Hurry everyone, we’re gonna be late; we have to leave by nine o’clock sharp. Oh dear, where’s my wallet? Did anyone see my wallet? Oh wait, there it is – wonder if I have any cash for the offering? Wow, not much, but it’ll do for this week.” Ever find yourself slipping into this pattern?
I was in an assembly many years ago where a brother consistently pulled out his wallet, rummaged through a few bills and got ready as the “bag” approached. Maybe you’re more organized than that but still, you find yourself thinking “I give a lot personally, so I don’t need to put much into the collection this week.” I suggest that, while there are times we may forget, the scriptural pattern is different. The Word of God addresses our giving in the assembly. We are not left to do what we “feel” is best. Giving is a priestly service and, as with all aspects of our priestly service, God’s Word gives guidance – on how to give, how much to give, and where and when to give. Our obedience to this guidance will be a reflection of the depth of our appreciation for the One Who freely gave His all for us.
A Priestly Service
One of the great privileges we have as a believer-priest in a local assembly is to serve the Lord in giving. In Philippians 4:15-17, it is the local assembly collectively that communicates with Paul about giving. This was possible because of the priestly exercise of individual believers to give in their own local assembly. Their giving was appreciated by heaven as “an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”
Giving with a sense of obligation will not result in “a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” Obligatory giving of anything brings no joy or reward to the giver and no glory to God.
If we consider the Macedonian believers, we see that what made their financial gift a priestly service was that, according to Paul, “they first gave themselves to the Lord” (2Cor 8:5). Before we give financially, there must be a willing heart reflected in giving first of ourselves. We are not surprised at the heart of the Psalmist, in his desire to give back to the Lord as he reflects on the goodness of God in His deliverance, exclaiming “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?” (Psa 116:12).
We would appreciate that priestly service in giving is not confined to dollars and cents, but also embraces our time, talent, and already purchased material blessing. Our late brother Arnold Adams reminded us, “what is mine is yours if I need it.” The converse is also true. That’s how it is in God’s things. However, it is the financial aspect of giving that we are thinking of particularly. If what I give in the assembly is a direct reflection of my spiritual level of worship (and it is), where would I be on a scale of 1 to 10?
It is important to note that the apostle Paul links the monetary offering of the saints in 1 Corinthians 16:2 with “the first day of the week (each week).” The principle presented is that it was to be a regular part of the worship of the saints on the Lord’s Day. Also important is the fact that it was the saints who gave the offering – the general collection in an audience of believers and unbelievers has no Scriptural precedence. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov 15:8; 21:27).
A Proportionate Subdividing
I must confess that, with a fluctuating weekly, monthly, and yearly income, I was not as careful in earlier years in calculating the exact percentage that I felt before the Lord was appropriate for me to give each Lord’s Day. More recently, I have sought to practice and teach a more disciplined approach to dispersing what God has given. The principles of Malachi 3:10-11 are helpful. The Lord says, “bringing all your tithes into the storehouse.” No required percentage for giving is specified in the NT, but I would suggest (and it’s only that) that 10% is an appropriate place to start. If it was commanded under law, should we give less in this age of grace?
Paul says, “let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1 Cor 16:2). The expression “as God hath prospered,” while translated various ways, is passive and conveys the thought of “being led in a good way.” We learn that, as God’s blessings increase, so should the percentage we give. Again, while we give as the Lord has prospered, it would seem that our decided percentage should all be given in the assembly of God. I feel that personal and family exercise to help in the work of the Lord should be over and above the decided weekly giving in the assembly.
The Bible teaches that Christian giving should also be done in accordance with our means: “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).
A Personal Sacrifice
It is not always a matter of how much I give, but rather how much of what the Lord has so graciously given to me do I retain for myself? Our giving is to be inspired by Christ’s inexpressible gift (2Cor 8:9). Christ’s self-giving is the standard for our giving. Sometimes we try to get by with giving as little as possible to the Lord. The language of David comes to mind. “Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). Do you try to get by with giving as little as possible to the Lord, or do you give in view of the Lord’s costly sacrifice?
No portion is as rich in principles for giving in the assembly as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. The Macedonians gave:
Spiritually – In response to the “grace of God bestowed” (v1)
Selflessly and single-mindedly (v2)
Spontaneously: no outside pressure (v3)
Sacrificially: “first gave themselves” (v5)
I suggest that a genuine knowledge of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Cor 8:9) removes from our heart any reluctance to give in the assembly. Remember, it isn’t the amount that counts. When we hand over our meager resources to God as a sacrifice on the altar of faith and service to others, it is exciting to realize that, in His powerful hand, their yield is abundant. Someone has rightly said that “true value lies not in the possession of a thing, but in the use we make of it.”