Check out our newest loan if you are looking to help with someone’s micro loan. When it is repaid, you can get the money back or funnel it back through to another loan. We work in Arequipa, Peru. http://www.cudaperu.org/Loans.aspx?loanid=64
    Blessings!

  • joey

    Paul says that when we the Church gives, she is doing what the Christ has done for us. We are the continuation of the Body of Christ and we rehearse the Gospel even through our giving. That is our function.


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