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.