Last time we looked at the verses often used to teach that Christians should tithe. I don’t think you can make a biblical case that Christians are obliged to give 10% of their income to their local church, but that doesn’t let us off the hook to share our financial resources.
Why is important to give?
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. … so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always” (Deut 14:22-23).
Though the OT tithe doesn’t apply to NT Christians, the motivation is the same – giving teaches us about God. It is about putting God and God’s priorities first and learning to trust Him.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11).
How we handle the money God has entrusted to us reveals our spiritual condition. What is important to me – God’s kingdom or my pleasures? My checkbook provides the clearest answer to that question.
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20).
It’s not that saving for your retirement is bad. It’s that saving for your retirement, which you may not see, without saving for your post-retirement, which you certainly will see, is foolish.
To whom should we give?
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Gal 6:6).
“[T]hose who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1Cor 9:14).
“Share with God's people who are in need” (Rom 12:13).
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt 25:35).
We’re expected to provide for our “instructors” (which includes your pastor(s) as well as any other teachers or ministries you benefit from), the poor among God’s people (probably starting with those in your local church), and any other believer who has a need.
How much should we give?
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9:7, empasis mine).
“For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Cor 8:3).
“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).
“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matt 5:42).
The NT leaves the “how much” up to the individual, but it also presents a model of radical generosity. That kind of generosity cannot be described by a simple percentage. For someone making $30k/year, 10% takes a big chunk of his living expenses. At $100k/year, though, giving 10% leaves you three times as much money as the first guy grossed. “Giving ‘til it hurts” is a different amount of money depending on your situation.
How do we give?
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9:7, emphasis mine).
God doesn’t appear to be asking for an amount we have to tear away from ourselves but that which we can give willingly. That said, if the goal is radical generosity, I think we’ll find that how much we give will grow over time.
Some no doubt don’t give out of selfishness, but many, I think, are not stingy but fearful. As we give and find God faithful our courage grows and we can give more cheerfully. Progress may be slow, but we should make progress.
“For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
Nancy brought this one up last time. I don’t think the message is that God will give you material blessings in relation to what you give, but there are many kinds of blessings in both this world and the next, and God has said that our generosity will affect His generosity. It’s something to keep in mind.