Many things that Wayers and ex-Wayers say about on giving sadden me greatly, because they show the great oppression TWI forces unto people on this (and most every) subject. (I talked about this a little in my article "There's No Grace in TWI"- read it from the standpoint of giving, too.) TWI's approach is to force everyone to give-- like wringing every last drop out of a barely-damp towel. Everyone ends up feeling like that towel-- wrung out, twisted up and strangled! This is NOT God's way!
TWI says, "give- OR ELSE!" Or else-- "God won't spit in your direction," or else-- "you'll lose everything," etc. Many feel, "I'm scared. I'm afraid I will lose everything if I don't give enough." It's as though TWI's followers all picture God as a bully with a big stick, just waiting for us to give a penny less than our quota, then he'll pound us. This is NOT God's way!
TWI also says, "Give-- THEN!" IF you give, THEN God will pay you back with "results" - mainly more prosperity. They picture God with a backscratcher- you pay him, then he'll pay you back. He certainly won't actually give you something out of his kindness and generosity-- he only pays back IF you pay up first.
Both "Give THEN," and "give OR ELSE" are the LAW-- trying to pound people into submission. This is much more oppressive than anything the Old Testament Pharisees ever forced upon people. Since Jesus Christ, we are under grace, not law. TWI calls this the grace administration, but they function 90% under law-- the law of prosperity, of tithing, etc. People are stuck in law thinking, and it harms their relationship with God.
Note 2 Cor 9:7 "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, NOT reluctantly or UNDER COMPULSION for God loves a CHEERFUL giver." Anyone who is afraid of losing everything by not giving, or gives to get results, is under compulsion, (which is what law does) and feels pressured, not cheerful.
God's approach to giving is not "Give OR ELSE, or give THEN," rather, God's approach is "Give BECAUSE." Give because God has already given you all the riches of glory in Christ Jesus... because God has already been abundantly generous with us (especially seen in Christ's sacrifice on the cross for us)... give because he has gifts beyond our imagination... give because God is so incredibly generous that he gives without any strings attached. He gives us blessings long before we have any inkling of a desire to follow him or his commands. When people get a grasp of God's enormous, one-sided grace and mercy-- which is unconditional (comes to us no matter what we do or don't do), then we give from gratefulness and joy rather than from fear that we'll lose something if we don't give, nor from greed that we expect results when we give. In this view, God is not the bully with the stick, nor the payback, but rather a great "Santa Claus" who gives generously whether a person has been naughty or nice. This is the meaning of Matthew 5:43-48, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" The theme is that God generously gives gifts even to his enemies, not just to those who do his laws. God is a reckless giver, like a thunderstorm, giving blessings to all, not like a squirt gun which metes out a few dribbles only to those who fill His laws of tithing. I've always been impressed by the numbers in the parable of the talents-- the guy who got "only" 1 talent still got an amount of money worth some $400,000 in our dollars. That's one rich Lord!
I see giving, not as obedience to God's laws, but as FRUIT of love. (2 Cor 8:8-9 notes love and the greatest example of God's one-sided mercy-- Jesus Christ's self-giving life.) So I don't teach giving primarily as obedience. I help people to love God (they will when they see God's great, one-sided love), which builds up the relationship between us children of our loving Father. Then giving will ooze out all by itself, because people's joy and gratefulness grow. Note that the key
motivation of the Macedonians (2 Cor 9:2) was joy, not fear or desire for results (they felt they already had the results of faith-- namely God's grace). This takes time. But it's a joy to me to see people come into the church with almost zero commitment to God and his Word, but 5 years later God has created in them love, commitment, generosity, etc. Law doesn't do that- God's grace does. TWI likes the law better because you can scare people into "instant" results. But then people burn out (fear and greed burn out people). No one burns out or feels oppressed by, or fearful of, love.
When I teach about giving, I always emphasize God's grace, supply and generosity. I hope people will say, "Wow- God's so generous with everybody, I want to be like Him, too!" It's God's model of reckless generosity that we need to center on. I want to be like Dad. Psalm 103 is a good description of God's character and attitude toward me.
Some people are raised in settings in which they hardly hear of the love of God. One book that has helped many is Peter Gilquist- "Love is Now," because it reveals the truth of God's grace in the Bible. TWI talks about love, but it practices and teaches the opposite-- law. One strength of my Lutheran background is that it emphasizes the distinction between "law" and "gospel." "Law" is anything in the Bible that commands us to do something, and that correspondingly shows us how we have fallen short of God's commands (our "sin). "Gospel" is anything in the Bible that is God's generous gift to us, offered of his free generosity and not tied in any way to what we do or attain. When our thinking mixes the two, it always leads to spiritual bondage.
Gospel always must come first, be central and motivate and empower us to follow God in what we do. Almost everyone (especially young people) who teach the Bible emphasize the law-- what we "should" do. So they miss the refreshing good news of Jesus Christ and make it as oppressive as any religion. One of the main tasks of any preacher or teacher is to learn to emphasize the Gospel/Good news of God's enormous, one-sided generosity, love and mercy (mercy is treating us better than we deserve, which is God's specialty). This doesn't come naturally to us because we are so steeped in a culture in which we get paid for what we do-- whether it is grades from a teacher or paycheck from an employer. We experience so little real grace and unconditional love from people, that we have so little understanding of what it is like or how to do this ourselves. The second task is to balance law and gospel, emphasizing the right one in any given situation and to any particular person. Neither permissiveness nor perfectionism is healthy.
NOTHING WE DO CAN MAKE GOD LOVE US ANY MORE, AND NOTHING WE CAN DO CAN MAKE GOD LOVE US ANY LESS.
Where does reward for giving fit in? TWI sees it mostly as incentive. " If I give- then I'll get results-- and I want those results!" (and Way leadership uses it to try to squeeze out money for themselves.) The Bible sees it mostly as encouragement. Most of us feel, "If I give generously, I'll have nothing left." It's logical, since in the world's math it's $10 minus $10 is nothing." This leads us to be fearful of being in need, or angry at God for commanding us to do something that hurts us. "Harvest" is a way God encourages us to give. It's as though he's putting on arm around us, saying, "Now, my child, you needn't worry about being in need, I'll make sure you have plenty-- in fact, I'll even bless you extra to show you by my example how to be generous with others." He keeps mentioning grace (2 Cor. 9:8) not payback.
Many ex-Wayers are left with such a deep feeling of distrust after leaving TWI, that they are afraid to give again. I think it is important to give, even when I don't completely trust people to use it well. I am responsible to give, they are responsible to use it well. But others' poor stewardship can't become a reason for me to be a poor giver. Perhaps one temporary solution is to give to Christian agencies which work among people who have very basic physical and spiritual needs. (Such as World Mission in Pasadena CA which provides for the poor around the world and Wycliffe Bible Translators who bring the Bible to remote places.
Focusing on meeting requirements of "laws," as TWI does, only brings spiritual bondage, frustration and heartache. Freedom comes only from the Gospel, God's grace, unconditional love, and boundless mercy, which we find in Jesus Christ Himself. We love because He first loved us. We give because He first gave, still gives, and always will give us far more than we can ask or imagine.
Dr. John P. Juedes, C. 1998 empirenet.com/~messiah7
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