The Weekend Word

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47 Responses

  1. Owen says:

    Thank you for this one, Michael… it found it’s mark, and I have been moved.

    I have a lot to chew on.

  2. Jean says:

    Excellent Weekend Word installment MLD!

  3. Owen says:

    Oops, my apologies – I had forgotten who wrote it.
    Thank you , MLD

  4. JoelG says:

    Thank you MLD

  5. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    So in verse v3 when it says to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, and in light of getting your rewards, what do you think of my question;
    “How about having the church keep track of your giving for tax purposes?”

    Is that not letting others see what you give? How about the actual tax write off — is that not (1) getting a reward and (2) is it not getting the government to subsidize your giving?

    How do you feel about that?

  6. Jean says:

    MLD,

    You’ve asked several different, but interrelated questions. Let me kick of the discussion hitting on one of your questions.

    Christians produce good works. Good works are the product of faith; Paul calls them fruit of the Spirit. Anything that does not proceed from faith is sin.

    A gift made by the right hand, where the left hand didn’t notice, is a way of saying a gift that proceeds from faith, not from the desires of the flesh (e.g., temporal recognition from other people or temporal or eternal recognition from God). A gift not made from faith is actually a work of the flesh in pursuit of a wage.

    Here’s the reality though: How often do you make a gift purely from faith? For me, personally, I am fortunate when my initial inclination if relatively pure. But sooner or later, often after the gift, the sinful thought comes into my mind – that self-pat on the back.

    Therefore, Christ sanctifies our gifts so that they are pleasing to the Father, but they are tainted with sin.

  7. Jean – good observation. Luther in his Heidelberg Disputation make the point that we sin even in our good deeds.

    So, in your sin, do you have the government subsidize your giving? 😉

  8. Jean says:

    MLD,

    Availing one’s self of legal tax deductions is good stewardship.

  9. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Is it? – you just take from one pocket and give to the other pocket.

    Here the government was going to feed a poor family but instead they need to refund your money.

    For me, I faced this several years ago and decided (1) I did not want the government to participate in my “giving” practices and (2) I did not want to report to the government want i give and who I give to.

    But that’s just me – but it was over these types of verses.

  10. Em ... again says:

    we’ve never taken the tax write-off, but it just occurred to me that if one did, then one could give what they saved in tax reduction also… then the next year they could claim that amount also and …

  11. Steve Wright says:

    Here the government was going to feed a poor family
    —————————————–
    Or they were going to build a drone to bomb women and children, or line the special interest group that an influential Senator’s spouse is a chief lobbyist, or maybe fund a few abortions….money is fungible. It goes into one big pot and is spent by the government. One can decide for oneself if you or the government would be better stewards of the dollars you earn. (Or interest payments to China since they fund much of our new debt)

    Also, a tax deduction is not a tax credit. There is no pulling from one pocket and putting the same amount of money into another pocket. That’s not how it works.

    That being said, if one wants to give $100, one needs to earn $120-140 (depending on tax brackets, state and federal). Or, put another way, that same $100 one would like to donate only has $70 or so after income taxes are paid. So the Lord’s work gets $70, not $100.

    As Jean said, this is basic stewardship. Now, if one’s motive is privacy, then fine. Like social drinking in moderation, one may have a lot of reasons why one holds to total abstinence but one can’t say that Jesus forbids a glass of wine. So too here, Jesus was not equating some IRS computers out there that may know that the social security number identified with me gave some money, with the way the Pharisees were “blowing the trumpet” in their giving before the people. Two different situations.

    As a self-employed insurance agent there were times when I reduced my salary and had my corporate business donate directly to the Lord’s work. Of course, corporations are limited in what they can donate but for at least some of my annual giving, this was a way to do so and get the most bang for the buck since every single dollar spent was a dollar I earned in commission sales. Whether the phone bill, the rent, the paper clips, or salary.

    Likewise, every single dollar the church spends on any expense is a dollar that was given by someone who entrusts that stewardship to the church leaders. Therefore, I chose to reduce my church salary voted by the Board, by the amount I am giving to the Lord’s work, so 100% of those dollars go to His work. Why needlessly take the widow’s mite and give it to the government when there is a legal, proper alternative that results in orphans being fed in the name of Jesus in India (for example)?

    As an aside, most people don’t even have enough deductions, charitable or otherwise, to itemize – and they take the standard deduction. If such is the case, one really should not boast in not itemizing – because it is a moot point in such cases.

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, thanks for the tax course … even though I look at tax returns all day for my business and prepare about 20 returns a year for friends and family..

    The point is that the church people have made the government a partner in their church giving. There is no way around it. So now instead of our giving in secret, we have turn it into an accounting scheme.

    I will give you an example as I remember teaching this section around tax time in 2015 (as my final bullet point in v.1 indicates) – when a candidate releases his returns what is the first thing we look for? – his charitable giving. I remember when Biden disclosed and people were horrified that he had given less than 1%. Where is his allowance for giving what he wants and doing it quietly – perhaps he chose to not write it off – but we still hold him accountable.

    What about the part that the church keeps records of charitable giving — for the record?

    I don’t care what people do – I just want people to think on these verses and the only way to do so is make them upfront and personal. 🙂

  13. Xenia says:

    I do not in involve the government in my giving. I don’t even give it a thought.

  14. Em ... again says:

    good point that most of us don’t even itemize any longer… that said, if your giving is very substantial, you may have the government asking questions…
    come to think of it there is a Biblical admonition to not your left hand know what your right hand is doing and our government is very left – IMH – so… 🙂

  15. Steve Wright says:

    Maybe the question I am answering that nobody was really asking is whether our goal should be to give sacrificially and give the absolute most we possibly can (stewardship)?

    I’m sure we all fail at this (or put another way, I am sure we all could live more simply and cheaply)…but the bottom line for my post above was that there is a legal, acceptable way to give $100 to the Lord rather than $70 to the Lord and $30 to the beast (using the term offered here on many occasions to describe our political-economic worldly government).

    I don’t see the words of Jesus here, or the context in which they were given, as relevant at all to this decision. I think to say the government is a “partner” is really a reach. Of course, partnerships are a legal entities with clearly defined parameters. Words matter.

    To me it is more important that I give every last dime possible to the work of the Lord as opposed to the government, and to others it may be more important that they have secrecy in their giving – let each be persuaded in their own mind. But these verses have nothing to do with “blowing a trumpet” by itemizing deductions on your 1040

  16. Steve Wright says:

    MLD, a quick question. Given your leadership at your church, and your convictions on this itemizing and making the church keep track of the members giving, have you made any effort to vote to stop the practice?

    There is nothing to stop your church from announcing that donations will not be tracked and no annual statement will be given for tax purposes. There is no law that says a church has to keep track of such things.

    Have you ever had those discussions and offered such a change for a vote?

  17. Jean says:

    The widow in the Temple who was praised by Jesus for giving her last mite did not do so in literal secrecy.

  18. Steve Wright says:

    I know the insurance world. Often people use insurance to bless their church after they are gone. Someone has a $50,000 policy through work or paid up over the years, and no dependents, one adult child who is doing very well financially (or maybe is horribly irresponsible) – whatever the reason, they decide to split that money among a couple charities and take $20,000 of that death benefit and make their longtime church a beneficiary. That can only be done if a few people on the insurance side of things know about it so they can do the changes needed so the policy will honor the wishes of the deceased.

    Large charities (Christian or secular) usually have an employee or two wholly dedicated to helping people who want to bequeath a sizable amount to the organization that has been a major commitment their entire lives. How to do so properly, legally, and so what the person wants to give to continue the work when they are gone does not all go instead to the IRS.

    Is estate planning a violation of The Sermon on the Mount?

  19. Steve,
    As usual in you attempt to steamroll your replies, you missed what I said. I will quote it here again,
    “But that’s just me – but it was over these types of verses.”

    I don’t force my convictions on anyone – and as I said, it was an attempt to engage. You took it to an extreme “beat the government” angle and gave no pastoral or teaching advise at all.

    Also, my original claim was ““How about having the church keep track of your giving for tax purposes?” We ask them to be our accountant = “tell me how much I gave.”

    We are even sinful in our giving.

  20. “The widow in the Temple who was praised by Jesus for giving her last mite did not do so in literal secrecy.”

    Sure she did. Jesus was probably the only one who knew how much she gave and that it was the last of what he had.

  21. Steve Wright says:

    gave no pastoral or teaching advise at all.
    ——————————————————–
    LOL…some would say that a discussion on stewardship of our giving dollars, or how to give more effectively……well, never mind.

    My point was these verses have nothing to do with itemizing deductions and to say they do is to err. Sometimes the “teaching” is as simple as saying “This verse has nothing to do with that idea”

    If you are convicted by these verses to not itemize, but you at least are wise enough to not push it on others (even if you choose to reference it as you teach the passage), then knock yourself out. Now, if you keep claiming Christians are “parterning” with the government so they can take their giving money and put it into their other pocket via their tax return, then you are just being bombastic and wrong – no matter how many friends’ tax returns you complete. 🙂

    I’m glad you don’t think estate planning, or for that matter even having a will, violates the Sermon on the Mount because a few other people will have to know about your giving intentions – and of course a will becomes a public record once executed, far more public than a tax return.

    I am glad to see that it is not more “spiritual” to die intestate.

  22. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, you bring great comedy to the discussion. My teaching – the article – was not about itemizing, which I do – just not my charitable giving.

    The verses and my article are about attitudes and I bring up what is our attitude towards giving if we set up “church” systems to do our “government” accounting.

    I could always use one of your favorite tactics – what would the apostles thought of lobbying the government for tax write offs of giving?

    Here is our difference in style. I teach a class that I must engage – I must get their attention and raise their thinking level to the point of discussion. I need to structure the lesson to have people ask questions of me and others. And that is what I did. Nowhere did I bind others.

    You on the other hand get to stand behind a podium and give one way communications.

  23. Jean says:

    MLD,

    Lighten up a little here. Jesus is teaching about our motivations for giving, just like our motivations for praying (they are one after the other). For example, he doesn’t say all prayer must be in secret.

    The church exists in the left hand kingdom, the temporal kingdom, which is governed by the law. It behooves us to always distinguish which kingdom we are dealing with when it comes to temporal issues.

  24. Steve Wright says:

    Sin is a vile offense against God. Sin is to be confessed and forsaken, with amends being made as possible. The Pharisees were notorious for accusing people falsely of sin based not upon God’s revelation but their own personal preferences and traditions, and the history of the church is similar. Women wearing pants, interracial marriages, rock music instruments in the worship service etc. They accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath, a terrible sin, but it was a false accusation.

    To falsely accuse the children of God of sin based on zero or at best, tenuous Scriptural support is serious. However, to casually talk of sinning with no call to repentance is also a terrible thing.

    If it is a sin, an offense against God, for a church to keep track of giving amounts, then that church needs to stop immediately. Likewise, the givers need to stop giving by check (or online these days) or any other manner where another human being knows the name and the amount given. Even in the simple process of recording the deposit. It is possible for MLD to make sure he hits the bank and gets enough cash each offering and drop it in. And if it IS a sin, then you better believe there is a duty to try and influence the church to stop sinning. Again, this is if it truly is a sin and you seek to indict other Christians – not just a personal conviction (i.e. – to me it would be a sin). I see no qualifier in the above main commentary about church giving and tracking the donors totals (for tax purposes of course)

    Or…..this is just theological shock jock antics. Christian Howard Stern. Using the word, sin, as a punchline.

    There MLD, you wanted some pastoral teaching and advice…you got it.

    (And p.s. I note your slam on pulpit ministry as if we never have to be challenged on our teachings. I also note your ignoring the many years I taught a CCCM home bible study where we had “engagement” up to our eyeballs. That was a weak complaint there)

  25. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, the gist of the article was attitudes and motivations. My previous comment mentioned the same.
    Both you and Steve brought up that I spoke of giving in secret and private. This is not so, I sit with everyone else and publicly put the dough in the plate.
    The question is should we be giving thought to our giving after we give it? Have a 323rd party account for our giving? Making sure I get government credit for giving? Or do I just give and it is in God’s hands.
    I have chosen one way – others are free to disagree. But we are having conversation, just like a class.

  26. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, “If it is a sin, an offense against God, for a church to keep track of giving amounts, then that church needs to stop immediately. ”

    You are whacked out. You have made up this whole tempest in your teapot mind.

    I asked a question to drive discussion, I made no accusations against the church or givers and as I said above I bound no one to my thinking. I even made clear twice that “this is just me.”

    But then that’s you and I guess all of the above is your opinion. As I just told Jean – hey we are having discussion.

  27. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, I just reread your last comment. Please show me where I made anyu indication of sin? If not, sdomeone here is lying and that is a sin.

  28. Jean says:

    MLD,

    In the spirit of discussion, my position is that I don’t care if the government or the church knows my giving. In fact, to the extent that my giving practices are a testimony of what I care about, I am happy to make that testimony too. I am not looking for recognition (except in my sin), but I don’t view a tax deduction or church accounting as recognition.

  29. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, that’s OK – in a similar vein I know Christians who pray at a meal in restaurants as “a testimony” to those around them.

    I would probably make similar comments if I was commenting on the pray in private sections. Again to motives & attitudes.

  30. Jean says:

    MLD,

    It’s not a similar vein. I said “to the extent….” I can’t control how other people perceive what I do, but any person (Christian or not) who lives in the world is a walking testimony as to what their motives, priorities, values, etc., are, whether intentionally or not. Somebody here (or a different thread) used the term “ambassador.” I would add in a similar vein :-), Christians are a royal priesthood. Christians salt and add light to the world around us.

  31. Michael says:

    I thought it was a good question to ask of the text.

  32. Steve Wright says:

    (MLD post 19 above) Also, my original claim was ““How about having the church keep track of your giving for tax purposes?” We ask them to be our accountant = “tell me how much I gave.”

    We are even sinful in our giving.
    ————————————————-
    (MLD post 27) “Please show me where I made anyu indication of sin? If not, sdomeone here is lying and that is a sin”

    So I was not lying, as I was dealing directly with your words, in context of church recording donations – and your use of the universal “we” making this beyond your own personal hangup.. Now, did you cross the false witness line? Because that would be a sin too.

    Actually, I thought your George and the tip jar (I remember the episode) was spot on and certainly there are ways that Christians can be guilty in the act of giving that would be similar to our version of “blowing the trumpet” – someone giving a large check or bills could put it in the offering in such a manner as to at least have those sitting next to them see it. And I have had an occasion or two where someone announces ahead of time to me they are going to give a large amount (supposedly to make sure to let them know if it does not show up). Even though I think it is pretty well known (I mentioned it on occasion and each year at the time the tax records are prepared) that I have no idea who gives and how much. I have no knowledge of anything but the total after it is added up.

    There’s definitely ways to teach the text for a modern application (again, George spot on) – but to declare (quote) we are even sinful in our giving (unquote) is the sort of thing that can be dangerous to those who look to you as a teacher of the text for the reasons I wrote above about sin. Of course, hopefully in that engagement you reference there was someone in the room to set you straight. I’m sure more than one person would have come up to me after service and challenged me if I said the same thing from the pulpit.

    I’ll move on now.

  33. Steve Wright says:

    I think it is a good question to ask too, as it leads to a loud “this is NOT what Jesus was warning about”, gets it out of the way and then allows discussion for what Jean spoke of – which is certainly where Jesus is going with this trifecta of prayer, giving, and fasting, and how all three can be done to be seen by men, rather than with a heart set toward God.

    Just like public prayer is not in and of itself, sinful.

    Just like a call to fasting is not in and of itself, sinful.

  34. Michael says:

    Are not all of our good works tainted?

  35. Michael says:

    I really don’t get what you have your knickers in such a knot about.
    The question has come up here before and I think it might have come up when I taught the text in my church.

    I would not give a definitive no…it would be a matter of individual conscience.

    It troubles MLD’s so he doesn’t use the deduction, it doesn’t trouble Jean and he does use it.

    Both are giving to the Lord…

  36. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve,
    “I think it is a good question to ask too, as it leads to a loud “this is NOT what Jesus was warning about”, ”

    I think it very well may be exactly what Jesus is talking about in the not let the one hand know what the other is doing. (in a more sofisticated 21st century wayt – and this is what I do, I drag 1st century scriptures into the 21st century.)

    So you give to charity all year long, you are just doing good – almost like the sheep in Matt 25 – even if someone pointed out the good you are doing you are unaware. – but 4 months later — April of the next year, you start doing an internal audit of all your good works – in fact your are reminded by the church of all your good works, with a statement of good works (contributions) – much like a baptismal certificate – look how much you gave this year.

    And now you move on to the government, to get your reward for helping society care for one another through your giving – and ask to be paid back – even if just a small portion.

  37. Jean says:

    I don’t think Steve and I view a tax deduction as a reward.

  38. Michael says:

    Vs. 7 is classically remembered as being an admonition about “vain repetition”… and some would call liturgical prayers just that.
    Anyone want to address that?

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Every time I find an extra one I consider it a reward 🙂

    The point is, and again I can’t bind anyone else – but at tax time, for our preparation, our left hand goes back out looking to find out what our right hand did during the year. 🙂

  40. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael, I do know it is the most used excuse for not using the Lord’s Prayer in the evangelical service. It just becomes a vain repetition – people say it by rote …. which I would prefer to not saying it.

    People on their deathbed have said the different parts and prayers of the liturgy so often over the years – even by rote, that wile they are dying and have dementia can still recite parts.

  41. Xenia says:

    They are only vain repetitions if they are said in vain.

  42. Jean says:

    “Vs. 7 is classically remembered as being an admonition about “vain repetition”… and some would call liturgical prayers just that.
    Anyone want to address that?”

    It’s an odd Greek word. I’ve read some commentary that it means vain repetition; and I’ve read other commentary that it means asking for worldly desires like the Gentiles do.

  43. Em ... again says:

    for heaven’s sake – just do it 🙂
    we’re living our lives in Christ, in doing so, we pray, we give … and, if we don’t? God sees – either way…

    i wonder what those rewards in heaven are?
    probably not gold, i’ve heard they use that for paving material… wouldn’t it be embarrassing to have our Lord look up our record and say, “it says here you never gave and never prayed – except to look good or to prime the pump for those personal blessings that apostate preacher promised… well, here’s your reward a dump truck load of pavement?”

  44. Jean says:

    But, what I think the “empty phrases” are about the content of the petition, not that the prayer is formulaic.

  45. Jean says:

    “Perhaps the meaning of this teaching is self-evident. It is presented to us clearly and requires no subtle understanding. However, it is worth examining the word battologia (“heaping up empty phrases”) in order that, learning its meaning, we may avoid what is prohibited.

    It seems to me that the Lord chastens the mind’s slackness and restrains those who focus on vain desires. It is for this reason that He coined this strange new word in order to rebuke the folly of those whose desires make them run after useless and vain things. For only a word which is both prudent and wise, and reflective of what is useful, deserves properly to be called logos (“word”/ “reason”); whereas that which is poured forth by illusory desires seeking hollow pleasure is not logos but battologia. If one
    were to render this word in finer Greek, he would say phlyaria (“nonsense”) or leros (“trash”) or phlenaphos (“babble”) or anything else of a similar meaning.

    What, then, does the Divine Word advise us? That at the time of prayer, we should not suffer the sort of passions active in childish minds. Such simple people do not bother to consider how something they fancy could actually take place, but imagine, as if they had power to achieve, some marvelous good fortunes for themselves. They dream of treasures, kingdoms, and great cities bearing their own names. They fantasize that they are actually in whatever state the vanity of their thoughts suggests to them….”

    – Saint Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394), Five Homilies on The Lord’s Prayer

  46. Steve Wright says:

    Funny. When I first posted some common sense re taxes, MLD snarked about his experience with taxes. Now he equates a deduction as a reward referencing the Biblical text.

    Maybe MLD thinks all our money earned belongs to the government first and they decide what we get to keep….maybe he can twist a verse somewhere to support that view too.

    To repeat one last time. Deductions mean you can give more from the same paycheck. Just like in MLD’s world of housing and mortgages, deducting the mortgage interest means people can buy a little more house.

    I am sure I am not the only guy out there who would still give to the Lord’s work if the deduction was removed…however, I would of course have a little less to give and the government would have a little more to spend.

    I see God as the gracious Giver of all income. Every good and perfect gift is from above. He gives the opportunity, strength, health, ability. I am to be a steward of all He gives and I am to obey the laws of the land as that stewardship is exercised.

    If MLD thinks our money is the government’s first, or thinks they are better stewards than we are…then I will disagree. Or maybe stewardship is meaningless to MLD. I don’t know.

    I do know it is lunacy to think Jesus equated our “reward” with a tax deduction. Insanity.

  47. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “To repeat one last time. Deductions mean you can give more from the same paycheck.”

    Hey, that should raise a genius alert.

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