Last month I gave us six reasons from the Bible why we should be giving to our local church (click here to read that essay).
This month, I want to address how much we should be giving.
I’m guessing a good number have been taught to give ‘tithes and offerings.’ A ‘tithe’ is considered 10% of one’s income (some churches insist it’s required). ‘Offerings’ are above and beyond our tithe – ‘freely offered’ for missions, building projects, etc. For example: if you get paid $3,000 month, $300 (10%) would be set apart from your paycheck and given to the church. Offerings you’d pray about it and decide what you could give above your $300.
The ‘tithes and offerings’ principle comes from the Old Testament – when God’s people were part of a theocracy. In that arrangement the priests acted as the primary governing agency for Israel. And through their governing, tithes were required from the people to operate the nation and its religious system (Leviticus 19:9-10; 27:30-33; Deut 14:22-29; Ex. 23:10-11). The total required wasn’t 10%; it was far closer to 25% . For the Israelites, offerings (voluntary) were above and beyond that percentage (Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9).
Under the New Covenant and this present age of the local church – it’s different. There is no set ‘tithe’ because Christ’s church is scattered all over the globe. We’re not tied to one geographical kingdom and physical temple. Jesus foretold of this reality as He taught (see John 4:21-24; Mark 12:17). Christians now find themselves paying taxes to Uncle Sam, Czar Putin, Queen Elizabeth, etc.
When it comes to giving in this present age we’re not given a law, we’re given a guideline – to give generously, freely and cheerfully. I get this from II Corinthians 9:6-7 — “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Evidences we’re participating in the New Covenant are new hearts – new desires, priorities, values (Jer. 31:31; II Cor. 5:17; I Peter 1:3-9; Gal. 6:15). Our motivation for giving doesn’t come from an external “you must.” Rather it comes from an internal “I want to!” Desiring and giving generously, freely and cheerfully to Christ’s church confirms we’re a new creation, we have a changed heart. We may have to learn how best to do that over the course of our lives, but the amount isn’t established by an external law that comes with a threat if not kept. The amount is established by what we freely desire to give to the Lord.
Here are two faulty understandings of the II Corinthians 9 guideline:
Faulty idea #1: The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver. I’m not presently cheerful, so I won’t give – because I’m not going to be a hypocrite!
Not giving because we aren’t cheerful raises the question: How come we aren’t? Are you in Christ Jesus? If so, are you not free of eternal condemnation (Romans 8:1)? Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39)? Those whom Christ saves always have a source of joy (II Cor. 6:10; I Thess. 5:16; Phil. 4:4)!
Consider the following example: the churches of Macedonia… in a great ordeal of affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor [of participation in the support of the saints… – II Cor. 8:1-5
If you’re not giving because you don’t have a cheerful heart, repent, and rejoice in the Gospel!
Faulty idea #2: I give whenever I feel like it — freely. Donating spontaneously and sporadically shows I’m hearing and responding to God.
The idea of ‘freely’ in II Corinthians 9 isn’t whenever I feel like it. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal. 5:23). Being ‘filled with the Spirit’ means being under its on-going stabilizing control, not erratic, unpredictable behavior or belief (Eph. 5:15-21; 4:14; II Tim. 3,4). Disciplined giving is evidence of the presence and control of the Spirit far more than giving only when we feel like it. That doesn’t mean we will never give spontaneously to a missionary or church project. But spontaneity is not more ‘spiritual’ than disciplined giving.
If you read the first installment of this essay, you saw six reasons why you should be giving to your local church. As a married man I learned a long time ago the difference between an external ‘must’ and an internal ‘must.’ When Dawn and I celebrate our anniversary each June I ‘must’ do something special to observe and celebrate our marriage. That ‘must’ is not an external law; it’s an internal ‘must.’ In love and delight I ‘must’ buy her flowers!
The same goes for giving: I must give generously, freely and cheerfully, for Christ has my heart; he has my life; and he does so, having bought it with His precious blood.
~ Pastor Tedd Mathis