You want me to give what? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 20, 2014)

I recall plenty of sermons on stewardship over the years, but I couldn’t tell you of a lightbulb moment when it dawned on me that my personal giving mattered. Giving—and tithing, in particular—is just something that I grew up doing. It never seemed odd to me; it was just what you did. I didn’t realize how weird I was.

The Bible focuses a lot (more than we’d probably like to admit) on finances and giving. In 1 Chronicles 29, King David announced to the assembly of Israelites that he had committed an extraordinary sum to building the Lord’s temple. Following his example, the leaders and community members gave generously (and joyfully!), as well. David offered a prayer of thanks and told God, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (v. 14). He went on to ask the Lord to bless the givers and “keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you” (v. 18).

Don’t get me wrong; Americans tend to be pretty generous. Young adults in “Generation Y” give an average of $341/year, according to a 2010 survey by Convio. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers give incrementally more, while The Great Generation gives the most, on average, at $1,066/year. The numbers vary from source to source, but a common estimate is that Americans give about 3% of their earnings to charity, on average. That certainly isn’t chump change, and it adds up to billions of philanthropic dollars each year. Yet, do we give from the same attitude of selfless abandon that King David did, when he offered “personal treasures of gold and silver … over and above everything [that David had already] provided” (v. 3)? Do we give because there is joy in it, or because we feel obligated … or do we not bother to give at all? God calls us to be weird for him in many ways, and one of those ways should be our generosity.

Originally posted August 28, 2011 (revised)