The last practice I want to talk about this Lent is the Christian practice of giving. I saved this practice for last for a couple of reasons. First, to understand giving from a Christian perspective requires you look at it through a discipleship grid which includes the five other practices we’ve already talked about (worship, prayer, Bible reading, serving, and spiritual friendships). Second, I have found that for many Christians the handling and use of money is one of the last areas to fall under the Lordship of Christ in their daily lives.
Many non-profit organizations approach giving as a thankful response for a service that one enjoys. Here giving is “doing your part” and is mostly about making an annual membership pledge (churches should be careful not to equate Christian stewardship with this kind of non-profit perspective on giving). Giving from a Christian perspective rests on the reality that everything in creation, including our own lives, are gifts given to us by God. The question of Christian stewardship is not how much will we give, but how much will we keep.
In a broad sense, the practice of giving is about ownership and control. Am I in control of my stuff or is God in control of my stuff? While discussions about tithing and proportional giving are important (see here for a funny video on this subject) Christian giving cannot be reduced to the idea of making a pledge to your church. Giving generously also involves how lightly we hold our possessions, how much stuff we think we need to live well, and how willing are we to respond to need (whether a beggar on the street or a disaster across the world.)
Would you describe yourself as a person who gives generously? What small step toward more generously giving can you take this week?