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Thinking About...

Giving Volume 2, Issue 1 - January 2011

The teaching faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide are committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/ their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as “living in an ivory tower” and “being too theoretical.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. We trust you will find this edition helpful. We will value your feedback and your contributions; please email me at

Rev Dr Stephen Spence Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture

Thinking About... Giving


God has given me, or am I prepared

eggs tomorrow morning?” The pig

to make sacrifices?

spent the second half of 2010

was not pleased. “All that that would

immersed in Luke’s Gospel and

require from you is an offering; from

found myself continually confronted with the fundamental generosity of grace. This was something of a mixed blessing for me. I enjoyed the focus upon how God has lavishly given me forgiveness and blessing upon blessing. But I found the expectation that I would then be as forgiving and as giving with others a challenge. Just how generous am I with the blessings I have received?


Why don’t we cook him bacon and

was reminded of the old fable concerning the chicken and the pig

who were talking together about how much care the farmer took of them both. “We must do something special for him,” said the pig. “Yes,” agreed the chicken, “He likes a big breakfast.

me it would require a sacrifice!”



uke in his Gospel does not attempt to tell us what we must

give or how much we must give. But

acchaeus’ response to meeting

he does make it abundantly clear

Jesus (Lk 19:1-10) was a generous

that those of us who follow Jesus

“half of my possessions I will give to

must be generous in our giving.

“four times I will repay anyone I have


cheated” also generously exceeded

Spence; Graham Buxton; Bruce

the poor” (the Talmud later identified 20% as sufficiently generous). And his

the OT requirement (see Lev 5:16, Num 5:7). This is the “thank offering of a changed heart” (E Ellis).


hinking About Giving with... David McGregor; Aaron

Chalmers; David Turnbull; Stephen Hulme; Matthew Gray; and Lesley Houston.

have met Jesus! But just how generous is my changed heart? Am

I prepared to give an offering of what

181 Goodwood Road Millswood SA 5034 (08) 8373 8777

Giving in a Culture Stripped of Grace G

od has given to us so that we would share

“according” to one’s means and maybe a bit

with others. We are givers because we were

“beyond” them (2 Cor 8:3).

made that way, and if we don’t give, we are at odds with ourselves. Recall Luther’s bold statement that we are Christs to one another. We were created to be and to act like God. And so the flow of God’s gifts shouldn’t stop as soon as it reaches us.

W Miroslav Volf ’s book is the best thing I have read on “giving.” He writes with the wisdom of a theologian, the heart of a pastor, and the practicality of someone who lives what he writes: Free of Charge (Zondervan, 2005).



t isn’t always easy to determine what “too much” or “too little” giving means concretely.

With the help of the community that holds us accountable, each of us will ultimately have to make the decision on our own, just as each of us

e are obliged to give freely. Why is freedom

will stand on our own before the ultimate Judge

in giving so important? Because the gift

to account for what we have done with the gifts

consists more in the freely undertaken choice to

we have received. In general, the Apostle’s point

give than in the things given.

seems clear: Differences in wealth are legitimate


even if they are destined to disappear in the world

hen God gives, God seeks the good of another. Seneca put it well: “He who gives

benefits imitates the gods, he who seeks a return [imitates] money-lenders.” When do we rightly give? When we delight in someone. When others are in need. Finally, we give to help others give.


e don’t need to give our lives to give truly. It suffices to impart to others more

to come; that some suffer abject poverty while others enjoy opulence is not.


he line between giving and acquiring is fine. It takes vigilance not to cross it. hree aspects of sin mitigate against the purity of gift giving: selfishness, pride, and sloth. Often

we are too comfortable to give; we’d rather play,

than we owe them without expecting return or

be entertained, or just plain do nothing. We can’t

basking in our moral rectitude. That’s a gift - an

make our gifts pure. But our gifts can be better.

ordinary gift but a perfectly good one. It’s these

We need God to better ourselves as givers.

kinds of ordinary gifts to which the apostle Paul

[Quotations from M Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.]

urged Corinthian Christians - gifts that are given

Considering your options for study? Enrol now for 2011 Tabor Adelaide offers fully accredited courses in: • • • • •

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The Christian practice of koinonia giving Koinonia giving is not the same as charity.

brother-in-need or our sister-in-need. Charity is

Charity can come from a sense of “there but

given to strangers and they remain strangers to us.

for the grace of God go I.” It is motivated by a

Koinonia giving is given to those God regards as

sense of thankfulness for blessings received. Who

part of our family.

receives my charity is not as important to me as the fact that I have given charity. There is a place in Christian living for this form of alms giving.

Rev Dr Stephen Spence, Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture Stephen will teach Romans Exegesis and Pauline Theology in Semester 1, 2011.

Jesus’ parable of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16) criticized the Rich Man because his concern was only for his biological brothers but

However, charity does not capture the type of

not for the destitute Lazarus, a fellow child of

koinonia giving that Jesus talked about and the

Abraham who was no stranger to him. As James,

early church practiced.

the brother of Jesus, wrote, “If a brother or sister is

Koinonia is a Greek word, often translated as fellowship (e.g., Acts 2:42), that has the flavor of “close association involving mutual interests and sharing.” Within a koinonia fellowship the mutual concern for one another leads to the kind of sharing of lives and goods that can be seen displayed by the first Jerusalem church. Koinonia giving is motivated by our relationship with the person in need. We give not because the person is in need but because they are our

naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16). Giving charity is a good thing to do. But if we are to reflect the heart and the practice of Jesus, we must practice koinonia giving. Our church is not just somewhere we go to sing songs and listen to sermons; it is the gathering of our Godgiven family, and we are responsible before God to ensure that our brothers and sisters are not in need.


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Monday, 28 February with Dr Edith Humphrey The Spirit and Spirituality in Biblical Perspective Monday, 1 August with Dr Soong-Chan Rah Freeing the Church from Cultural Captivity Monday, 17 October with Dr Pete Phillips Biblical Literacy and Communication in a Digital World Monday, 21 November with Olive Drane and Dr John Drane Mission and Discipleship in a Liquid Culture

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The Spiritual Discipline of Giving T

hinking about giving as a spiritual discipline

Discipline means that somewhere you’re not

might make us wince a little. Surely our giving is

occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the

to be a free outpouring of gratitude in response to

spiritual life, discipline means to create that space

the generosity of God, rather than something that

in which something can happen that you hadn’t

is ‘under compulsion’ (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7) or in need of

planned or counted on.”

regimentation! Is considering giving as a spiritual discipline little more than a return to living under

Bruce Hulme is a lecturer in Practical Theology and is studying towards an MTh in Spiritual Theology In 2011, Bruce is responsible for the Spiritual Formation Program, which involves all MTC’s degree students, and for the Supervised Field Education Program


the law rather than the liberation of the gospel? I suppose that is possible, particularly if we view the discipline of giving as something we have got to do, or another box to tick in the Christian life. Giving is relational; as soon as it becomes merely functional in our lives, it has moved from mercy to sacrifice.

When we understand ‘discipline’ in this way, regular giving cultivates the Yes! and No! of Christian spirituality in powerful ways. It helps us say and pray Yes! to Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”; Yes! to creating space for God to act and surprise us; Yes! to a prayerful attentiveness to his work around us. It also helps us say No! to the cancer of a marketplace culture that defines people as

‘Discipline’ in proper perspective, however,

‘consumers’; No! to tearing down our barns to

actually frees rather than restricts. “In the spiritual

build bigger ones; No! to a fearful burying of what

life,” writes Henri Nouwen,

God has given us.

“the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.

Giving as a spiritual discipline is never something we have got to do, but get to do. It is a gracious invitation to create space for our formation, and our participation in the Kingdom.


Study Opportunities at Tabor Adelaide Tabor Adelaide’s School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture offers degrees and diplomas in Ministry, in Theology, in Intercultural Studies, and in Christian Studies. It is possible to study on campus or through the external studies program. (Or a mixture of both.) APPLY online. FEE-HELP is available for eligible students.

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TM1103 CHRISTIANS IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD Christians live and minister within a world of cultures. This subject contributes to the formation of reflective practitioners by exploring the relevance, contribution, and the physical and spiritual practicalities of engaging with culture at various levels of the Christian life – individual, local community, and international. THURSDAY, 130-430pm.

TM1102 INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN MINISTY Explore what it means for the whole church to be caught up in God’s Trinitarian ministry to the world, promoting the gospel in life and word. Explore your own personal calling to be a part of that ministry. This subject is suitable for anyone exploring God’s call on their life. TUESDAY, 6-9pm.

TM2115 INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT Learn about the world, significant people, events, and message of the OT, with a particular emphasis upon seeing how the OT can continue to speak into our lives and ministries. This subject is suitable for Bible study leaders and those wanting a better understanding of the Bible. THURSDAY, 10am-1pm.

We give to God by receiving from God T

he psalmist cries “What shall I render to the Lord

Karl Barth reminds us that this God loves us so

for all his benefits towards me?” His surprising

much that he refuses to give us anything less

answer is, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and

than himself. The Father “did not spare his own

call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps 116: 12-13). In

Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom 8:32); the

other words, he will imbibe more deeply.

“Son of God...loved me and gave himself for me”

But what of the next verse “I will pay my vows to the Lord” (v14)? Does he feel the need to pay God back? No, this is simply a promise to be

David McGregor is Senior Lecturer in Theology. He is enrolled in the PhD theology program at Newcastle University David will teach Creative Living, Jesus the Christ, and Kingdom of God in Semester 1, 2011.

thankful. He continues “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call upon the name of the Lord” (v 17). The truth is that we give to God by receiving from him! Even our gratitude is not a condition for God’s grace but a free response engendered by it. “What do you have that you have not received?” (1Cor 4:7).

(Gal 2:20); “God’s love has been poured into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).

Our one great sin is our refusal to receive the God who gives himself to us “He came to his own but his own received him not” (Jn 1:11). Receiving from God frees us to give to others “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt

The God of Jesus’ parables acts in sheer

10:8). We do not give to receive from them,

generosity. As the Sower, for example, he

but because we have already received from

broadcasts his seed even on unresponsive ground.

God. Nor do we give because we have to, but

He is not like a calculating investor always looking

because we want to – we give freely. And what

for a return, but a reckless lover who simply loves

is it that we give? Nothing less than ourselves of

because he loves. As the French Easter liturgy says

course! How else could we give like God?

“L’amour de Dieu est folie” – the love of God is foolishness.



Study Opportunities at Tabor Adelaide

February 14 - June 3 181 Goodwood Road Millswood SA 5034

WANT DETAILS? contact Samantha

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Giving is an action, not a conversation I

f I need to understand the spirituality of giving, the first place I will always go is to the Desert

Forebears from the third century: Abba Theodore had three good books. And going to Abba Macarius, he said to him: “I have three good books, and I am helped by reading them. But other monks also want to read them,

Matthew Gray is Lecturer in Church History. He is enrolled in the PhD history program at Adelaide University. Matt will teach Introduction to Christian Ministry and Reformation History in Semester 1, 2011.

and they are helped by them. Tell me, what am I to do?” And the old man said: “Reading books is good, but possessing nothing is more than all.” When he heard this, he went away and sold the books, and gave the money to the poor. I have more than three good books. I’ve had to dewey-decimal them to keep track. How many have you got on your shelf?

The discomforting thing about the Desert Forebears is that they actually do things. Theodore asked the question. Macarius told him what to do. Theodore did it. Done. We’re still arguing with Macarius about how our books help us generously give wisdom to our congregations, when Theodore has already sold them. He’s also sold his car, his house, his laptop, his shoes, while we’re still arguing. Of course I think that the Desert Forebears go too far, but the very fact that they go too far confronts us with how we usually don’t go far enough. Whatever happens once you’ve read these Thinking About articles on giving, don’t

I think Theodore is being grossly irresponsible here.

just think about it. Take a leaf out of the Desert

It would be irresponsible, downright ungrateful,

Forebears’ book (they’ll happily give it to you),

for me to do that. If I give away my books on say,

and refuse to leave it in abstract convenience.

the Reformation, how will I prepare my lectures

Don’t just leave it for your congregation to do. Do

for Reformation Church history this semester? That

something with what you hear.

would be irresponsible. In fact, the responsible thing to do is buy some more.

Oh, if you’re interested, I’ve got some books on it you can have...



No room in this car for a turkey K

nowing the practices of giving and receiving can be tricky when you are in a cultural

context different from the one you grew up in. It is easy to respond in a way that diminishes the value and generosity of the giver. I recall one such memorable incident. As Cheryl, Matthew and I were about to get into

David Turnbull, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies. He is enrolled in a PhD program at Flinders University. David will teach Intercultural Life and Work, Christians in a Multicultural World, and Poverty and Integral Mission in Semester 1, 2011.

the car to leave Gindiri, Nigeria, for the final time in 1996, a special Christian Nigerian family rushed over and handed us a live adult turkey. This was unexpected and left us stunned at their generosity of such a valuable gift. Ill prepared to respond we made a significant mistake. We knocked it back as there was no room in the fully laden car, there was no way to kill and eat it at our guest house 80 kilometres away, and we knew this family could not really afford to part with it. Looking back I am sure we caused that family unintended offense. We responded in a way that we thought (at the time) was polite but, as I have come to learn, giving and receiving is different in multi-ethnic contexts.

The generosity and love of this family needed to be appreciated and accepted. This family had 17 children in the household (based on the merger of two families) and constantly battled financially. They were prepared to give one of their valuable possessions despite their limited resources. The way one receives a gift is significant. Each act of giving and receiving builds relationships. A refusal to receive a gift is a refusal of the giver. The practices of giving and receiving may differ from culture to culture. However, from this family I have learnt a lesson about giving generously and receiving humbly. We should have taken the turkey no matter what.

Should “tithing” be the Christian norm? I

n some Christian circles today tithing is taught as

we earn is not really our money at all. While this

a “default” approach to Christian giving.

statement may sound simple, its implications

While this practice may be able to claim some support from the OT (e.g. Lev 27: 30-33; Num 18: 20-32; Deut 14: 22-29 – note, however, the recipients of the tithe in the final passage),

Dr Aaron Chalmers is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies. Aaron has recently contributed articles to Tyndale Bulletin and to Vetus Testamentum. Aaron will teach Introduction to the Old Testament and Understanding the Biblical Narrative in Semester 1, 2011.

there are no clear injunctions in the NT that Christians are to continue to practice tithing. Furthermore, such teaching may have a number of negative (albeit unintended) consequences. It may, for example, lead to Christians thinking that giving only relates to money, that the “required amount” of Christian giving is 10%, or that 10% of one’s income is God’s and that the rest belongs to us to do whatever we please. So rather than advocating tithing, I would to highlight three key considerations that need to be taken into account when we are “thinking about giving”. 1) Our money belongs to the Lord – a consistent claim throughout both the OT and the NT is that

are radical. If our money is not ours to do with it as we please, then surely we need to assess how we spend every single dollar (and not just the 10% we give on a Sunday morning). 2) Christian discipleship calls for whole-of-life giving – God is concerned with all that we are, have and do, not just our money. If this is the case, then any discussion of Christian giving must be broad enough to include considerations such as our skills, abilities and time, not just our financial resources. 3) If we are to look for a guiding model or paradigm from the Bible for monetary giving, perhaps we should focus on the issue of proportionality, i.e. giving that is in keeping with one’s income (1 Cor 16: 2; 2 Cor 8: 3 and Acts 11: 29). Rather than being a cop-out, such an approach is, in fact, much more confronting for it shifts the key question from “how much should I give?” to “how much can I give?”

the earth and all its fullness belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 10: 26). If this is the case then the money

Giving involves more than $$ M

y initial response to the topic of giving was

to really listen, to give others the gift of silent

to write about how God prompts us to

engagement with them, not jumping in with

give. When we think about giving, our immediate responses are usually in financial or material terms.

Leslie Houston is the program director for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She is enrolled in a PhD program at Flinders University.

While there is no doubt that giving $$ often is the

Leslie will teach Adult Education in Semester 1, 2011.

us also listen to God and God’s guidance and

natural and correct response, as I reflected more deeply another kind of giving came to mind, the giving of ourselves.

We recognise the Cross as the greatest act of giving, and that God’s giving continues. One gift God gives is God’s presence and God’s listening to us, even when we’re silent. Most of promptings, but do we give ourselves to one other by really listening? Most of us are possession rich but time poor, so giving words of comfort, a word of scripture or a material gift are often the easiest and quickest option. It is much more challenging to give time


advice, a solution, or a quick prayer. Giving the gift of listening can be costly and not only in time. Listening involves engagement at a deep level and it can hurt. After the terrible 2004 Tsunami in Thailand, two missionaries went to the affected province to do what they could. They pulled bodies out of the devastation and provided material help where they could, but mostly they sat and listened to the stories of the survivors and wept with them. They didn’t give words of comfort, they didn’t share the gospel; they just listened and wept. They gave themselves and their giving was costly; the stories continue to echo in their hearts. When was the last time we gave our self to another in this way?

We are not really living unless we are giving T

he celebrated Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf has written a book called Free of Charge,

with the highly suggestive subtitle: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. In that book he writes:

Rev Dr Graham Buxton is the Director of PostGraduate Studies and the author of Overcoming ministry myopia: Renewing our vision of Christian ministry (Wipf & Stock, forthcoming); Celebrating life : beyond the sacredsecular divide (Paternoster, 2007); The Trinity, creation and pastoral ministry: imaging the perichoretic God (Paternoster, 2005); and Dancing in the dark : the privilege of participating in the ministry of Christ (Paternoster, 2001).

“God gives and loves by nature as surely as a duck quacks by nature.” As we consider the giving of God in the Bible we discover that true giving carries no guarantees. It demands nothing back. Giving is risky. Indeed, that’s the very nature of grace. God cannot help being gracious and self-giving: he gives and loves by nature. In the New Testament we see the Father delighting in and glorifying the Son, giving all things to the beloved One. Yet the Son delights in and glorifies the Father: after conquering all things and reigning over his kingdom, He lays all things at the feet of the Father. In John’s gospel we learn that the Holy Spirit delights in glorifying

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not himself but the Son thus revealing the glory of the Father.

Without demanding anything in return from each other, the three persons of the Trinity inwardly enjoy one another’s self-giving love … so much so that they are one God.


In God as Trinity, self-giving openness meets generosity and love is complete. Self-giving and generosity intersect within the very life of the threein-one God. Each opens himself to the other, and the response of love as generosity establishes the triumph of love. In fact, if God is by very nature love, how can it be otherwise? But that, of course, is not the end of the story. We are called to be a giving people, reflecting the very life of God himself. Giving means being available as an instrument in God’s hands to bless the world around us. God’s gifts are for us to enjoy, but at their best they can shape us into generous givers who reflect God’s own generosity. Giving is not an ethical extra for the pious. If we are truly those who have been created in God’s image, then we must conclude that part of our human make-up is that we must give of ourselves in order to realise our full humanity. As the words on a T-shirt given to me by one of my Tabor classes about fifteen years ago put it, “We are not really living unless we are giving.” 181 Goodwood Rd Millswood SA 5034 tel. 08 8373 8777

for further information contact Samantha Docherty

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