The Gospel & Our Giving
The gospel of Jesus Christ motivates our giving. Giving is motivated not by looking at another ‘law’ for a minimum amount I’m constrained or required to give, but by looking at Jesus’ person and work for the maximum amount I’m freed to give (Luke 16:1-13; Rom 15:26-27; 2 Cor 8:7-9; 9:13; 1 Tim 6:17-19). When we look at the gospel, we find at least four principles that guide our giving.
We give REGULARLY to prepare ourselves for Christ’s mission.
You are blessed with material resources to serve the gladness of the nations in God (Ps 67:2, 6-7). Some saints will have greater needs than others at various times (Acts 2:45; Tit 3:14; 1 John 3:17), the poor will always need the gospel preached to them (Gal 2:10), the church’s spiritual leadership will need adequate provision (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17-18), sending churches will need to be sustained (1 Cor 16:11; Phil 4:14-19; 3 John 6), the mission of the church to the ends of the earth will continue until Jesus returns (Matt 28:18-20)—and all of these require regular giving through the local church (Acts 4:35; 1 Cor 16:2; 1 Tim 5:3-18) and as the local church (1 Cor 16:6; 1 John 3:17-18). Is regular giving to the local church a priority for you and your family? How do you give regularly (bi/weekly, monthly)? If you do not give regularly, why? A lack of discipline, self-control? A lack of trust in leadership? A need for reconciliation? Particular idols to which you are clutching? Do you lack funds and have a genuine need, which the church can help meet?
We give SACRIFICIALLY to reflect God’s generosity in Christ’s mission.
God himself was infinitely generous when he sent his own Son to die for our sins. His generosity toward others in need led to sacrifice (2 Cor 8:9). The nature of our giving should be the same, meaning that our giving requires a lifestyle of generosity and sacrificial adjustments (Luke 21:1-4). In the words of C. S. Lewis,
I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard of the common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities [giving habits] do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our giving expenditure excludes them. (Mere Christianity)
Thus, a few questions we should ask ourselves in light of God’s generosity: How can I so manage my affairs to give more in seeing the gospel reflected through the generosity of God’s people (2 Cor 8:1-4)? How can I simplify my living (1 Tim 6:8)? What can I share (Eph 4:28; 1 Tim 6:18)? What can I sell in order to give (Luke 12:33; Acts 2:45; 4:34)?
We give PROPORTIONALLY to display God’s wisdom in Christ’s mission.
In 2 Corinthians 8:12, Paul says that the people's giving was to be "according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have." Christ crucified is foolishness to the world but is wisdom and power to those of us being saved (1 Cor 1:18-25). If our view of money flows out of God’s wisdom in the cross, then our giving will look just as foolish to the world, especially when we give in proportion to how God prospers us. Proportionate giving is not linked to a minimum requirement like a 10% tithe. Tithing was inextricably linked to the Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system under the Mosaic covenant, which Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus established a new covenant that made the old covenant obsolete (Matt 5:17; Heb 8:13). That doesn’t mean the Old Testament’s teaching on tithing has no meaning at all for the Christian. We’re still obligated to be good stewards of our possessions in honoring the Lord’s work generously—even the heart is the same (e.g., Exod 25:2; 35:5)—but the manner in which we honor the Lord’s work since Jesus was crucified and raised is different. Proportionate giving means that the more God prospers my pocketbook, the more money I will give to the needs of his people and his mission. Is this your heart in making money and giving money? Do you earn merely to have, or earn also to give (Eph 4:28; 1 Tim 6:18-19)?
We give CHEERFULLY to rejoice in Christ’s mission.
"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7; cf. also Acts 20:25; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:2). This fourth principle doesn’t mean that we give only when we feel cheerful, but that cheerfulness comes with trusting a generous God. Cheerfulness comes with realizing God is for my joy in giving to Christ’s mission. Cheerfulness is born when free grace moves us to be generous as our heavenly Father is generous toward us. For the Christian, giving doesn’t minimize joy, leading to disappointment over less buying power in this life, giving maximizes joy, leading to further gladness over the Lord’s faithfulness to his people and mission.
(a) Giving regularly, sacrificially, proportionally, and cheerfully does not mean that we create needs by giving to meet other needs. Each of us must consider the reality of our circumstances. Even Paul advises in 2 Cor 8:12-13, “If the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need.” The point is that our abundance at any particular time shouldn’t mean higher living while needs persist but higher giving that needs are met. Of course, one area we must pray for the Lord’s help is in guarding us from turning what is really abundance into a norm.
(b) Wealth in itself is not evil. There were a few wealthy Christians in the first-century church (Acts 17:4; 1 Cor 1:26; 1 Tim 6:17). Paul only warns them not to fall in love with their wealth but to find their sufficiency in Christ (1 Tim 6:16-18). Many times, the Lord would use the wealth of other Christians to bless the church in some way. For example, it was the wealthy who were able to sell their houses and lands in order to provide for others (Acts 2:45; 4:34). Paul commended the sister, Phoebe, because she apparently used her wealth to serve and bless others with it: “she was a patron of many and of [Paul] as well” (Rom 16:2). Also, not everyone sold their houses, but some kept their houses, like Pricilla and Acquila. Apparently, their house was even large enough for the church to meet there regularly (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19). And when Paul exhorts the rich in 1 Tim 6:18, he simply tells them “to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”
(c) Giving will not look exactly the same for every person. Some will sell their houses in order to give proceeds to others while others will keep their houses in order to share them with others. Some will give large portions as God prospers them while others give small portions in times of lack. What’s important is that we first “give ourselves to the Lord” (2 Cor 8:5), “that we might be filled with a knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Col 1:9-10). The Lord will guide us in giving in ways that please him.