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Dear Pastor, How Do We Agree on a Pledge Amount?

Roots

Earlier in the campaign I received a question that I want to share with the wider Trinity family as we make important financial decisions about our ROOTS campaign. 

Dear Pastor,  How do you suggest handling differences of opinion (in a marriage) about the pledge amount? I know we need to be on the same page, but I fear we are not... Please advise. And yes, I’m praying.

This is great question, isn't it?  Many of us feel it.  Here's my response.

This conversation is so good for your marriage. It has been for mine. There are principles from Scripture to guide us that may not be immediately obvious.

First off, our use of money is through and through a matter of trust.  I'm glad you're leading with prayer.  One of the ways God helps us grow in faith is by calling us to be wise stewards of all He has provided. He, Himself, is the True Steward, True Wisdom to nurture us through practical decisions like these.  Let me offer you my short answer and then a longer one. 

Short answer:  I would be sensitive to the weaker conscience in the marriage. Walk by love. Perhaps commit to the lower number for now but ask if the two of you could continue to have the conversation again at a later date.  You might say, "Let's commit to your number but can we pick up this conversation after Thanksgiving or Christmas and evaluate it then?"  "Sacrifice" may feel different to each marriage partner.  Talk about what you're both willing to sacrifice and walk together.  Build trust.  Submit to one another in love (Eph 5:21). If the breadwinner wants to give more, then they may need to show the other partner how they intend to provide.  If the one who does not earn an income wants to give more, then they may need to be willing to get a job.  How much are you both willing to sacrifice in your lifestyle to be generous.  Does your generosity effect you lifestyle or does your lifestyle effect your geneorsity?  In that space, the gospel is working to make our boast Christ and His Kingdom, not our dependence upon material possessions. 

Longer Answer: This situation resonates with the opportunities for gospel growth in the Roman and Corinthian churches in the first century.  Consider the example of food offered to idols in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.  In Romans 14 the Jewish Christians (the weak) in Rome avoided non-kosher food because of their long-standing cultural patterns and traditions. On the other hand, the Gentile Christians (the strong) rightly understood that nothing is unclean to the Lord as Christ was the fulfillment of the food laws.  "Eat it! Enjoy!" the Gentiles said (and they were theologically correct).  But breaking with long-established cultural tradition was hard for the Jews and they couldn't easily accept that.  Into this division Paul exhorts the strong not the weak to bear with the weaknesses of the weak and walk in love.   In 1 Corinthians 8 you see the the parties taking completely opposite positions concerning food offered to idols.   The Gentile Christians didn't want to eat food offered to idols because of their long-standing cultural associations with pagan worship, but the Jewish Christians said, "Eat it! Enjoy!" The Jewish Christians in this case are the strong.  They were theologically correct because "there only one God" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6), and the Gentile Christians were the weak (because they had not worked out the implications of the gospel into this area of their lives).  Yet again Paul said to the strong -- not the weak -- bear with the weaker brothers or sisters in the matter and not wound their conscience.

In both cases Paul exhorts the strong.  He also implies that the conversations were not over between them.  In fact, where there needs to be confrontation, he encourages it (Gal 2).  He presents a road map for how to help one another see their blind spots.  Paul implies that we are to lead with love and be patient on matter with which may cause division and consider the implications of the gospel.   The one with concerns may worry more readily but also may have legitimate fears (wisdom does not mean be foolish, but it always means walk by faith in practical decisions.)  

Take your time with one another.  Be loving toward them and patient, for love is the key here.  Practically -- again I don't know nuance and details or how much you may differ -- it seems that the win-win is for the strong to humble themselves (even though they are "right" in the sense that generosity is commanded by God (2 Cor 9)), listen to the concerns of the weak, and be willing to continue the conversation with them without tone of self-righteousness (for it may soon be that the other spouse finds themself in the strong position and bears with the weak on another issue -- blind spots to the gospel abound).  Unlike the clear issue of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, generosity is matter of the heart.  The Bible assumes that if we were to give 10% in the Old Testament we should be glad to offer even more, and yet do so "as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:8). 

We see a core principle for giving in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, "[6] The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. [7] Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. [9] As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (ESV)

Here a principle (as we would expect) but a tension immediately follows (which is surprising).  The principle: "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."  God gives you money because he is generous, but he is generous so that you will be generous with others.  And if you are generous with others with your money, God will likely be generous with you.  Likely.  Not certainly.  There is no hint of prosperity Gospel here. God's generosity to you may not include the same standard of living you once enjoyed but it will be for your good; your self-awareness, growth in grace and intimacy with Christ is of infinite wealth. 

After the principle we see the tension.   [7] Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.... and yet ... "[8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you."  Paul enters into the tension we feel.  In your case, one of you sees the "grace abounding" and the other feels reluctant, disingenuous, or fearful.   Those are where the conversations need to happen.  And that is difficult if both feel that the other is not listening.  

So, take your time with one another.  Settle on the lower financial number for now and continue to have the conversation, asking the Lord to help you see how much he has given to you so that you might be generous to others. It could be that you offer other ways to give that don't involve family finances to make up for the beautiful longing your heart has to be generous. It could also be that you decide together to give more later in the campaign. If so, in the end, you've built trust and deepened your love for one another along the way.

Hope that helps.  Will pray.  Let me know if I can be of any further help to encourage you both in loving one another well. You're such gifts to one other. 

In Christ,


Rev. Blake Altman
Lead Pastor


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