The global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more people in need around the world. Health concerns, scarcity of goods, job losses, decreased wages and more have stoked fear, hoarding and other concerns. In these days, even the church isn’t immune.
On the other hand, the pandemic could help purify the church from fear, idolatry, consumerism and materialism and lead us back to representing the Lord in our generosity.
In the book of Genesis, we see that all God made, including possessions, is good. Unlike ideologies that find the material world inherently evil, biblical Christianity recognizes the goodness of creation and the material world as well as our call to use creation and material possessions to point to the Creator.
And although God’s creation remains good, sin has misdirected how we use and enjoy creation, resulting in greed, pride, materialism, coveting, theft and more. Our brokenness in the area of generosity hinders the church from fulfilling its mission and leads to more people in need physically and spiritually.
The church suffers when fear and idolatry inhibit generosity. In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus warns us to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (KJV) Jesus is not forbidding surplus. He is speaking against unused surplus that many times accompanies fear.
The pandemic will help us discover who we truly serve — God or fear.
As human beings, we often obsess over possessions. In his book, Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship, Craig Blomberg writes: “The very poorest of us strive desperately to acquire at least enough to survive. Those with only their basic needs met naturally want more, in order to provide a cushion should times get worse. The middle class remains discontent because they see people with so much more. The affluent compete with their peers in countless contests of material one-upmanship. The truly wealthy worry about how to invest their resources, because mere savings may not keep pace with cost of living increases.”
It is in times like these that we are tested. The pandemic will help us discover who we truly serve — God or fear. It will help us discover who we trust in — possessions and self or God. Many times in a broken world with broken people, instability turns to fear and fear turns to a lack of generosity.
Members of the church are to give freely of their resources to support those who teach the Word, to cover the expenses of the church, to provide relief for the poor and to advance the gospel. This responsibility does not diminish during a global pandemic. In fact, this global crisis presents us with an opportunity to focus our attention on our global mission, to proclaim Christ to the world through word and deed.
Generosity is always a struggle for churches and individuals. During a pandemic, the temptation to withhold is escalated. Perhaps we fear the lack of money more than we fear God and desire to be obedient to Him.
But it is also possible that the church could be broken and repent during this time from the sinfulness of idolatry, fear, consumerism and materialism. The church could return to making disciples that see giving as an act of worship. Our giving practices could be refined back to their biblical foundation, specifically focusing on the needy. The church could reimagine new heights and ways of representing Jesus in our generosity.
But this will only happen if God chooses to keep His hand on us and we choose obedience to His word and have faith in His promises.