How much shall I give?
Prior to the institution of the law, Abraham, following his great victory in the rescue of Lot, gave “tithes of all” to Melchizedek, the Priest of the Most High God (Gen 14:18-24). Additionally, Jacob pledged after his dealings with God at Bethel, “This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen 28:10-22). When the law was instituted, the Israelites were enjoined to “bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flock” (Deut 12:5-7). In the days of the public ministry of the Lord Jesus, the Pharisees are seen as giving tithes of all. “I give tithes of all that I acquire” (Luke 18:12, Newberrymargin). We can readily see that this would be the case as they were still living under the dispensation of law. But what of the dispensation inaugurated on the day of Pentecost, the dispensation of grace, of the Holy Spirit, and of the Church? Could this new dispensation of grace be placed under and within the constraints of external law? Consider carefully the words of the Lord Jesus concerning the dramatic transformation that was about to transpire. “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matt 9:15-17). It is a parable of dispensations. There can be no mixing of law and grace. The law was a temporary arrangement even as Paul told the Galatians: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal 3:19). Are there directives concerning giving in this age of grace? Yes! Paul, being borne along by the Holy Spirit, gave us a number of principles in 2 Corinthians.
Giving has as its foundation a willing mind. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2Cor 8:12).
Giving is to the glory of the Lord. “To the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind” (8:19).
Giving is proof of one’s love. “The proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf” (8:24).
Giving is like farming. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (9:6).
Giving is to be done cheerfully. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (9:7).
What God gives us is seed. A portion must be used for bread and a portion reserved for planting. “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” (8:10).
Paul shows us that giving is to be systematic and proportional (1Cor 16:2). He does not tell us the proportion; nor does he tell us the proportion in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15. But there he does give us the principles for this dispensation.
We must stress that Paul not only gives us the principles, he also gives us the pattern. Couched within this New Testament discourse on giving is the greatest example of it: “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” (8:9). And, again, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (9:15).
God is described as the “God Who Gives” (James 1:5). With Him, giving was not miserly; it was magnanimous. His character is to be displayed in His children.