During the last part of church, I decided to open the book and thumb through it. Bad move. I began to read the daily lesson titles, and I was immediately turned off. Some of these topics include:
- The LORD watches your giving
- Even the poor are to give to God from what they have
- Set up a plan to faithfully give 10% OR MORE of your financial resources to the Lord's work (emphasis theirs)
- Don't live for this life, but for your heavenly home
- Women play a significant part in giving to God's work
- God will reward you for your faithful generosity and diligent labors
- Your giving in this life will have an impact on your experiences in eternity
This is just a sampling of the daily topics. So many things rub me the wrong way about this. I don't know where to begin.
Let's start with the need to point out that women play a role in God's work. As a feminist Christian and a feminist theologian, I, obviously, whole-heartedly agree. However, the fact that this needed to be highlighted in a chapter made it sound more like, "even women play a significant part in giving to God's work." Also, that this was one day out of 40 made me think that the other 39 were all about men. Maybe that's not the case, but that token chapter made me sick.
The chapters about giving in this life will impact experiences in eternity and God rewarding you for your generosity border dangerously on prosperity gospel. A quote by Sir John Templeton states, "...I always saw greater prosperity and happiness among those families who tithed than those who didn't." This basically says tithe and you will have more prosperity.
Another statement that troubled me was that giving 10% or more of your income will "ensure you of treasure in heaven." What?! Is this saying that this will buy your spot into heaven? Or is it saying your spot in heaven will be better if you give; better than those who do not give? This whole notion that giving or tithing will guarantee treasure in heaven puzzles me. Is God's grace not enough?
One thing that really frustrates me about this book is that it is all about money. At our church, we talk about being stewards of and giving of our time, talent, and treasures. Yet, this book is all about treasures, and in that context, it says that even the poor are expected to give from what they have to God. Also, it says that you are only poor when you want more than what you have. Really? That might be true for middle-class U.S. Americans, but tell that to a family living well below the poverty line within the United States, or tell that to people living within poverty-stricken nations of the third world. I think it is safe to bet that for a single-mother who works two jobs to keep the lights on, heat on, some food on the table, and a roof over her children's heads--and still at times comes up short--it isn't her wants that is making her poor.
The book is so out of touch with reality. It is filled with the message of give and you shall receive, and likely you will receive even more. However, I've seen so many people who have given with that expectation and have ended up disappointed. I've seen people give their 10% to the church, when even with that 10% they would not have had enough or have had barely enough to pay their bills, and when due dates come around, they don't get that "extra blessing" they were promised, and they are left unsure what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.
Perhaps I need to be more constructive, rather than critical, regarding giving to God. What does a healthy understanding and a life-giving theology of stewardship look like? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comment section, as well as your thoughts on this book. As for my own constructive thoughts, I'll save that for another post.