The Practice of Giving
Pastor Bobby G. Ross
Charlotte, North Carolina
If a church is to reach out with the gospel at home and abroad, the members must be committed to the ministry of giving. Giving should not be regarded as a burden and should not become a substitute for other kinds of Christian service, but it is the responsibility of every Christian to participate in the grace of liberality. In 2 Corinthians 8:7 we read, "Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also."
Old Testament Giving
Throughout biblical history—from the tithing system of the Old Testament to the communal giving in the early church—there was always a requirement that the people of God give back to Him a portion of their money.
The church must encourage its people to work hard, to manage wisely, and to keep the purse strings available to God’s touch. The willingness of believers to give generously to God is also linked to their own prosperity. In Proverbs 3:9 and 10 we read, "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."
In studying the history of the Jewish people, it stands out in bold relief that both their piety and their prosperity could always be measured by their offerings to the work of the Lord. Along with every backsliding of the people—spiritually, physically, and financially—came neglect of this duty also, and every repentance was marked by its renewal. Their purses measured their religion.
If the children of Israel were so hilarious in their giving under the first covenant (Exodus 36:5, 6), what should the Christian do under a better covenant? When God’s people appreciate the grace revealed in Christ and are become partakers of His divine nature, they possess a spirit of unselfishness and liberality (see Acts 2:45; 4:34, 35). God is the greatest of givers. Those who have been born of Him take on the characteristics of their heavenly Father. Their time, wealth, abilities, and influence are willingly and cheerfully given back to Him who first gave to them. Their worldly gains are hallowed to the glory and honor of God. Their hearts drive them to part with their earthly enjoyments in order to contribute to the advancement of the heavenly kingdom. God instructed Moses in Exodus 25:2, "Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering."
New Testament Giving
What Paul Taught About Giving
Paul’s writings clearly teach tithing. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul discusses support of the preaching of the gospel and says in verses 13 and 14 that the preaching of the New Testament church is to be supported in the same manner that Temple worship was supported; that is, by the tithes and offerings of the people.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul says that every Christian is to tithe and that the tithes are to be brought to God’s house on the Lord’s day. If it is argued that the word tithe is not mentioned in this verse, let it be asked what proportion is taught here. Definitely a proportion is mentioned. Is it less than a tithe? What other proportion is taught in the Bible?
Paul enlarges on the principles of stewardship and tithing in 2 Corinthians 7 and 8, showing the relationship between church financial support and love, grace, purpose, cheerfulness, and other principles.
What Jesus Taught About Giving
In an effort to encourage the elders of the church at Ephesus to generosity, Paul quoted Jesus’ motive for giving: "In all things I gave you an example that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’" (Acts 20:35, ASV). This has been called the supreme beatitude. It shows that the blessings or rate of return on giving is higher than the blessing or rate of return on receiving.
Jesus minced no words when He spoke about giving. His statements were clear-cut. He spoke in terms that men understood. He used language that left no doubt as to what should be done with the blessings of life—spiritual, physical, or material. His teaching included such statements as:
Luke 12:48 "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask more."
Luke 12:15 "Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
Luke 12:23 "Life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment."
With these words Jesus was teaching that as the blessings of life are received, they are to be shared. The sharing of our assets so that others may become recipients of the better and more meaningful things in life is stewardship at its best. In other words, giving is living and living is giving. To the Christian the two are inseparable. In so doing, we live and give meaning, direction, dignity, and value to life.
George W. Schroeder states, "It is interesting to note that the teachings of Jesus not only give emphasis to sharing but also stress a proportionate stewardship concept for which there will be an accounting. Such teaching is both logical and practical. No person has any right to be a recipient of the blessings of God or of the trust of his fellowman without giving an account of that which he does with those assets. This all-inclusive type of reasoning in regard to accounting enables one quickly to see the ramifications of every blessing that he has received. In other words, Jesus taught that being a recipient of good gifts is not to be an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. They are to be used properly. The blessing that is given as a gift will, in turn, become a blessing in itself. Such utilization of our gifts creates a chain reaction for the good of our fellowman; but, if a person misuses his heavenly endowed assets, he causes God’s goodness to come to a ‘grinding halt’ in his life. He ceases to be a worthy steward. He becomes a liability to the cause of Christ. Undoubtedly, this condition is one of the things which Jesus was stressing when He said, ‘Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required’ (Luke 12:48)."
Jesus practiced what He taught. Paul gives us a glimpse of the magnitude of what the Master gave when he said: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2Corinthians 8:9). Christ gave His all.
The Christian’s Motivation for Giving
In churches where the pastor and teachers have taught what the Bible says, people have been motivated to give. The conscience of individual members becomes sensitive through the teaching of the Word of God.
Giving Is God’s Plan
God has a financial plan. It is recorded in Leviticus 27:30: "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord." Man has no right to take that which belongs to God and to use it for himself. Consider the following pronouncements from God’s Word: Romans 14:12—"So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God"; Luke 16:2—"give an account of thy stewardship"; 1 Corinthians 4:2—"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." If a man is a faithful steward in money matters, he is apt to be a faithful steward in other matters.
It is man’s privilege to give. Luke 6:38 says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Giving is the Doctrine of Stewardship
Man must see himself as a steward of God. The doctrine of stewardship must be taught in our churches. The word steward or stewardship must be taught in our churches. The word steward or stewardship occurs in the Bible some 22 times. The basic meaning is always "one to whom something has been entrusted for supervision and management on behalf of another." If we fail to understand this doctrine, we will not only fail in the grace of giving, we will fail in developing Christian character. The real purpose of stewardship is not to raise money but to develop strong Christian character.
Stewardship is trusteeship—applied Christianity—complete surrender to the will of God—the Christian use of property and talents. Christian stewardship is the acknowledgment of God’s ownership, the acceptance of our trusteeship of life and possessions, and the administration of them in accordance with the will of God.
Giving is the Command of Scripture
"Upon the first day," commands the Holy Spirit, "let every one of you lay by him in store" (1 Corinthians 16:2). Refusal to do what God commands is surely a sin. It was failure to do what God commanded him to do that cost Saul his kingdom, and brought him and his sons to an untimely death on the battlefields of Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1-6). It was their failure to do what God had commanded—failure to honor God with their substance—that brought upon Israel the curse of God (Malachi 3:8-10). Churches must continue to teach God’s financial plan and the duty of each individual to practice that plan.
Giving is a Part of Worship
Abel brought his offering to God as an act of worship. King Solomon "and all Israel with him" offered at the dedication of the Temple "sacrifice before the Lord" (1 Kings 8:62). Mary of Bethany brought her box of precious ointment (John 12:3). The poor widow cast into the treasury of the Lord her two mites (Mark 12:42). These offerings were accepted and approved by Christ because they were offered in humble worship.
Giving is a Manifestation of Grace
"We are not under the law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). That is correct. We can neither earn nor help to earn our salvation. But if our gratitude to God, under grace, is less than that of the Jew, something is wrong within us. One who seeks to justify a selfish course by quoting Romans 6:14 has a mistaken idea of grace, for one of the manifestations of grace is liberality (2 Corinthians 8:1, 2).
Jesus, in making the transition from law to grace, raised the old standard in every instance. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7). If the tithe is not now expected of Christians, Jesus lowered this one standard. If it is lawful for a Christian to spend more than nine-tenths of his income on himself, then he has a right to be more selfish than the Jew, and Christ has lowered a moral standard. Did He do that in this one case only?
The Christian under grace has a larger obligation and a larger privilege than the Jew under the law. For the Christian, tithing is not a duty under law, but a privilege under love. Grace does not do away with the law, but only with the sting in it. The tithe is not the ceiling but the floor. When one tithes his income, he does not go over the top—only the bottom. In the New Testament, tithing is the starting point in commitment. There are some who say that Christians are not now subject to the tithe. But Jesus never repealed this law of giving. It is true that in His death and resurrection the ceremonial laws were fulfilled. Under grace we do not sacrifice sheep or goats. His blood sacrifice on Calvary took care of all of that. But the law of the tithe still stands. Jesus did not destroy it. Then why did Jesus not say more about the tithe? It was because this practice was so embedded in the lives of the Jews that it was not necessary to do so. Why should He harangue people to do something that they were already doing? It was obvious that tithing was the custom in His day.
Where Does the Bible Teach Tithing?
From Genesis to Revelation—the basic principles underlying the doctrine of Christian stewardship are found in practically every book in both the Old Testament and the New. It is fundamental to all that the Bible teaches, and it underlies the whole biblical structure (see Genesis 28:20, 22; Leviticus 27:30-34; Malachi 3:10-24).
"Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 23:23). He went on record not only as endorsing obedience to the law of the tithe, but as considering it a duty.
Tithing did not commence with the Jewish economy and does not end with it. Before the Law was given Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). A law remains a law until it is annulled. For the law of the tithe to stand in this dispensation, it is not necessary that it be repeated—only that it not be countermanded in the New Testament. Instead of reversal, repeal, or abrogation, we find fulfillment and reinforcement.
Jesus had more to say about the right use of possessions than any other single subject. There are 1,565 references to giving in the Bible. At least 20 out of 30 of Jesus’ major parables, and one verse out of seven in the four gospels, relate to man’s attitude toward property. Jesus understood that the strongest force in this world to keep men from accepting the standard of values of the kingdom of God was and is mammon, or material possessions.
The New Testament brand of stewardship is far above and beyond the old Hebrew code. When the rich ruler inquired, "What must I do?" Jesus pointed out his fault: preoccupation with property—thus the injunction to sell all. Again, when our Lord was observing how (not what) the people were contributing to the Temple treasury, his one commendation was reserved for the poor widow whose two coins were all she had.
Therefore, as I use God’s Word as my guide, I find that the principles of tithing are valid as a starting point in my stewardship commitment. In giving a tenth as a minimum, I have been spiritually comfortable, knowing that I have not robbed God. I have been emotionally comfortable, knowing that no matter how large the budget, my share of the burden is simply God’s share of my income. Finally, I have been physically comfortable, knowing from experience that my family gets along better on the nine-tenths with God’s benediction than we ever could with one-tenth more without Him.
Giving should not be regarded as a burden and should not become a substitute for other kinds of Christian service, but it is the responsibility of every Christian to participate in the grace of liberality.
Denomination: Church of God
Author(s): Rev. Bobby Ross
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