Allow me to be clear right up front. This particular blog entry is intended for those who consider themselves to be committed Christians who’s desire it is to follow God’s word for their lives. My congregation will often hear me refer to 3P giving as our biblical model for giving to the church. I didn’t come up with it. I got it from Andy Stanley out of North Point church. But I think it addresses New Testament giving pretty well. The 3 “P”s are priority, percentage, and progressive. That is first we make our giving to the church a priority. What we give comes off the top. We give to the church up front before we pay our bills and before we go spending on entertainment for the weekend. The idea behind this is God is not interested in our leftovers. He wants our giving to be an up-front commitment. Second, we make sure we have a set percentage of our income that we are giving to the church. This is often where the concept of a 10% tithe comes into play. The 10% tithe is more of an Old Testament concept, so I encourage my congregation to choose a percentage that challenges their faith a little and then give it joyfully. Following this plan there are some who give even more than 10% of their income. The final “P” is to remember to make our giving progressive. That is as we continue to give and as we continue to live biblically with our finances, our margin tends to grow, and we can look to increase our percentage giving.
But what do we do when financial hardship hits as has been the case for many during this pandemic? Well my short answer is you keep right on giving. There is no reason why you still can’t practice 3P giving even when times are tough. I’ve always been inspired by the sacrificial giving of the Macedonian church referred to in 2nd Corinthians 8:1-3. We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord. I think we can safely say we are experiencing a “servere test of affliction” right now, but like the Macedonian church we can still be regular 3P givers. It might look a little different, but we can still do it. I can think of three ways it might look for you.
1. You step out in faith and keep on giving the same amount even though what you are taking in has decreased. That’s not necessarily a recommendation for everyone but depending on your financial circumstances it might well be something you can commit to and feel good about.
2. You keep giving at the same percentage you always have but because you have less coming in, the amount you give will also be less. For some of you this may be what you are faced with doing. Especially if you already didn’t have much margin between your income and your expenses before your financial hardship hit.
3. You still give regularly off the top, but you have to temporarily decrease your percentage. If your situation is dire, this may be a choice you have to make.
But I still can’t stress enough the importance of regular 3P giving. I put it right on par with reading your bible and prayer as vital spiritual disciplines in your Christian life. I can remember the earlier years of our marriage when we weren’t making much money at all and God had also clearly led us to international adoption as the way He wanted us to have a family. In trying to save up for the significant cost of adoption the temptation was there to cut back on our 3P giving. I’m so glad we didn’t! God provided in some truly miraculous ways for us to adopt our two children. Perhaps that’s another blog for another time. It was such a joy to see God provide for that specific need as we continued in our faithful giving. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God honors our faithful giving. Perhaps especially so during difficult times. The need to give to the church is as great now as it has ever been. May you keep up your faithful giving during this time, and may you know the blessings God will continue to bring.