When I hear the phrase "Don't ask, don't tell" I immediately think of the attempt to sustain the ban on open homosexuality in America's military. While reading Randy Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle, I came across this sentence. . .
When it comes to giving, churches operate under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. (Alcorn, 84)
We say that what is celebrated is replicated. This is true in so many venues. Many churches really push for their members to give in order to pay off debt or to "make budget." I think every pastor thinks this way at some point, especially after the monthly financial reports come out. Just as many businesses and families are struggling financially in this economy, so too are churches. One of our problems here in America is that we have built our local churches on a business model that does not have solid footing in biblical principles.
Why does Alcorn state that we have a "don't ask, don'te tell" policy when it comes to giving? This is because in most cases, churches do very little, if anything to educate and model, and consequently celebrate handling money and possessions God's way. Many pastors and authors are talking about this nowadays. David Platt shares his concerns in his book Radical. He is especially challenged as a pastor of a mega-church in a very affluent area of Birmingham.
The church, not just First Baptist, but "the" church, has lacked communication, accountability, and modeling. How does a young believer in Christ learn to give? We offer financial courses here as small group studies, but normally the ones that attend the courses are those who are already "getting it" when it comes to giving or are in panic mode due to personal finances. Where can a believer go to see what giving is supposed to look like in the life of a believer totally surrendered to Christ.
I shared Sunday that the marks of a "radical" Christian are actually those which should be considered normative.
A generous heart and giving is normal for the growing believer.
All churches have folks to get this, those who do not draw attention to themselves, but give sacrificially. The challenge is celebrating this without creating prideful givers.
Alcorn says that just as the Hebrew believers were challenged to "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24) we should also spur one another on toward giving biblically.
Some object by stating that we must not set up a program or system that compares each other's giving. This is true, but we need to remember that Paul used the Macedonians generosity as examples of how Christians should give, not to embarrass or talk down to other believers (namely the Corinthians) but to motivate them. Remember, Scripture says not to give in order to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1) but Christians are to "Let your light shine before men, that they may se your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16.) These passages aren't contradictory. We have, however, misinterpreted this over time and now biblical giving and management of our "stuff" is often "hidden under a basket." The result is Christians do not understand fully how or why to give and therefore lack the joy and purpose of it. The fact is that the only sermons most Christians hear regarding giving come across as guilt trips focusing solely on tithing.
God is doing a work on me in this area of sacrificial giving. I know it is more than just an issue of money and possessions. It's about having a heart like God's.
We, the church, cannot afford to continue with this flawed "don't ask, don't tell" practice regarding giving.