By Pr Philippe Aurouze
Giving In Times Of Crisis
Solicitation of donations and offerings remains common in religious communities. Quite regularly, churches and religious bodies remind members to generously support such and such action or project, to facilitate the life of the Church. During worship service, the church collection is made because "no one should appear before the LORD empty-handed" (Deut. 16:16b). The offering is a sign of gratitude to God for his blessings to the believer.
But what about times of crisis? What should be done when there is no longer plenty? The year 2020 will be remembered forever. Global health crisis, pandemic disease, high mortality rate; near-total shutdown of the world economy; job losses; social confinement and distancing; places of worship closed; etc. - these all describe a brand-new situation, never faced apart from military conflict. This situation modifies all our points of reference, all our routines. What if it becomes an opportunity for everyone?
The first Christians experienced persecution and periods of crisis. In the nascent Church, Paul encouraged everyone to show solidarity. " Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem" (Rom 15:25, 26), the apostle wrote. Indeed, brotherly support, including financial and economic support, makes sense in the church. Praying for those who are mistreated is just as important as supporting economically those who face financial difficulties or poverty. Crises put people into material distress. "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person" (1 John 3:17)? Looking at themselves, few think they "possess the resources of the world". The perception of reality really depends on the angle from which one looks at oneself. If the believer is to look at him or herself as the manager of God’s goods, he or she must show solidarity to his or her fellow humans who are in distress. Moreover, regarding the saints in Jerusalem, Paul wrote this advice to the Church of Corinth: "Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made" (1 Cor. 16:1, 2).
Nowadays, the same principle still prevails, even if the means are different. Indeed, thanks to banking tools, we can give easily even in times of crisis. A wire transfer can be done, easy to do from home, or via a smartphone; online donation via an ad hoc site; those who prefer using cash may create a gift box or an offering box. This box dedicated to the Lord can be an excellent way to show solidarity. Then, on a special occasion, it will be a joy to hand over all the funds to the community treasurer.
In any case, everything comes from God, who entrusts his goods to each one to manage. It is up to the disciple to give it back to him according to the way he perceives his blessings: "Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you" (Deut. 16:17). Once again, it is, above all, a question of looking at the material aspects of life. The gift will be proportional to the believer’s perception of his or her condition and therefore of what comes from God. And this will be done in a planned, regular, constant way.
In times of abundance or in times of crisis, God invites the disciple to remain attentive to his condition and to live in solidarity with all, and with the Church. The offering becomes the symbol of surrender into God's hands, a symbol of gratitude.
And in the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
As far as tithing is concerned, nothing changes or should change in times of crisis. Indeed, the tithe is there as a reminder, a tool to help us to keep in mind that everything belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Cf. Ps. 24:1). The tithe allows the disciple to manifest his agreement to serve the master, to be his manager, the administrator of his goods. Giving back 10% testifies that God is given the first place in one's life. Giving back 10% becomes a prayer to God so that he will help the disciple to manage the remaining 90% as well as possible. Giving back 10% is a sign of faith and trust. God takes care of his children. The adage, which has become popular, comes from Jesus: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matt. 6:34). He concludes a long passage on how God takes care of birds as well as flowers. How much more will He take care of every human being?
So the tithe remains the tithe. Whether income (all income i.e., wages, allowances, rent, dividends, interest, etc.) increases or decreases, the tithe is 10% of the total. It should be set aside, given back to God as a top priority via the "treasure house" (the church), to serve according to the biblical instructions (Num. 18:23,24; 1 Cor. 9:13, 14; Heb. 7:1-9; etc.) adopted by the Adventist Church (Cf. Church Manual and Working Policies, V14). To make it so, giving directly at the church remains the simplest way. But bank transfer is also possible. In the case of physical impossibility, a tithing box can be created. Ten percent of any income gained will be deposited in the consecrated box, and then given at church at the first available opportunity.
God first! God at the heart of the disciple's life! Even in times of crisis; even in the material aspects of life. This is what it means to live fully, free and happy to belong to him who is and will remain the Creator, Saviour and Lord of humanity.