There are few topics more scandalous in the church than money. I’d even venture to say that people would rather me talk about sex before I talked about what to do with their money. It’s uncomfortable for everyone, preacher and listener alike. To those outside the church (and maybe those inside) the common complaint is that churches only ever talk about money and it’s all they really care about. The truth, is that most contemporary church hardly ever talk about money, it just makes people too uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, we pastors try hard to balance it out. For one, it does need to be talked about, but personally, there are things I’d much rather talk about, either because I enjoy them more or I see another issue as more threatening. If given the chance to talk about discipleship or giving more money to the church, I’ll take discipleship every time (and yes, I’m aware that the way we give and use money is an issue of discipleship).
So, with all that said, I must admit that there was a certain level of trepidation that came with receiving the book Plastic Donuts in the mail from Waterbook Multnomah. Giving is one of those things that you are either passionate about (give 10% or else!) or you aren’t (why should I support this cause over and against all the other causes that want my money?). I once even saw a job description that listed giving ten percent to the church (from your gross pay) as part of the job requirement. It very explicitly said that if you weren’t going to commit to doing that, don’t bother applying. It went even further and said that giving to other organizations doesn’t count towards the tithe. Ten percent goes to the church. No exceptions. If you wanted to give more to another charity, that was fine, but don’t infringe on God’s money to the church (you heretic).
See why people don’t like this issue?
It’s why I found Jeff Anderson’s book so refreshingly different. It recognizes two very important things:
Anderson’s main point revolves around the idea that if we don’t care about the gift, neither does God. Page 34 explains: “You’ve heard it said: ‘Every gift is special.’ ‘Every gift can make a difference.’ ‘No gift is too small.’ For secular campaign fund-raising, this might be true. But when it comes to giving to God, there is a problem with these ideas. Not all gifts are special to God. And not all gifts are acceptable.”
Anderson balances well the idea that God wants us to give generously on the one hand and not being legalistic about it on the other. He provides a way forward by talking about gifts that mean something, gifts that ‘hurt’. In essence, for some of us, $20 in the offering plate hurts because the budget is so tight. For others, 10% is given, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what is in their retirement funds, house, cars, savings plan, and disposable income. For those that are in a place to be more generous, God wants us to be generous enough to give ‘where it hurts’ and bless others more abundantly. From page 41, “Singing a worship song is not necessarily worship, and neither is writing a check. But when the heart engages in a meaningful way through a praise song or hymn, it becomes more than just singing. And when the heart engages through a gift that matters, it becomes more than just writing a check.”
As a pastor that has to walk the line of needing to make a budget, and wanting people to give out of the heartfelt gratitude of a transformed life, talking about money is a dangerous (and job threatening) subject. Jeff Anderson’s book Plastic Donuts is worthy of a read from any pastor as a way to talk about faithful financial giving and support to God’s mision in the world.———- Disclaimer: I reviewed a free copy of this book through the BloggingForBooks program offered by WaterBrook Multnomah publishing. I was in no way compensated for this review and all views are solely and completely my own. I was not required to offer a positive review either through the publisher or author.