Our Failure To Give

Are we not giving enough in ministry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve said before that I’m a game show junkie. If I’m reaching for the remote, my wife knows that usually I want to turn on GSN. Sunday, I’m watching one of my favorites, Idiotest. There’s a pair of ladies on there who are playing because they want to have enough money to go on a mission trip.

Okay. Let’s be clear right at the start. That’s awesome. People wanting to go on a show and win money not for themselves, but so that they can do something special in ministry. It’s the kind of thing that we should all aspire to. However, despite how great that is, it also indicates something.

The church is failing.

Can any of us imagine in the 1st century Paul going to Caesar and trying to earn more funds so he could do ministry work? Hardly. The church had to give and take care of its own. It was a fledgling movement, but still growing rapidly, and people had to look out for one another. There were people who were wealthy and there were people who were poor.

Whenever we as a church go outside of ourselves in order to raise up the funds, we make a silent confession before the world. That confession is that the church is not giving enough of itself. It must rely on those on the outside.

Back in January, I had Ty Benbow on my show to talk about abortion. One thing he said was that if every church in America adopted just one child every season of the year, we could end any abortion debate. Just one. Of course, not every family can do that. There are plenty of poor families. There are some who can give more than they are.

This also includes not just money, but time and services. Do you realize that if you give of your time that you are freeing up money that could go to greater causes that we can’t directly intervene in? If you volunteer to do something at your church, that means there’s more that can go somewhere else.

I recently wrote a blog where I mentioned the giving of 10%. I’m not saying the New Testament teaches the tithe. I think it instead teaches that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Just that should be something to make us think. God loves a cheerful giver. Don’t we all want to be the kind of person that God loves? Then we should consider being cheerful givers.

Yet as someone said who commented, most pastors would be thrilled if their churches would give 10%. Many of them don’t. The poor of course I’m not really speaking about. Those who don’t have any money to give are not obligated to give, although the poor can give service in other ways. What I am contending for is that we can do something more.

Many of us will be tempted to think that a little bit can’t make much of a difference. By itself, one is absolutely right. Yet if everyone gives a little bit, a little bit can become a lot. If your local blood bank has a blood drive, it would be ridiculous and medically dangerous to think that you have to supply blood for everyone in need. It’s not ridiculous when you realize that when many people do that, then many can benefit.

It’sĀ important to note that there are many pastors who have greed. It’s a sin that anyone can fall into. That’s also why I encourage churches to have upfront financial statements so everyone can see where the money is going to. Be aware pastors that you need to encourage giving, but if you overdo it, you will come across as greedy. Be aware also person in the pew that the church has to say it sometime and just because it’s said doesn’t mean greed is involved.

It’s great to see women going on a show wanting to win money for a mission trip. It will be even better when they don’t need to because the church does give enough as it is. Hopefully we can reach a day where the church is better known for generosity than they are for hypocrisy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Birth of the Trinity

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Oxford press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

How did we get to the Trinity? Of course, the Trinity was never born, per se, but how did the early church come to the idea? Was it in the Old Testament and we just hadn’t seen it all these years? Could it be they read Scripture in a way today that we’re not familiar with?

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.

With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.

Then I said ‘Here I am. It is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.”

When the writer of Hebrews has this passage, he says that this is what Christ said. If we go back to where it comes from, Psalm 40, we don’t see Christ saying this at all. It looks like what the Psalmist is saying. How do we get to Christ saying this? Are we just reading into the text?

As good Christians, we don’t want to say that. After all, do we want to accuse the writer of Hebrews of eisegesis? In fact, we can go further and say that our Lord Himself used this kind of reading. Did He not ask the Pharisees whose son the Messiah is only to be told the Son of David. Christ responds with Psalm 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord.” How can He be David’s son if David calls Him His Lord?

Bates says this is called prospological reading where the text is read from the perspective of a divine conversation going on. Sometimes, the Psalmist or prophet seems to give us a peek behind the curtain, perhaps unknowingly, to conversations that have taken place long in the past. (Well, at least to us. Since all of God’s actions are eternal these are eternally happening.)

The early church engaged in this and in fact, so did the early opponents of Christianity. This doesn’t mean that every reading like this is valid, but Origen and others did lay down some ground rules. Those are quite helpful for many who will think that this is an approach that can just lead to chaos and anything can mean anything.

Bates throughout this book that is incredibly inspiring seeks to enter us into a divine drama taking place and how the early church saw the text. Numerous texts are explored in-depth including countering various ideas, such as a popular adoptionist idea as has recently been argued for by Bart Ehrman. Bates also wants to return us to the idea of not divine identity but divine persons thinking we’re losing something of the idea of how we should speak of God when we don’t speak of persons.

Bates’s argument then is that when Christ came, the readers of the Old Testament indeed looked back in hindsight to see if they could see Christ speaking there, and they saw several passages. These they fit into the divine drama that had been taking place behind the scenes. This can also make us go back and read the Old Testament with new eyes. We’ve all known about this kind of reading before as we see it in the New Testament. We just never knew how seriously it was undertaken and what an impact it had.

If there was something I’d say I would like to see better, I think the title can be misleading. Every now and then there’s something about the Holy Spirit, but really very little. The book emphasizes more on the deity of Christ I think than the whole of the Trinity. Perhaps that can be saved for another work.

This is still an excellent book to read. If you want to see a fresh new reading of the text, try this one out. This is definitely an area that New Testament scholarship needs to further study.

In Christ,
Nick Peters