Giving – The Hallmark of Discipleship


Hallmarks – a series of marks on precious metals – have been used in western civilization since the 1300s. The word itself is from the 15th century when craftsmen went to Goldsmiths Hall in London to have their products analyzed and marked, a practice that continues today. There are three elements in a hallmark, two of which are of particular interest for our consideration: the maker’s mark and the purity mark which declares the quality of the metal. For disciples, giving is a “maker’s mark,” because, when we give a part of what God has entrusted to us, we acknowledge that God is the ultimate owner of all we have. Secondly, our giving is the “purity mark,” since it can reveal the quality of our financial discipleship.

Giving begins with receiving – the experience of grace. In his extended teaching on giving in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul never once uses the normal Greek word for money. Instead, he uses at least fifteen different Greek expressions, the most common being charis, the word for grace. For example, Paul speaks about ‘the grace of giving’ in 2 Cor 8:7 when he challenges the Corinthians to match the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. For Paul, their poverty, their joyful, sacrificial generosity, and obedience to the apostles are signs of God’s grace at work. Interestingly, he does not talk about the amount they gave but of the nature of thegrace that was given to them (2 Cor 8:1–3). Thus, giving becomes the hallmark of discipleship since it bears the maker’s mark of grace – our recognition of God first giving to us.

But how much are we to give? Because giving acknowledges God’s ultimate ownership of all we have, our giving must be a lifestyle priority. To be truly biblical it  must be from our “first fruits.” This kind of giving can help release us from the chains of materialism and consumerism. When Jesus said, for where you treasure is there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21) he was teaching that money not only reveals our hearts but also shapes them. The discipline of giving draws us closer to Jesus and releases us spiritually in many areas. When we give freely and generously, we can sense that we are co-operating with God in God’s mission and enter more deeply into “the joy of the Master” (Matt 25:21).

Casual, low-level, un-prioritized and unplanned giving fails to do this and can have little lasting meaning. Such giving lacks the character of the manifold grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave all things for us (2 Cor 8:9). To quote Henry Drucker:

Trivial giving…does not diminish our pool of self-regard embodied in our material wealth. The only way to do that is to give in a way which is calculated to have a major effect. This must be, for each of us, a large gift. Such giving is difficult. In this act we disenthrall ourselves by overcoming our slavery to possessions. We demonstrate that there are values in the world more important to us than our own selfish aggrandizement. True giving is an act of self-liberation. It becomes one of the major achievements of our life.

Our gifts, then, must be in proportion to all God has given to us (Deut 16:17; 2 Cor 8:12). Some call this “sacrificial giving.” Others call it “sacramental giving.” But whatever we call it, it must be something that genuinely makes a difference in our lives. If at the end of the week or month, someone returned to us what we have given in this way, cash in hand, would it make a material difference to us? That measure tells us if we are giving of ourselves – or merely from our excess.

The heartbeat of our Annual Membership Campaign is a vision of the kind of transforming generosity that forms an integral part of our discipleship as we resource our role in God’s mission within our community. Our reflection starts with what Dan Hardy calls ‘the generative generosity of God.’ There is no contradiction between the needs of the poor and the concerns of worship. The generosity of God’s people can readily accommodate both, since the two go hand in hand. Genuine experiences of grace that we have in worship can lead us to genuine love and care for others (Deut 14:28-29).

God desires us to be more greatly conformed to the image of Jesus daily. While humans are often selfish or self-seeking, giving sacrificially is a significant way in which we can be transformed into the image of Jesus, who gave everything for us. In this way, we fulfill our duty as Christ’s disciples by reflecting his life – his total, self-giving love – to the world.

Source: Rector’s Blog

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