In order to give some concise instruction on the subject of giving, but also to expose you to the ministry of Clint Archer at the Hillcrest Baptist Church, I have included (with permission) a blog post by Clint from The Cripplegate, a blog to which I subscribe.
In 1864 a young lady named Hetty Green received a bequeathal of $7.5 million and subsequently the unflattering sobriquet “The Witch of Wall Street.” Not only would Hetty mysteriously fly over the penurious years following the Civil War, but she even managed to magically swell her fortune and gain notoriety as the first woman to make a splash in the masculine shark tank of the New York Stock Exchange.
Her magic formula was a simple brew of conservative stocks, Civil War bonds, a barrel of hoarded cash reserves, and a pinch of stinginess. Hetty Green embodied the epitome of frugality; to call her a miser would be, well, generous.
Hetty was so cheap that she eschewed the use of soap for washing her hands, and likewise instructed her laundress to only clean the dirtiest parts of her dress. She wore the same black frock until it was threadbare, drove an ancient carriage, and subsisted mostly on 15c pies. She once spent hours searching her carriage for a stamp worth 2c.
When her son Ned broke his leg Hetty took him to a free clinic for the poor but when they refused admittance she tried (free) home remedies. The boy lost his leg. Hetty herself suffered from a severe hernia, but refused to spend the $150 for her surgery.
Hetty Green died with a Zuckerbergian equivalent net worth of around $200 million (nearly $5 billion today). But she lived like a pauper, and gave nothing away. Ever.
Ned took his half of the inherited loot, and with prodigal efficiency, tried to roll Mama’s corpse over in her grave. He shed cash like a deciduous money tree, spending Hetty’s punctiliously pinched pennies on the most lavish extravagances, like a diamond encrusted privy pot.
Hetty’s daughter, Sylvia, on the other hand was known for her generosity. She gave to genuine needs, but managed to keep her entire fortune intact, eventually bequeathing it all to 64 churches, hospitals, and schools.
Looming over this story, like a told-you-so specter, is the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). In it, Jesus warned against the soul-numbing tendency—instinctual in mice, magpies, and men—to hoard earthly treasures in lieu of being rich toward God. The rich fool would have felt at home with Hetty as his avatar. How about you?
Here are 6 principles of giving to remedy the plague of miserliness:
Give to the Local Church First
The Bible commands churches to meet the needs of poor believers, support widows and orphans, evangelize globally, pay pastors, and many other costly responsibilities. The financial contribution of members to their local church enables it to obey, and simultaneously grafts the members into a partnership in that obedience. Do you care for orphans? Widows? Do you evangelize the world? Well, if your church is, and you are giving, then yes you are.
As frequently as you’re saving, spending, and investing, you should be giving. For some, giving resembles the once-off ordinance of baptism. Rather, giving should be a regular part of your devotional life. For example, if you get paid monthly, give monthly (as opposed to annually).
Sometimes giving is done by automatic debit order. Though this is not forbidden in Scripture, it may miss the point somewhat. You wouldn’t spin a prayer wheel to pray for you (as many Buddhist do). And you wouldn’t play a worship CD on repeat instead of worshipping musically yourself, would you?
Paul singled out Sunday as the day the Corinthians should have given when collecting for a contribution.
1 Corinthians 16:2—“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
Don’t expect a plaque with your name on the pew. Just give. With the exception of the treasurer (or whomever is responsible for checking the bank accounts), none of the elders need to be aware of the amounts people give. This prevents the temptation for partiality (if someone gives much), or for judgmentalism (if someone gives little).
But as an anonymous giver, you should never hide behind the cloak of anonymity in order to be stingy and give nothing.
Matthew 6:3—“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
2 Corinthians 9:6—“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
When people ask me if they should give a percentage of their net income or their gross income, I reply, tongue-in-cheek, “Do you want net blessing or gross blessing?”
2 Corinthians 9:7—“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Do you think God needs your money? God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, all the money, and every other resource on this planet. He wants you to give your part as an avenue of worship. If you are reluctant and recalcitrant about your giving—don’t bother.
Give enough that you can be genuinely cheerful. If that’s a single cent, then that’s better than 2c grudgingly. Our God deserves better than that.
On the other hand, if you give so little that you are ashamed before God, then that will also inhibit your cheerfulness. Giving is enjoyable worship when it’s done well. And, like Wii, if it isn’t enjoyable you’re not doing it right. Giving is about the heart more than the amount, as was made plain by the widow and her two mites.
It’s not a sacrifice if it is not, you know, sacrificial.
When Araunah offered to simply donate to David the land he wanted to purchase to erect an altar, David declined the kind offer and reached into his pocket.
2 Samuel 24:24—“But the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”
I hope these principles are helpful in preventing the onset of Hetty Green syndrome.