There we were, four elders of a local church trying to figure out whether George should become an elder. George, sitting with his wife and us, discussed his life and ministry. He turned the discussion to his handling of money and said: We’re not under the Old Testament law, so there’s no requirement for me to give 10 percent of my income to the church. I’m free to give what I want. God loves a cheerful giver. And I do that.
Right. 2 Corinthians 9:7. So tell us, what percentage of your income do you give to the church?
I give maybe 2 or 3 percent.
We’re free of the law, so why you don’t give way more than 10 percent? Why not 28 percent or 85 percent or whatever? You’re right when you said we’re free of the Old Testament 10 percent law. We can give what we want. So why not give more? Why give so much less than 10 percent?
Well, I’m free to give what I want. God loves a cheerful giver and I’m glad to give what I give.
Yes, that's right. We’re free to give whatever we want and we need to be glad to give. But George, it seems that a lot of people who give very little financial support to the church use their freedom in Christ as the reason. You’re free to give less, but you’re also free to give more. Why is it that your freedom in Christ leads you to give so much less than 10 percent? Shouldn't your joy in your freedom lead you to give more than that?
I don’t know. No one’s ever talked to me like this before. I need to think about it.
George thought about it and, to his credit, started giving more generously to the church. After strenuous discussion among the existing elders, George was affirmed. But George was not an effective elder and, within two years, blew out of the church.
Here’s the leadership principle: An elder must give generously to the church. You cannot have an elder who does not give generously.
George wasn’t giving small because he was enduring a tough patch in life. He was giving small as a matter of personal principle. He simply liked giving small and used freedom from the law as his defense. A probe of his giving pattern revealed his spiritual problem.
Giving, especially for elders in the church, is to be generous, sacrificial and willing. If a man’s not willing, then he shouldn’t give. But if a man won’t give generously, sacrificially and willingly, then he should not seek the office of elder. After all, a man who wants the office must grasp the importance of sharing the burdens of the congregation and serving as an example to the congregation; 1 Peter 5:3.