Another view on the Scriptural teaching of giving.
The giving of our substance, our time, our effort, our all (as the Thessalonians did) is both our privilege and our responsibility. Christendom has degraded giving to support Christian work by begging from all, whether from Christians or not. Widely-publicized misuse of Christian funds has blemished the gospel message in the eyes of many. Assembly believers have justifiably avoided Christendom’s abuses; possibly, however, we have relegated the subject to a place of less importance than the Bible gives it. Christian giving is important, expressing appreciation for our salvation and providing joy for the individual who gives.
The Provision For Giving
Paul teaches principles of giving in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Giving displays Christian love and care in practical ministration. Paul acknowledges that the Corinthian believers abound in faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence, and love (8:7); he desires that they would “abound in this grace also,” as did the Macedonians. In Romans 12:8, he exhorts, “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” The Hebrew writer says “to communicate (have fellowship) forget not” (13:16).
The Pattern For Giving
In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Christ is our pattern. None was ever as rich as He or became so poor, moving from the splendor of Heaven to the squalor of earth, from the place of seraphim praise to the place of being despised and rejected of men. Giving is Christ-like.
The Personal Aspect Of Giving
In verse 5, Paul refers to the Macedonians, who “first gave their own selves to the Lord.” Giving is self-sacrificing; its language is, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” whether it involves our talents, our time, our interest, or our substance. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, regarding the collection associated with the assembly, the teaching addresses “every one of you.” This obviously applies to married couples. Christian wives have both the privilege and the responsibility to place their gift in the basket on a Lord’s day morning. “Every one of you” means a wife does not leave her giving to her husband. A husband who requires his wife to leave the giving to him hinders his wife’s obedience and expression of support and exercise.
The Primary Position Of Giving
The Macedonians first gave themselves; this was their priority. The instruction regarding the assembly (1 Cor 16:1-3) gave their giving primacy; it was on the “first day of the week.” If giving is primary, then our planning for the distribution of funds, time, and interest in the things of God must hold first place. If we designate an amount of our substance for the Lord first, it will govern the balance of our budget. This is a crucial truth for young Christians: in honoring the Lord, set aside funds for the Lord first. The world attempts to indoctrinate us with the idea that we must have certain products and comforts. If we put the Lord’s portion aside to be used only for Him, we will have more manifold blessings in this world. Husband and wife should have a mutual prayerful exercise in their planning. Their giving will be purposeful, as implied by the statement, “lay by him in store” (1Cor 16:2). The result will be a “willing performance” (2 Cor 8:11).
The Proportion Of Our Giving
The question is often asked, “How much am I to give?” The amount will not be the same for all individuals but will be “as God hath prospered him” (1 Cor 16:2). Abraham gave to Melchizedek tithes of all (Gen 14:20). The Old Testament tithe was a measured amount. It was ten percent. This may provide us with a starting point. The New Testament, however, does not teach this measured amount but rather a liberality that is in keeping with God’s giving to us. Those with a large income and minimal family responsibilities may be able to give a greater proportion. Those with a smaller income and pressing family needs may give a smaller proportion. However, all will find much blessing and fruit if they give with a spiritual exercise. One has said, “If you want to be rich, give. If you want to be poor, grasp.”
The Pleasure Of Giving
Our giving should not be “grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). “God is well pleased” with the sacrificial giving of His people (Heb 13:16). He takes note of all, even to a “cup of cold water,” whose giver “shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt 10:42). For the future, we have the privilege of laying up treasure “where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt” (Matt 6:20). In the present, we will have a distinct pleasure when we assist in a work of God. What an added pleasure should we occasionally learn later that we helped meet a significant need!
The Place For Giving
Giving can be both collective (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) and personal (1 Corinthians 16:17). The giving described in the New Testament helped to support the work the Lord had commissioned (Mark 16:15). We know many assembly workers both in our home country and abroad who seek to carry out the Lord’s words, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20); this is the work we should be interested in supporting. We do not need to reach out to other evangelistic efforts that may not proclaim a plain gospel and do not teach the truths of the New Testament, particularly regarding assembly gathering. Why support these efforts when the need is so great among those of like mind in the Scriptures? Get to know those that are serving, even abroad, by way of letter or e-mail. Be exercised to pray about their work and seek to find out all you can about their labors. Do not limit your interest to only one area. Many who work in new areas need to provide financial assistance to the people they have reached with the gospel. They set aside funds in what is called a benevolent fund. These funds are used to meet medical needs, to provide for housing and the education of families, and to give financial assistance because of unemployment, and building projects associated with assemblies. Distribution to the worker can be earmarked for this purpose. Wise discretion in distribution is exercised by these workers. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he didn’t encourage their giving in order to raise funds for himself, but rather that “fruit … may abound to your account” (4:17).