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Still, it’s easy to fall into a judgmen-

tal trap of “dos and don’ts,” to develop a mindset that makes us feel guilty about almost everything we buy or (worse) to look down on others who we think are more materialistic. This goes too far: the Bible doesn’t denounce the expenditure of money on entertain- ment and things that make life pleas- ant (e.g., Genesis 21:8; Judges 14:10; Luke 14:13 and 15:23-25). God wants us to have wonder-

ful, happy lives, but we all know that money doesn’t guarantee happiness. We need discernment to discover how much is enough. And though no one can ever make that decision for another, the counsel and example of other believers can be helpful, along with the teaching of Scripture and the guidance of the Spirit.

Giving The New Testament commends giv- ing of two types: support and sacrifice. It’s the duty of every believer to

support the religious community or institution of which he or she is a part. Paul suggests that such giving be proportionate to income and circum- stances (2 Corinthians 8:3, 11). It is also the delight of every

believer to give away a significant por- tion of his or her income as a sacrificial offering of love, gratitude and praise. In the New Testament, the magi bring gifts to celebrate Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-12). One woman expresses her devotion to Jesus by pouring expen- sive ointment on him (Mark 14:3-9) and another gives her last penny to the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). In the modern church, our Sun-

day offerings may be occasions for both types of giving: we are invited to make gifts that will support the congregation and its mission, and we are encouraged to make offerings of praise and thanksgiving from hearts filled with love for God. 

SHUTTERSTOCK Duty and delight A

Pentecostal pastor told me this story about giving. “When I was 8 years old,

I lived in a small town and one day my mother sent me to the florist to buy flowers for the family table. I remember being embarrassed as I walked home with the flowers, worried that my friends might see me and make fun of me for carry- ing flowers. But I did it, because I was an obedient son—it was my duty. “Ten years later, I was in love

with a young woman who lived in that town. I went to the same florist, bought her flowers and walked some of the same streets toward her house. But now I wasn’t thinking about what anyone might think if they saw me. I was only

thinking of two things: how happy she would be to get flowers, and how fortunate I was to be the one bringing them to her. “That is the difference between

doing something out of duty—and doing it out of delight.” I think about this story every

time the offering plates come around in church. It’s my duty to give money to support my congre- gation—and sometimes I do that just because it’s the right thing to do. But other times, I’m eager to give my offering: how pleased God is to receive whatever we offer, and how fortunate we are to be people who know God and love God and who can give to God out of sheer delight.

Mark Allan Powell November 2014 17

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