About Giving

Introduction

I recently received an email from a church member of a church I was once affiliated with in the past.  The individual described how he wanted to share a wealth transference program that they were using at the church.  He said that the program was currently being used to fund a building project and bless the members of the church.  I felt sorry for the people at that church and I felt sorry for the individual that sent me the email.  Why?  I felt sorry for them because they were probably deceived.

The individual, i.e., the church wanted me to give money to support a building program.  I would have preferred if he had just asked me to do that instead of perpetuating a gimmick to get my money.  There are unfortunately many people that will fall for the wealth transference program.  There are many that will give more than they can afford in hopes of getting wealth transferred to them.  However, they will only succeed in transferring what little they have to this church.

Giving is a very controversial and misunderstood concept in the church.  Everyone seems to be vying for your money.  Many churches, ministries, companies, organizations, and individuals do all they can to get money from you.  The commercials on television entice you to purchase a particular product or give to a particular organization.  This is not to say that such is unethical or wrong in any sense, though some misrepresent their products and services.  The point is that they all come up with a gimmick to entice you to separate yourself from some of your money.

The church institution has taken on the practice of mass marketing and gimmick marketing so that you would separate yourself from your money.  Therefore, I think it is expedient that we discuss the concept of giving and especially giving to the local church.
Please note that the following is an excerpt that was taken from, “The Handbook of Bible Study” by Paul S. Karleen [Oxford University Press].  I also recommend that you read our study guide called, “Tithing, Giving, Sowing and Reaping.”

Giving – The Basics

I came across an illustration in one of my Bible study resources.  The illustration sates the following.

“Several years ago a thirteen-year-old boy who attended Mohawk Central School at Paines Hollow in New York heard an appeal for contributions to Santa Claus Anonymous, a group that provides gifts for unfortunate children that otherwise would go without Christmas presents. The boy struggled to save a few pennies for this purpose. On the Friday before Christmas vacation he had fifteen cents and planned to turn in this small treasure at the school that day. But a furious blizzard blasted the area that Friday and the school buses could not run. So the boy waded a considerable distance through deep snow to give his fifteen cents to the school principal. The principal found it difficult to control his emotions as he accepted the gift, for the youngster was one of the destitute children listed to receive a Christmas present from Santa Claus Anonymous.”

That is a very touching story and we can learn much from it.  First of all, regardless of our present financial situation there is probably someone worse off than we are.  Secondly, true giving comes from the heart and is not measured by the amount.  Consider the following scripture.

Mark 12:41-44 (NKJV) -- {41} Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. {42} Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. {43} So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; {44} for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

This is a very interesting situation, but a very important lesson is given.  It is all relative.  The widow put in more than the rich ones.  Why?  Did she give more because God looks at the heart?  Did she give more because God appreciated a poor woman giving even though she was financially lacking?  No.  Jesus tells us how she gave more.  She gave more because relatively she gave more.  She gave out of her lack and she gave all that she had.  The others gave extra (from their abundance).  What if they were to give all that they had?  Do you see how it is relative?  All that she had didn’t require much in the form of quantity. However, the same thing would have meant much money regarding the wealthy ones.

The Bible tells us much about giving.  We know first of all that God is a giver and He has been that way since the beginning of our time.  He gave us a place to live.  He fed us and clothed us even though we continue to sin against Him.  He gave us salvation through Jesus Christ.  God is indeed the greatest giver and we are made in His image.  We are givers too.  Consider how people respond when there is a natural catastrophe.

Consider the following scripture in regards to giving.

Acts 2:44-45 (NKJV) -- {44} Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, {45} and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

And,

Acts 4:32-35 (NKJV) -- {32} Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. {33} And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. {34} Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, {35} and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Giving is a normal part of human life and especially the Christian life.  We can give of our time, finances, talents, etc. to meet the needs of the people or to meet needs in general (of an organization for example).

I believe that there would be much less suffering in the world if all would give to those who are in need.  I think that there would be far less poverty if the churches would stop vying for bigger and better buildings and work to nurture more people and meet their needs.  This is not to say that there should be no church buildings, but the fact is that too much time, effort, and resources are spent on material things instead of focusing on the people.

Giving and the Local Church

Confusion

Giving money and possessions is one of the most practical, yet frustrating and abused areas in the Christian life. Every believer must make decisions as to how, when, why, and to whom to give. Yet many find that they do not have helpful guidelines in the form of teaching. And further, many assume things about giving—and getting—that are not in the New Testament.

  1. Should I tithe?
  2. How often should I give?
  3. How much is enough?
  4. What if I just can’t give?
  5. Is it all right to pledge or make a faith-promise?
  6. Who or what should I give to?

These are all legitimate questions that all believers must answer. Perhaps the best way to summarize this area of doctrine concerning the local church is this: every believer is obligated to give—but only in accordance with the teaching of the New Testament. I personally don’t like to use the term “obligated” because that implies a rule or law.  The Christian lifestyle includes a disposition of giving especially since the Holy Spirit dwells in us and that God is a giver. 

The following discussion necessarily deals with practical aspects of giving, since this is not a doctrine (there is a New Testament doctrine of giving!) that can be treated in the abstract.

Principles and Guidelines

Philippians 4:18-19 (NKJV) -- {18} Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. {19} And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:15-16 (NKJV) -- {15} Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. {16} But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

In Phil. 4:18–19 and Heb. 13:15–16 giving money is described as a priestly act, a form of worship, a response to the grace of God. Just as our public worship is to be directed by the Spirit, so also is our giving. Such giving is pleasing to God, as an Old Testament sacrifice might have been (Phil. 4:18–19). Because of the priestly nature of giving—a response to grace shown to individuals—no one can tell a believer how much to give, or where to direct his giving.

Supporting Teachers of the Word

One area of giving involves those who minister the Word of God in teaching as a vocation.  These are full time ministers of the Word of God. 

Galatians 6:6 (NKJV) -- {6} Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

Providing for teachers is an obligation for every believer, for essentially everyone is taught by someone. Unfortunately this kind of giving is often neglected. 1 Corinthians 9:11–15 describes this from another perspective.

1 Corinthians 9:11-15 (NKJV) -- {11} If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? {12} If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. {13} Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? {14} Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. {15} But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.

The one who ministers has a right to be supported, but that right can be forfeited, as in the case of Paul. It is important to remember that he never asked for money for himself, thus living in the Gospel ministry entirely by faith. Another aspect of giving to those who minister is found in 1 Tim. 5:17–18, where some elders may spend more time in ministry and do better at leading than others, and should be compensated proportionately.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NKJV) -- {17} Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. {18} For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Two important passages dealing with giving that also form a unit are 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 and 2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (NKJV) -- {1} Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: {2} On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul mentions the collections for the believers, and then resumes the same topic in 2 Corinthians 8:1, written a short time later. In 1 Corinthians 16 we learn:

  1. Paul taught the same principles in Asia and Europe. His teaching was universal (see also 1 Corinthians 4:17 for the same principle). Therefore these principles of giving must have universal application.
  2. The collection was part of ministry to the poor (collection for the saints).
  3. This is part of apostolic command.
  4. Giving is to be done by individuals.
  5. Money is to be put aside, as in a fund.
  6. There are to be no public collections for the minister (or saints).  What was put aside would simply be given.
  7. Giving is to be done out of what is earned already (v. 2), not out of what is anticipated.

In 2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15 we learn:

  1. Giving is a part of grace (v. 7), as opposed to the Old Testament tithe. Tithing (one tenth plus) was for those under the law. We are not under the principle of tithing today, since we are not under the law.
  2. Giving comes after seeking God’s will (v. 5). It is to be a matter settled personally between the individual and God after dedication to His direction.
  3. The Corinthians had on their own asked if they could give. The amount and time were not specified. Paul urges them to finish that commitment. The money is not for him. It is not a fixed, promised amount—that would violate 8:12. When the Macedonians had heard about the need in Jerusalem they had begged to participate on their own (8:4). Paul exhorts them to give, but not to him.

    The New Testament does not condone the requesting of money for one’s own ministry or other needs. It is not found here and would violate 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 and the free leading of the Spirit. God is quite able to supply the needs of those who minister in His name, by leading other individuals to give to those ministries He wants supported. Many have found that this works and brings great honor to God.

Supporting each other

Refer back to Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35 shown previously.

It is imperative to understand that giving in not presented as something we do solely to support ministry.  First and foremost it is presented as something we do to support others (specifically fellow Christians).  Consider what Jesus Christ taught.

Matthew 6:1-6 (NKJV) -- {1} “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. {2} Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. {3} But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, {4} that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Here we see that God rewards us when we are charitable to others.  The charity here is selfless, i.e., we don’t do it to be seen or to gain recognition.  We are charitable because we want to help.  It is from our heart.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NKJV) -- {7} “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, {8} but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. {9} Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you. {10} You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. {11} For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

Again we see the importance of giving to support those who are in need.

  • Matthew 5:42 (NKJV) -- {42} Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
  • Matthew 19:21 (NKJV) -- {21} Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:5-7 (NKJV) -- {5} Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. {6} But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. {7} So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • 1 John 3:17 (NKJV) -- {17} But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Conclusion

Giving is part of the lifestyle of a Christian.  We give because it is in our hearts to give and to help others.  We also give to support the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We do this by supporting those who teach the word of God.  These may be more than pastors, bishops, evangelists, etc.  There could be someone in your workplace that ministers in his or her own way through a Bible study, feeding the hungry, and more.  Don’t merely look at established organizations because there are many ministers of the Gospel that are doing what they can on their own.

Giving is not an obligation for the Christian.  It is a way of life for the Christian.  God is a giver and Christians likewise should practice the art of giving.

  1. Should I tithe?  Tithing is of the law and Christians are not under the law.  It is therefore up to you to determine how much you want to give and when you want to give (See 2 Corinthians 9:7).  If you want to give ten percent than do so.  If you want to give 20% than fine.  If you want to give 5% then good.  Give according to your prosperity and what you have decided to give in your heart.
  2. How often should I give?  Give as often as you like.  It is your decision.
  3. How much is enough?  Again, you decide how much you want to give.  The point of enough is perhaps irrelevant because the Christian has a lifestyle of giving so giving will therefore never end.
  4. What if I just can’t give?  If you can’t give then ask God to bless you.  God is the provider of seed to sow (See 2 Corinthians 9:10).  It is important to know that you should not feel obligated to give.  Do what you can when you can and be blessed and be a blessing.
  5. Is it all right to pledge or make a faith-promise?  We should give based on what we have and not what we hope for.  This means that if you have $10 then you can at least give $10 and not $15.  To say that you will give a certain amount based on faith that you will receive that amount in the mean time is not good practice.  You are making false promises in that case because you don’t know what will happen between now and the time you have to make good on that promise.  Give according to what you have.  It’s OK to pledge because that will most likely be based on a regular income.  If that income should change then you will either be able to give more or less depending on what you have.
  6. Who or what should I give to?  We saw in this discussion that you can give to help those who are in need and to support a minister who teaches the Gospel.  I know that we typically look for charities that will provide a tax reduction.  However, that should not drive your giving practices.  You can give to your local church as it ministers in various ways to the community.  However, the Bible specifically identifies the poor and needy as well as the minister of the word (as opposed to the organization).

We should not be pressured into giving through ploys of the institution.  We should not feel guilty if we cannot respond to a program of our church that demands that you give in order to be blessed.  You may simply not want to give for whatever reasons.  You may have already obligated your money or gift for another purpose.  Your giving is between you and God so don’t allow anyone or anything take that ministry of giving away from you.

Forcing people to give eliminates this important part of God’s leading.

Don’t forget the needy in your own family, neighborhood, and environment.  Don’t forget the needs of the true ministers of the word of God.  Don’t forget the work of your local church to support it.  Be blessed and give.  Amen.

 

About Giving
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
December 11, 2005