God is the Giver of every good gift. He also gave His only Son so that we may have life. It is a privilege that we, as God’s people can follow His example, becoming more and more like Christ, as we learn and grow in the area of giving.
It is therefore important for us to understand the model of giving that God has given us in His Scriptures. There is no indication that we are to give only when our hearts are moved. Giving is something that needs to be done on a regular basis as part of our normal Christian life. Giving is very much like prayer. We don’t say we will only pray when God moves our heart, and this is also true of giving.
So what guidelines has God given us?
God owns everything
The earth is the lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.Psalm 24:1
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.Psalm 89:11
‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.Haggai 2:8
every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.Psalm 50:10,11
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.Romans 14:8
From these verses we can tell that the heavens and the earth, all the creatures of the earth, and all the silver, gold and material possessions on the earth are the Lord’s. We also belong to the Lord. We were ‘bought at a price’ (1 Cor 6:19). He paid with His own Son. As His created creatures we are His, and now we are also His treasured possessions.
We belong to the Lord, and have been appointed as stewards of His riches, so we need to use the possessions He has given us in a way that He would like us to. As nothing we have comes from ourselves, and all that we own is His, we are to give joyfully for His glory and the blessing of others.
God gave an example
God is the perfect example for us to follow. And when God gave, he gave His Son. He gave His best.
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
God has also given us the perfect gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has entrusted us with them to serve Him and His people.
It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.1 Corinthians 12:11
When God gives, He gives His best. And He has set an example for us to follow. When we are to give, we are to give our best, and not the leftovers. We need to learn to walk in the footsteps of the Great Giver. Whether it be our possessions, our money, our time, our bodies, our gifts, we are to joyfully give God the best.
We should always give with the right motives, not to show off before others, and not because we want to get something in return. Rather we need to give with the following motives:
We do not give because someone has forced us to, and we don’t give out of fear and manipulation. And we don’t give to ‘someone’. We give to our God because He has done great things for us. We give because He first gave. We give to Him with gratitude because everything we have comes from Him.
Gratitude towards those who have fed us spiritually
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to give their tithes to the Levites, the priests. In the New Testament, the Scriptures follow the same principle. God has said that those who work for the Lord, should receive support for doing so.
In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.1 Corinthians 9:14
We see the same principle at work in Galatians 6:6 and 1 Timothy 5:17. The local church has the responsibility to financially support the full time workers of that church. Out of gratitude to God, and with gratitude for the work they day, the local church should supply the finances of the ministers of their local church.
In the Scriptures we see regular giving, which was done weekly or monthly (Num 18:21-32, 2 Cor 8:2). In the Old Testament we see that the regular giving went to the Levites, the priests. And this is still a good principle to follow, to give one’s regular giving to the local church for the Lord’s workers.
Love and compassion
God also cares deeply for the poor, the orphans and the widows. God wants His people to give generously to the poor. We are also to support those Christians in need in other places (2 Cor 8,9), and those who are in need in the local church.
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.Psalm 82:3
A passion for evangelism
We should also be passionate about seeing the Gospel spread and the lost saved. The church in Philippi set a great example in this regard. The church repeatedly sent money to Paul so that he could continue evangelizing in Thessalonica. We should be guided by our gratitude to the God, thankfulness for His workers, and a passion for the advancement of the gospel in reaching the lost.
God has also commanded us to give. Giving is mandatory and not something we do as a matter of preference (1 Cor 16:2, 2 Cor 6:7, Heb 13:16). So we choose to give in obedience to God, following His Word in gratitude for all that He is given us and entrusted us with.
As Christians we are to give generously to the poor, the needy, to good causes and to evangelism. But it is important to bear in mind that the local church and its ministry are always to be the first priority in giving. A good system to use is to give regular gifts to the local church, and free will offerings to the needy and other good causes.
How do we give?
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.1 Corinthians 16:2
Paul instructed the Corinthians to give in a regular, systematic and proportional way. We can see therefore that giving is not a one off action. But a well-planned regular activity. We should give:
- Cheerfully, 2 Cor 9:7 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.
- Sacrificially – the attitude with which we give is important. We do not give in order to impress other people. It is also not a matter of how much we give, but rather how much we are willing to sacrifice in order to give. Giving is a matter of the heart.
2 Cor 8:3 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
- Willingly, Exodus 25:2
- Honestly, (not deceptively like Ananias and Sapphira) Acts 5:1-11
- Excellently, 2 Cor 8:7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
- Regularly, systematically and proportionally 1 Cor 16:2
The size of one’s wealth should not be a factor in whether someone gives or not – people in extreme poverty gave (2 Cor 8:2), and the poor widow gave generously (Luke 21:2-4). Rich people should also give like Zacchaeus did (Luke 19:1-10). Because giving is primarily a matter of attitude, not of personal wealth.
How much do we give?
How much we should give, and whether the Old Testament tithe is still a rule for us to follow is a hotly debated topic amongst Christians. So it’s worth taking a look at what both the Old and New Testament have to say on the matter.
In the Old Testament tithes were mandatory. And there was not one tithe, but three. So people in the Old Testament never gave ‘the’ tithe, but rather ‘tithes’. The first tithe was to support God’s workers, the Levites (Lev 27:30-32, Num 18:21-32). And the Levites also tithed to the priest Aaron (Num 18:26-28). The second tithe was a tithe of fellowship, for God’s people in general to celebrate (Deut 12). The third tithe was for the needy, specifically foreigners, orphans and widows (Deut 14). On top of tithes, the Israelites also gave freewill offerings (Ex 35:29, Ex 36:5,7) and gave money for special projects like the building of the temple (1 Chron 29:17,18) and the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 2:68,69).
In the Old Testament we see God’s people giving regularly, freely, sacrificially, obediently and generously.
The New Testament neither affirms nor refutes the practice of tithing. Even if we agree that tithing in the sense of giving 10% is not repeated in the New Testament, we can see that the principles that underpin the Old Testament are still applicable in the New. God’s people are still to give towards God’s workers, celebrate fellowship and give to the needy. The New Testament Church gave regularly for the Lord’s work and His workers, and they also gave to the needy among them.
Other principles we see in the New Testament are that God delights in sacrificial giving (Luke 21:2-4). He desires that we give so that we might be free from the love of money so that we can serve and follow Him (Matt 6:19-21). Our relationship with the Lord should always be more important than money and possessions (John 12:3).
So whatever amount we decide to give regularly (it may be 5%, 10%, 20% or 90%), we decide before the Lord, and then we stay faithful to it. And then also remembering that we can give freewill offerings as well.
All that we are and everything that we have is from God. He has temporarily made us custodians of the things that we possess. This means that we can joyfully use them for His purposes. Money does not possess us. God has also shown us through His own example, as He gave His Son, that we are to give our best out of love. We can also follow the example of godly Christian leaders like David, who gave huge amounts of his wealth for the construction of God’s temple. Giving also has a positive effect on our spiritual life, as obedience brings spiritual blessing, growth, and takes away our focus from material things and places it on heavenly things. Giving protects us from the love of money (1 Tim 6:10), and turns our hearts to heaven so that we can lay our treasures in the eternal rather than the temporary (Matt 6:19-21).
Although money is often the focus of our giving, God has also entrusted us with many other things like time, meals, spiritual gifts, talents and resources, that we have the privilege of using generously for the glory of His kingdom and the blessing of His saints. As we give to others, we give to the Lord (Matt 25:31-46), so let us not give the leftovers, but rather let us give generously and joyfully, the firstfruits, the very best of what we have.
How to give joyfully to the Lord by Dr Franklin S Jabini