Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Who gives the most?

I was recently reading the passage in Mark 12:41-44 again where the poor widow came to the temple, dropped two coins in the chest used for the offerings, after which Jesus reacted by saying that she had given more than all the others who had given from their wealth.
John Rowell, in To Give or not to Give also writes about this under the heading of The Principle of Proportionate Sacrifice (p 194-6). I have for long maintained that many third world churches are giving relatively more than their Western counterparts, for the simple reason that the majority of these church members are extremely poor while in most Western churches the majority are extremely rich.
Rowell has a very interesting way of looking at proportionate giving. Within the Kingdom of God it doesn’t really matter how much is given. God can use a little to accomplish much, as we well know from the miracle when Jesus fed the crowds with five loaves of bread and two fish. Rowell writes: Proportionality in giving is determined, therefore, not by what we have invested financially in a kingdom venture, but more by what we have kept for ourselves.
Rowell then suggests the following formula to calculate how generous we are: We should divide what we saved by what we gave every time we make a donation. The resulting quotient will show whether we are selfish or sacrificial. According to this formula, Rowell calculated that Americans are keeping approximately 97% for themselves. (Rowell is an American, which is the reason why he concentrates on his own country, but the same could probably be said about most Western countries.) Even if we tithe (something which I personally adhere to, not as a law, but as a rule-of-thumb) then the amount which I give for kingdom ventures are still depressingly small, compared to what I keep for myself, not to live on, but to acquire luxuries.
Maya, one of the readers of this blog who also frequently comments, recently brought my attention to a website: Global rich List. On this website you can determine how rich you are compared to other people in the world. (I don’t think this is very accurate, as similar sites such as Rich-o-meter have slightly different results, but nevertheless it gives an indication of where you fall within the worlds economy).
According to this website, 50% of the world’s population receive less than $850 per year. In the DVD Dear Francis which I recently wrote about, it is said that more than 60% of Swaziland’s population are getting 45 US cents per day ($165 per year) or less, which places this group in the poorest 5% of the world’s population. Obviously, not all our church members are as poor as that. Some of them do have well-paying occupations and some of our church members, especially up to the northern part of the country (Mbabane and Manzini) would even be considered to be fairly rich. But on average, the greater part of the population, and the greater part of our church members are extremely poor. And yet, many of them are still giving generously to kingdom ventures.
Which brings me back to the question: Who gives the most?

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Monday, October 29, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Giving, Mission, Poverty, Rowell, Swaziland, Tithing

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