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Monday, August 19, 2013

“Honey, Itʼs Time We Cut Our Contribution”

By Cliff Goodwin

     It is unfortunate that, in the present economy, the above words are likely being spoken in a number of Christian homes. Times are hard, indeed. Cutbacks and layoffs have affected many families who work in manufacturing and retail sectors. Contractors and business owners have likewise suffered the effects of an economic slowdown. All of this means that there is generally less money to go around, and in many instances less money is going to the Lord as well.
     Before proceeding any further, please allow me to make something crystal clear: there may very well come a time in which a Christian family is forced to reduce the amount of their weekly contribution to the Lord‟s church. However, something else needs to be equally clear: the family contribution should not be the first thing cut when budgetary reductions are necessitated. Let‟s take an honest look at some considerations both scriptural and practical.
     First, Christians are to give based on their prosperity, or how much they make. Paul wrote by inspiration, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come,” (1 Cor. 16:2). Naturally, then, when a Christian makes more money, he ought to give more; when a Christian makes less money, he may give less. This is all very straightforward. However, there is a practical observation often overlooked at this juncture. If and when contribution cutbacks are necessitated by the reduction of income, the amount of the cutback should be in proportion to the amount of income lost. For example, a family that loses 10% of its gross income may very well have to reduce the amount of their weekly contribution. Nonetheless, such a reduction should be no more than 10% of what they were giving previously. To cut the family contribution more than 10% in such a scenario would be disproportionate and would essentially mean that the family is using part of their contribution to cover shortfalls in other budgetary areas. Some families give no thought to cutting their contributions 25% or more, when their actual income reductions may be only 10 or 15%. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be!”
     Second, Christians are to put God first in their finances, as in every other facet of life. This principle was demonstrated under the Old Testament by the offering of the firstfruits. “Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine,” (Prov. 3:9-10). God, and our devotion to God, must be the priority of our lives. Jesus clearly emphasized this fact. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” (Matt. 6:33). “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment,” (Matt. 22:37-38).
     When God is truly first in our lives, such will be manifested in our giving. Like the Macedonians of old, we first give ourselves, and then our possessions naturally follow. “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely......willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave them- selves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God,” (2 Cor. 8:3-5, NKJV).
     Let us now consider a practical observation in regard to this second Biblical principle. If God is first in our lives, shouldn’t our contributions be the last items cut in our budgets? We live in an age that is filled with so many extras. In fact, there are many instances in which we have deemed various extras as “indispensable.” Most families today have at least two cell phones—many families have more. Few families rely on the old UHF antenna for television anymore. Such has been replaced by either cable or satellite service. Both wireless phone service and satellite television programming come in varying plans and packages—all at different costs. When a family‟s in- come is reduced, shouldn’t cutbacks first be made in the areas of some of these “extras,” instead of the family contribution? A family truly desiring to put God first will seek to “cut all the fat” they can, before reducing their weekly offering to the Lord. The way we sometime treat God is astonishing. God blesses with every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), richly giving us all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). Then, when hard times come upon us, or reverses are encountered, the first thing to be cut is our contribution! Once again, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be!”

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


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