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From Transaction to Transformation: A Different Perspective On Biblical Generosity

4 min read
Jun 24, 2024 11:15:00 AM

In the American church, we have drifted into a pattern of focusing on where the money goes when we give. It is probably not where we intended to end up, but that’s where we are. However, if we look at the pattern of teaching by the two predominant voices on money in the New Testament, Jesus and the Apostle Paul, the focus should be more on where that money comes from – a heart transformed by faith. 

This different perspective challenges us to view giving not as a financial transaction, as is our tendency, but more appropriately, as an act of worship and spiritual growth. By shifting from giving "to" to giving "from," we can redefine our relationship with money. God cares about developing our hearts and getting the idols out of our pockets. He doesn’t care about the money that’s in the pocket itself. 

Giving To vs. Giving From in the Bible

When the Bible talks about “giving to” and “giving from” we see that it’s pretty unbalanced. There’s a lot of language about where the money comes from, but not much about where the money goes to. Some have said that Jesus talks about money and possessions 15 to 20 times more than any other subject. In all of those conversations Jesus had about money and possessions, He’s never concerned with where the money is going. 

Now, my opinion is that we can assume that the money was going to the temple. The Bible doesn’t say it specifically, because it doesn’t need to be said. In today’s context, obviously we’re talking about money going to the church.

In 2 Corinthians, 8 and 9, we have one of the longest passages in the Bible about any one topic, and the topic is giving. Paul starts out by very briefly mentioning giving to the persecuted church in downtown Jerusalem, but then he never mentions it again. Everything else is about where the money comes from. 

Think about that for a minute. Two of the great teachers in the New Testament, Jesus and Paul, when addressing money and possessions, spend 95% to 98% of their time talking about where it comes from, a transformed heart, rather than where it goes to, the church. 


The Conversation Happening in Most Churches Today

Now compare that to what happens in most churches today. Maybe yours is the exception, but in most churches I’ve been to, it’s exactly the opposite. Pastors and church leaders spend only 5% to 10% of their time talking about where money comes from. They spent 90% to 95% of time talking about where it goes to, being the church.

By the way, there's nothing wrong with that. Even spiritually developed givers need to know that their church is on point, on mission, has a clear vision, and has a biblical approach to what they're trying to accomplish in the community with their resources. Those are important things. 

But they're not as important as talking about where the money comes from. We can’t talk about one without the other. 

We have to acknowledge and embrace the idea that our giving has the power to transform us if we allow it to do so. In order for that to happen, we have to teach God's people what it looks like. What is the heart condition that causes them to want to give and motivates it to happen? Giving comes from a transformed heart. 


Shifting the Conversation from Transaction to Transformation

So, how does a responsible, disciplined, intentional, gospel-believing church carry that out into the world? I propose we flip the switch. That we start talking more about the “from” than the “to.” To take the approach that giving should be about transformation instead of transaction. 

Many churches today have landed in transaction mode, and that’s a big part of the reason why so many people don’t like conversations about money in church. It’s all transactional. They may not be able to describe it or attach that word to it, but they sense that something is wrong with the conversation. If we move it over to giving “from” as opposed to always talking about giving “to” then it's a whole different conversation. It becomes a conversation about spiritual maturity instead of how much money the church needs to balance the budget.

We've become really fluent in the American church in talking about funding our projects, funding our budgets, giving to this, and giving to that. But here’s the thing: Unbelievers do that. People who don't believe in Christ give to projects. They give to budgets. 

We're talking about something different. Giving from a heart that is worshiping God in awe and reverence. We’re talking about giving back to a local church with a systematic percentage of our income, in keeping with our understanding of Scripture and how God's blessed us. 

We should do that without regard to whether the church needs the money to balance the budget or not. 

Key points to share with your church in order to flip the switch from transaction to transformation:

  • All churches should be held accountable for stewarding well. If any church isn’t being a good steward, that’s a signal that something needs to improve. Regardless though, nobody gets a pass on giving. Again, we’re not giving “to” any one particular church. We are giving “from” a transformed heart.
  • Transformation is more important than information. Information is helpful, but it’s more about where the money is going. They're both important, but transformation comes first. 
  • Once we are Christ followers, our relationship with money is no longer financial. It becomes a spiritual relationship, because money becomes part of what God uses for transformation.
  • And as our relationship with money becomes more and more transformed, then more money and more resources will be released back into the life of a local church. That will happen naturally due to heart transformation, not because of a budgetary need. 

So let's make sure we're engaging transformation as our main idea. Transformed hearts are the key to sustained giving over a long period of time. 

Use your giving moments, tell stories of impact, build trust. Make it a part of the regular conversation. As you begin to flip the switch away from giving “to” and more toward giving “from,” you will see spiritual growth in your church that you've probably never seen before.

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