Over my dead body

Published 10:39 pm Friday, May 17, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

It is good to have at least one friend that challenges your thinking. My friend Bishop E.C. Okoye from Nigeria, Africa is the only friend I ever had who could effortlessly challenge things that I take for granted.

I was telling him once about how “old so and so” had been so generous and willed a massive part of their estate to the church I then served. I was so pleased with them for having done this.


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His response? (In a thick Nigerian accent) “Brotha’ what is so generous about telling God, ‘You can have my money over my dead body.’” I tried to rebut him but stumbled to find a good argument.

“Brotha’ why not give the money to those in need for the work of God and see the blessing now?” That little conversation radically altered my view of that and similar matters.

What about fundraising? Do I really need to buy a cheap candle for more than five times its value in order to donate some money to my church? If I am a member of the church and I believe in the work of the church, shouldn’t I be inclined to support the church willingly? Do I really need to be baited into contributing to the work of an entity to which I belong by having a trinket waved in front of me?

At my nephew’s school in Georgia, the children are challenged (pressured) into asking (begging) their parents to buy severely overpriced pizzas from the school on Friday afternoons to raise money for various projects. If I believe in the school’s work and mission and I know that the school is underfunded for whatever reason, shouldn’t I want to contribute?

What I’m concerned about is the response I often hear, “Well, I’ll give but I’ll only give if I get something in return.”

When I was a child — and I’m not that old — that attitude would have been considered selfish, self-serving and wrong. What happened to a generous action being its own reward?

What about the simple practicalities involved? If I buy a candle for $20, and the church gets a dollar, shouldn’t I just donate $5, instead? I would save myself $15, with which I could buy three candles and the church would get $4 extra.

I apologize if I’m advocating putting fundraising companies out of business but frankly, I’ve begun to question the integrity of agencies that make such a profit from peddling fundraising products to nonprofit agencies and churches. When did benevolent societies and educational institutions become fair game for the free market?

They should be off limits to greed. Instead, they should be the places we elevate the mind and exalt the spirit.

Don’t give to God over your dead body. Enjoy the blessing now. Don’t only give for what you’ll get in return. Don’t you know that the measure of your giving is the thermometer of your love?

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.