A timely and helpful article on a subject which does not receive the attention which it should.
Giving is a sensitive subject, and yet one in which the scriptures are not silent. Both the Old and New Testament provide principles and examples for believers today. Unfortunately, our thinking is often clouded and influenced by prevalent practices in society.
Instinctively, when we think about giving, our minds go to money. Yes, money is a significant component, but giving encompasses much more. For example, the Shunammite couple provided “a little chamber” for the man of God in which there was “a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick” (2 Kings 4:9-10). Then again, there was the widow of Zarephath who made “a little cake” which took all her resources (1 Kings 17:8-16). Both are illustrations of giving.
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22) is still relevant. God is looking for complete, and not partial obedience to His Word. After all, partial obedience is just disobedience. Giving cannot neutralize disobedience.
Giving money can be relatively easy. Consciously or subconsciously, it may be done in an attempt to compensate for not giving “ourselves” and therefore giving of “our time” to the Lord. In August 2001, Statistics Canada released a “National Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating.” Interestingly, last year, Canadians were volunteering less but giving more money than previously. So whether it is the secular or the spiritual, it seems we are more apt to give of our “treasures” than of our “time.”
Since we all face competing demands for our resources, what will impel us to a balanced approach to giving? Should not such truths as “ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20), and “He gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20) influence each of us? Yielding to the Lord is the only answer. Isnt that what happened to the Macedonians? Their liberality was because they “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Cor 8:5). Giving is reflective of the character of God. As children of God, family resemblance should be evident. As God gives “freely” (Rom 8:32), “richly” (1 Tim 6:17), and “liberally” (James 1:5), we should also. The example is clear.
Believers should give:
Sacrificially – The principle of 2 Sam 24:24 still applies “neither will I offer … unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing.” Divine appraisal measures not only what is given but the sacrifice made.
Systematically – “Upon the first day of the week” (1 Cor 16:2). The first day of the week is connected with resurrection in Matthew 28, remembrance in Acts 20, and responsibility in 1 Cor 16. How fitting for believers, upon the Lords day, to give to the Lord that which has been laid aside. Remember, giving is linked with worship. We are to both “offer the sacrifice of praise” as well as the sacrifice of our possessions, which is “to do good and communicate … for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15-16). Both are priestly service.
Proportionately – No amount is legislated, but the governing principle, “as God hath prospered him,” (1 Cor 16:2) applies. It should be “according to that a man hath” (2 Cor 8:12). Each one should give “as he hath purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity” (2 Cor 9:7) but cheerfully.
Giving through the assembly and giving personally are illustrated in the Word of God.
Giving Through the assembly
Giving to the Lord through the assembly should be a priority. That is priority, not exclusivity.
Dont think that all the money one puts in the offering is giving to the Lord. Expenses to maintain the building in which believers meet are ongoing. Each believer has a responsibility to contribute equitably toward expenses. Only that portion which is above expenses is giving to the Lord. When believers are away, they are not absolved from their responsibility. After all, when one goes on vacation, the rent/mortgage, utilities continue – you just cant ignore them; the same applies to the assembly.
Both 1 Cor 16:2 and 2 Cor 9:7 emphasize individuality in giving. It is “each one of you” (I Cor 16:2 RV). In personal giving, couples give unitedly but in the assembly it is the priestly responsibility of each individual to give to the Lord. Does this also apply to one-income households? Absolutely. Why should the wife give separately from her husband? It is Gods order; it is scriptural.
While personal giving should be the practice of all believers (young and old, male and female), it should not be at the expense of assembly giving. To the Galatians Paul writes “Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (6:6). Also, Paul was instructed that he should “remember the poor” which he says he was “zealous to do” (2:10). To Gaius, John writes that by practical support we are “fellow-helpers” to the truth” (3 John 8). To the Corinthians, Paul acknowledges three individuals who helped financially in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 16:17). To the Lord Jesus, godly women, ministered unto Him of their substance” (Luke 8:3).
Questions arise as to how best this can be accomplished. To aid believers, trust funds, such as Truth and Tidings Gospel Trust, have been established to allow the safe transmission of funds as well as provide income tax receipts.
The Distribution of Funds
While not all-inclusive, some areas for financially supporting the work of God are:
1. Commended workers – The principle is clear that “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14). While laboring in Thessalonica, on more than one occasion, Pauls needs were met from gifts received from the church of God at Philippi (Phil 4:14-16).
In addition to supporting their families, workers have additional expenses relating to the work of God such as renting buildings, printing, and traveling.
2. Other gospel related work – Childrens work, printing of texts, tracts, and magazines.
3. Believers who have special needs (Romans 12:13, 1 John 3:17-18, Gal 2:9-10).
4. Widows – Acts 6:1, 1Tim 5:3
5. Homes for the Aged/Long term care facilities – the care of elderly believers tends to be overlooked.
6. Building halls at home and abroad, disaster relief, and medical support in foreign fields are areas that should be considered for support.
7. We are exhorted to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Again, this is a case where priority should be given to fellow-believers, but not to the exclusion of others. Consideration should be given to contribute to worthy causes. This could include such things as research for cancer, heart and stroke, etc.
Relative to giving, one last item. A popular buzzword today is “Estate Planning.” Not only should believers support the work of God in life but also in death. As we plan for the future, consider the work of God. Wills are important. Believers should have a current will to ensure the orderly disposition of their estate. Why leave the government to determine what happens to your estate?
Is it right to leave it all to family members? Should not the Lords work have priority? Through a will, each believer has the privilege to further the work of God.
Let us not be guilty, and charged, as was the remnant, of “robbing God.” We should “honor the Lord with our substance” (Pro 3:9) knowing the unchanging principle that “them that honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam 2:30). David summarized it nicely by saying “all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” Owning the Lordship of Christ means He is Lord of all, including all that we have. Therefore why not use all for Him?