This is probably one of the most misunderstood areas of Christian living. It is also the area most frowned upon by those outside the church. Throughout church history there have been examples of abuse in finance, so there is ample reason for criticism.
In the true Church, the Body of Christ, it is important to give wisely, to support the growth of the local church.
Our financial giving is an important part of our commitment to the Church. Through our giving we are reinforcing our faith in the missionary vision God has given us, and declaring to God our faith in His ability to build His Church.
We give – He gives abundantly (this is not a formula).
The word of God gives clear practical guidelines for our giving. It suggests:
a) How to give (the attitude in which to give)
b) How much to give
c) When to give
d) How the gifts should be used and distributed
e) God’s response to our giving
Let’s study together what the Scriptures say about ‘Giving’. I encourage you to look up the Bible verses quoted to see what God is saying to you.
There are three distinct forms of giving:
In Genesis ch. 14 vs. 18-20 is the first recorded mention of giving a tithe (or a tenth of the income), which Abram gives to Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of The Most High God. (see also Psalm 110 vs. 4; Hebrews ch. 5 vs. 6; Hebrews ch.7)
In Numbers ch. 18 vs. 20-24 God provided for the Levites by declaring that they would live on the tithes of the Israelites.
Note: a) Tithes are the Lord’s provision
b) This is a lasting ordinance
Thus, the spiritual and administrative leaders were to be supported by the tithes of the people.
Furthermore, the Levites were also instructed to give a tenth of their income. The giving of a tithe is a worshipful act, giving unto the Lord. (see vs, 25 – end of chapter).
God reinforces His instruction for the giving of the tithe to the Levites in other places e.g. Deuteronomy ch. 12 vs. 19 and ch. 14 vs. 27-29.
God’s desire is to show care and generosity to those whom he had chosen to supervise the spiritual and administrative welfare of Israel.
The result of neglecting God’s desire is spiritual poverty and administrative confusion – see Malachi ch. 3 vs. 6-10. Especially note the words: ‘I, the Lord, do not change’. God’s intentions and desire are for all time, and therefore, have as much relevance to us as they do to the Israelites.
Tithes in the Old Testament are seen as the source of support for those who provide spiritual and administrative leadership.
What about the New Testament?
In 1 Corinthians ch. 9 vs. 1-18 Paul’s declaration that he will preach the gospel ‘free of charge’ (vs. 18) does not devalue his argument earlier in this chapter that those who work tirelessly for the sake of the gospel should receive a material reward, which, while not eclipsing the reward of simply preaching, nevertheless allows the preacher to develop and follow his ministry without financial restraints.
Similarly, in 1 Timothy ch. 5 vs. 17-18 the instruction for the support of Elders is made clear, while the safety guard for any Elder overstepping his mark is likewise made abundantly clear in the verses following (vs. 19-20).
The New Testament re-affirms to show care and generosity to those He has chosen to supervise the spiritual and administrative welfare of the Church. (Perhaps some of Paul’s words prophetically indicate that the church is often to fail in this responsibility).
Again, the result of neglecting God’s desire is spiritual poverty and administrative confusion.
2. Free-Will Offerings
In Exodus ch. 35 vs. 4-9 an offering is taken to enable the fabric of the tabernacle to be constructed. (see also vs. 20-29) Note in vs. 21 and vs. 29 it is clear that all who were willing brought an offering, and therefore this type of offering was called a Free-Will offering.
Exodus ch. 36 vs. 2-7 continues further with this. The implication here is that these free-will offerings were over and above the tithe, and demonstrated the desire of the people to give out of their excitement for what God was doing amongst them. Some may deem this sacrificial giving, but it was a sacrifice born of pleasure not of duty.
Consequently, there is a beautiful conclusion to the work of constructing the Tabernacle. (see Exodus ch. 39 vs. 42 and 43)
A similar excitement can be seen in the re-building of the Temple in Ezra ch. 1, and the need for fabric, furnishings and talents are met by free-will offerings.
Alms are kind acts of giving to the needy. Matthew ch. 6 vs. 1-4, read in the King James version uses the word ‘alms’, and clearly demonstrates the attitude in which we should give.
The giving of alms also brings to mind Acts ch. 3 vs. 1-10 (King James version), where the ability to give is balanced by the ability to pray that those in need will be healed and restored to the ability to help themselves.
Read and meditate on these two passages:
2 Corinthians ch. 8 vs. 1-9
2 Corinthians ch. 9 vs. 6-8
Note the unexpected equation – overflowing joy + extreme poverty = rich generosity. (The joy of the Lord is my strength)
Paul describes how the Macedonians excelled in the Grace of giving, i.e. they were under no pressure to give.
Note – they gave themselves first to the Lord – ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’
Thus, we give out of God’s abundance. What we possess belongs to Him. Therefore, it is easy to give:
a) Generously, cheerfully
b) Faithfully (Luke ch, 16 vs. 10-12)
c) Believing God will provide