It is the week of Thanksgiving in the US. It is a week when many of us reflect with thankfulness for the blessings of God in the past year. God has given each of us three resources of time, treasure, and talent, and we can give thanks for how those three have been used in this last year.
Thanksgiving is followed by "Black Friday" (which I won't comment on) and then with "Giving Tuesday" a few days later. The idea of giving following a reflection on blessings makes sense.
But it brings to mind a conversation that we recently had at a DML event in Nigeria. We were meeting with a businessman from Jos, Nigeria who expressed, with some frustration, that the church regularly teaches and pressures members to give, but never seems to teach them how to get. The church often thinks of "getting" as "worldly" or "secular" but then seems to have no problem accepting the giving regardless of how it was obtained.
This businessman said, "Does the church not understand that in order to give, one needs to get? And is there not an understanding that how we "get" is important?"
We reflected together on how many countries with populations of majority Christian are often very high in terms of corruption. Christians fill the church buildings on Sunday but don't remember to BE the church once they leave the building and enter the marketplace. We believe that they have been taught that "giving is worship" but they have not been discipled to the purpose of doing "work as worship."
He was preaching to the choir but I like the way he put it. We are taught to give. But we are not taught how to get. As I was discussing this over the weekend with my mom, she pointed out that many of us give IN ORDER to get (if not in this lifetime, at least to get us into heaven). That adds another layer of complexity to the whole discussion but that also needs to be addressed by the church. It's difficult, in my experience, to find seminaries that have classes that address these issues with pastors, despite the fact that the majority of adult members of all churches work and are expected to get and to give.
It's not that the Bible doesn't speak about this. Did you know that there are more than 2000 verses in the Bible about money? That one in seven verses in the New Testament is about money? That Jesus spoke more about money than heaven and hell combined? The instructions in Genesis 1:28 are clear in God's directive to humankind to be fruitful and multiply the resources that He generously gave.
Rev. Dr. Tongoi from Kenya said that no pastor should ask for a tithe until he/she has taught the members about how to do their work as an act of worship and with integrity AND has taught them financial freedom and how to budget. Then a tithe can be requested.
It's a different perspective on Thanksgiving. Colossians 3:21 instructs fathers not to exasperate their children or they may grow discouraged. I think many Christians are discouraged as they have great pressure to give to the Church and to the poor, but are not taught how to get. Or alternatively, the place where they get - the Marketplace - is treated as "less than" or a place of corruption. I don't think we can have it both ways. We can't continue to ask for money with one hand but ignore or discredit where and how that money was obtained.
And there are so many people who do their work as an act of worship. So many role models that can be highlighted in church services for "getting" in ways that honor God and help people to flourish.
I am thankful that in this last year I have been able to meet many of them in many different countries, cities, towns, and villages.
Which brings me back to Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that God has allowed me to join Him in the work of reminding people of the ministry of business and the sacred calling in work that is done "as unto the Lord." And we couldn't do this ministry without you!
There are those of you who give of your treasure, and we are thankful!
There are those of you who give of your time through prayer and encouragement, and we are thankful!
There are those of you who give of your talent by volunteering or serving as mentors, and we are thankful!
I leave you with a picture of one of our new partners in Burkina Faso, for whom we are also thankful, as they commit to take the message of "work as worship" to their network of churches!