Richard Morgan of Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania shares his perspective on giving.
Name + role: Richard Morgan, Rector, 5 years
Church: Church of the Good Samaritan
Location: Paoli, Pennsylvania
Congregation size: 1k
What’s your giving philosophy?
Giving is a way of being able to invest in God’s kingdom. That’s inherently a privilege. We ought to think,“How privileged am I that God might invite me to partner with him in this small way, to give of whatever resources He’s given me."
I think of 1 Chronicles 29 when David cries “Who am I…” It's reflective of the posture our own hearts should take when it comes time to give. Instead of leading with “We need all this giving because otherwise we’re going to hit this crisis point and that crisis point,” I prefer to talk about the privilege we have to invest into God’s kingdom.
The invitation of Christian faith is to be all in for the Lord Jesus one way or another—and it actually begins to make sense when it becomes an offering of the whole of my life. As soon as I start asking the question, “What do I need to do to be okay with God?” then I’m in a bad place.
God wants all of you, the whole of you, as an offering for himself. And He gave the whole of Himself for you. Everything, then, is at God’s disposal. He has a great vision for who you can be and what you can become. You need to be on a journey, walk with God day-by-day and step-by-step, and not limit what it is that He might be able to do in and through you. That includes not limiting what your generosity looks like.
If you look at your giving and see that you’re giving two percent of your income, and the standard of the law (which is a beginning point, not an end point) is ten percent, then you might say, “Maybe God’s got more to do in my life than this.”
How do you see God approach giving in scripture?
I think there’s a big distinction between the Old Testament, which is law, and the New Testament, which is grace. It’s not that law gives me a whole pile of demands and that grace gives me no demand at all. The distinction is that law gives me some limited demands, which I need to comply to, but grace demands everything.
Often, people who want to define things very clearly, really, want to limit God rather than imagine, “What is it that God calls me to?” The reason they want to do that is because “what God calls me to” is always more than I can imagine or more than I can really give. People who like the law say, “Well, then, I want a set of rules or principles that I can achieve, and then I’ll feel I’ve checked it off.”
I like to talk to people about the heresy of tithing. What’s the heresy of tithing? That 90% is mine. If you begin to draw exact sort of lines around where giving and generosity should start and end, then we've given into this false impression that says, “Well, I’ve checked that box. That’s fine.” The implication being that I’ve settled my score with God and now he’s indebted to me because I’ve done the right things.
Paul says the law is like a school master—that’s his image in Galatians. This schoolmaster is going to bring us to the point of maturity. So the schoolmaster, the law, brings us to the point where we’re ready to receive Christ and to live by an entirely different principle, which is the freedom of the spirit.
The law and the Old Testament may have given us some guidance, but if we only live under the law, then we’re limited, and not mature. The gift of grace is that God always calls us to greater generosity.
I once knew a schoolteacher in my church who decided to live under a certain income—she had a roof over her house and food and clothing. She got a very serious pay hike when she became the head teacher of her school and her choice was to say, “I was just fine living under my previous salary. I’ll give the difference.” That’s grace. If she had only thought about the law, she would have just rounded up to ten percent and felt that she would have to trouble herself over how to buy a bigger house, or more clothes, on go on longer holidays, or however she was going to do to spend the rest.
So there’s no hard principle—not even tithing’s a hard principle. But you might look at your life and say, if you’re not at least being more generous than that principle of a tenth in the Old Testament, then where’s the added value that grace might give in your life?
How do you talk about giving with your congregation?
Episcopal worship is liturgically structured, and an offertory is part of the structure. At that moment in the service, I pull out a verse of Scripture to communicate some kind of principle of giving.
- Cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9)
- Offering the whole of our lives (Romans 12)
- Jesus saying, “Who for your sake became poor” (2 Corinthians 8)
- Jesus being anointed with costly oil (John 12)
- The widow’s mite (Mark 12, Luke 21)
- Everything comes from God (1 Chronicles 29)
- The fact that God can be trusted and says, “Test me in this” (Malachi 3)
I’m keen to teach principles of generosity, of growth in faith, of whole-life stewardship (so in context of all that I do—time, treasure, talent) and to trust that God moves people at different rates and different parts of their discipleship. It's not my job to sort of pressure people in areas where God isn’t moving as fast as I might like. It’s my vision to share a vision of who it is that God calls us to be, and then allow God to work in people’s hearts as they hear it.
Leading up to our commitment Sunday (which falls in November and marks the beginning of our church calendar), we’ll have a number of live testimonies of church people talking about their stewardship and their giving and how that worked for them, as well as our budgetary needs.
When commitment Sunday comes around, we ask people to pledge what they’re going to give the following calendar year. And we make that an opportunity to respond, in terms of time, talent, and treasure. The last couple of years at that service, I asked everyone to come forward and bring a pledge card. It's been quite powerful.
At a higher level, I like preaching to cover the whole counsel of God’s word. We address the whole business of stewardship or giving as a theme that comes throughout Scripture and comes throughout the whole course of the year.
Do you have any advice for pastors as they approach the subject of giving with their church?
I suspect that if you have your own giving in order and your own fears about money addressed, it’s going to help you be more comfortable communicating that to other people.
We're grateful for our time with Richard! If you like what you read, check out our conversations with other pastors during Inside the Offering!