God is the Great Giver. He held nothing back in remedying our great need (Joh 3:16), and the riches of the Lord Jesus were willingly relinquished for our benefit (2Co 8:9). As His image bearers, a deepening relationship with God and an expanding appreciation of His interests will provoke us to reflect this aspect of His character. The great gospel enterprise left to the Church needs givers! Indeed, every gift is an acknowledgement of its source in God, and these practical expressions of divinity in our lives can take on many forms; but this is a series about money. Is our/your money available for God’s service?
First and Best
Abel was the first to give an acceptable offering. He gave the first and the fattest of his flock. Abraham gave Isaac, his one and only, illustrating that there was nothing that he would hold back from God. Examples like these highlight that any gift is first to the Lord and is an act of faith that He who has supplied the gift in the first place (1Ch 29:14) will continue to meet the giver’s needs in the future (Php 4:18-19).
Regular and Willing
Regular and willing gifts were a part of the tabernacle system (Exo 35:21-29). The generosity displayed during the construction of the tabernacle led to Moses’ instructing them to stop, as too much had been given (Exo 36:6). The Corinthians were instructed to regularly give (1Co 16:2) and that it was to be from willing hearts (2Co 9:5).
Giving – How Much?
Under the Mosaic Law, the people brought a tithe (10%) of their income to the Levites annually. This was provided as wages for their service in the Levitical system of worship. This was by no means a limit, as there were many other offerings that were given out of devotion to God. Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians was similar. They were to give generously and cheerfully according to and beyond their means (2Co 8:4). There is no prescription as to how much we must give but these and other Scriptures would show that the principle of tithing (not necessarily 10%, but a defined amount) is a good guide for us still. A prayerful, reasoned decision should be made, taking into consideration your income and basic needs, as to what will be regularly committed to the Lord. This should be the floor on which our generous and cheerful giving, beyond our means, stands. The Lord knows our financial situation and takes note of our sacrifice on His behalf. The actual amount may seem insignificant, but a little boy’s lunch in the hand of the Lord fed thousands. Mary surely could have given just a little of her ointment, but she worshipfully poured out all of it in devotion to the Lord.
Giving – To Whom?
Spiritual service should be met with a physical response. The priest who ministered on behalf of those within the Levitical system received the meat of the offering for his physical and family needs. Likewise, Paul teaches that those who minister to us spiritually should be rewarded monetarily (1Co 9:13). He speaks of this in various contexts and includes not only those labouring in the gospel and teaching but also those elders who do so as well (1Ti 5:17). Israel’s spiritual health was tied to the support of the Levites. The revivals of Hezekiah and Josiah began with collections for the treasury of the temple. Jehoshaphat’s reform was brought about by Levites sent out to teach (2Ch 17). God’s indictment of the people in Malachi’s day included a call to give (Mal 3:8). The lesson is clear: If I want to see the work of God move forward, I need to generously support those labouring with the Word of God. Further, when I am blessed spiritually, I am responsible to respond with a physical blessing. Saul would not seek Samuel’s help in finding the lost donkeys without first ensuring he had a physical blessing to return for any help Samuel would provide. Am I burdened about the spiritual state of my country? Of my assembly? We need to pray, but we are also told to give!
Poor and Needy
The Scriptures are replete with our responsibility to those who are poor and needy. The Mosaic Law had provisions to account for their care. The apostles were keen to look after the widows (Act 6; 1Ti 5) and enjoined Paul to remember the poor (Gal 2:10), the thing he was eager to do. The care of the stranger is expected as well. James considered a Christian life lacking in care for the widowed, orphaned and hungry as worthless and dead (Jas 2:15-16). Our readiness to meet the needs of our fellow Christians and the needs of our communities is an opportunity to declare the character of God in our lives and an integral support to the spread of the gospel.
How do I give, let alone more? I am a student in debt. We are a couple struggling to meet our bills. Remember, God knows your needs. We all can benefit from careful, prayerful considerations of our expenses. Decisions can be made that involve personal sacrifice for the benefit of the kingdom of God. It may mean not buying a coffee or forgoing a restaurant meal in order to contribute to God’s kingdom. It may mean a smaller house and an older car, but our Lord is the One who noticed the widow’s mites and met the needs of the widow in Elijah’s day (Luk 21:1; 4:26). Giving is a learned behaviour. We naturally take, so parents must teach their children to give. Model giving to your assembly. Provide money to others to pass on to the Lord’s work, and in so doing, teach them to divide the Lord’s portion from the money they earn.
God does not need us to give. As already intimated, all good gifts come from His bountiful hand and He does not need us to help Him. However, He enjoins us to give that we may be like Him and partners in His purpose. He likens our gifts to seeds; if we sow sparingly, we cannot expect a large harvest, so we need to sow bountifully (2Co 9:6). He is welcoming us to share in the joy of giving. The Lord Jesus taught Paul something all givers have learned: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Act 20:35 KJV).