In 1980 I wrote a book on tithing which Billy Graham, John Stott and the Archbishop of Canterbury all endorsed. It is still in print today (the UK edition is now called The Gift of Giving).
When I first became the minister of Westminster Chapel in 1977 I was interviewed by a magazine. They asked, ‘What do you perceive are the weaknesses in British Christianity?’ I replied that, ‘If I had to make a guess I would say two things: (1) British Christians don’t tithe [it seemed to me] and (2) there seems to be a weakness in evangelism in the UK.’
I spent over half of my adult life in Britain. My heart is here. My best friends are here. And when J.John, one of my closest friends, asked me to write this appeal letter, I jumped at the opportunity. The main reason is because the weakness I had perceived some 40 years ago in evangelism has been in great measure dealt with. Not by the Billy Grahams of this world but rather by the J.Johns of this world and the global growth of Alpha.
As for the matter of tithing, or giving, I learned one thing: people don’t give because they have not been taught – or motivated to. Simple as that. Tithing had not been taught at Westminster Chapel but when I introduced it, lo and behold, the giving doubled, tripled and quadrupled. Why? They had not been taught.
I had a head start when it came to the matter of giving. I was taught it by my dad. And he held to a rather unusual point of view: you cannot out-give the Lord. Stranger was his notion – which I could only call a mathematical conundrum – that if you give God what is rightfully his, what is left for us to spend goes just as far as the amount we started with! And my dad actually said, ‘Son, sometimes I think it goes even further.’ In a word: you cannot out-give God.
You can’t. I dare you. Not by trying it for a while but by a lifetime commitment to give God what is his.
My father was not a millionaire. But we always had ‘enough’. We lived well. True, some – but not most – do become prosperous from such a commitment. But in any case all will be blessed at two levels: spiritually and materially. Why? Because God honours faith. Without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).
There will be no tithing or giving in heaven. What we do along these lines we must do now. When you stand before God you will not have a single regret over what you gave him. Yes. Him. That’s the point. If I give to Philo or to J.John’s ministry I regard it as giving to God.
At our Farewell Service at Westminster Chapel – at which J.John spoke – I will never forget one man who stood in the queue to say goodbye. He wanted to tell me one thing: ‘Thank you for teaching me to tithe.’
Think of that! It made the whole evening for me.
Here’s the thing. When there is a world-class British evangelist preaching the gospel here and around the world, we should not only feel justly proud but thrilled. So thrilled that we would support J.John and Philo to the hilt.
You cannot out-give the Lord. ‘Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work’ (2 Corinthians 9:6–8, NIV).
Louise and I have been supporting this ministry consistently for the last twelve years. I urge you to do the same because you would be giving not to a man or an organisation but to the Lord and sowing into a ministry that communicates the good news of Jesus Christ to lost people – what could be more important than that?