I have been hearing the phrase for years now, ever since I began serving the local church. I have heard the phrase during annual stewardship programs and during capital campaigns. I have heard it every time stewardship was the sermon subject or the Bible study topic. You have heard it too. “What I give to the church is between me and God!”
I have heard this phrase so often that I used to think that somewhere in the Bible those exact words must appear. The truth is that this phrase is a phantom text similar to “God helps those who help themselves.” It is a persistent statement though and it has become part of the landscape any time money, giving, stewardship or generosity is mentioned.
“What I give to the church is between me and God.” Well, yes it is. I have no problem with that statement. I respect a donor’s preference for the confidentiality of their giving. I have many church clients who have even institutionalized the phrase. Periodic public statements or written articles reinforce the confidentiality of all giving. “No one knows what someone else gives, especially not me,” many pastors say.
Whether the pastor, or someone, should know what others give is a topic for another time. What I want to ask is not whether giving should be private or public, but rather whether my giving is between me and God only?
Because the Christian faith is lived in community, I would say that what I give is between me and God and between me and the other believers in my church family. If my church is a family of faith who are on mission for God’s kingdom, then what I give, or do not give, has an impact on our life together, whether others know what I give or not.
I am part of the body and I have a part to play. I have time, talent and money to contribute to the common good and for a common cause. What I give is between me and fellow believers in my church because we are connected to one another in Christ. That spiritual connection is expressed in glad and generous sharing. “Now all the believers were one in heart and soul, and nobody called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything they owned.” Acts 4:32 NIV
Similarly, what I give is between me and God and between me and others who need some good news. Even in the United States, there are many people who need the good news of a warm meal, a safe place to live, clean clothing, medicine and employment. What I give is between me and those who need what I can make possible. Luke’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus indicates that how close we allow the poor to come to us and to our wealth can determine how close we will be to God.
What I give is between me and God. Yes! What I give is between me and the fellow believers in my church family. Yes again! And what I give is between me and the lost and suffering in my world. Most certainly, yes! So for me, my giving provides a spiritual connection to God, to His church and to the world He desires to save.