WHAT DOES HE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GIVING?
As Christians we want our view of giving, money and possessionsto be shaped by God’s Word and not our increasingly materialistic culture. During his ministry, Jesus Christ taught extensively about these things. He warned clearly about the danger of loving money more than God; he urged his followers to store up eternal treasure in heaven; he lovingly taught about the importance of being generous with what God has given; he commanded his disciples to make the growth of God’s Kingdom their priority in life.
So, here are some basic Biblical principles about giving, to keep in mind:
1: GIVE BECAUSE OF THE GOSPEL
This is the most important thing: we give in response to what God has given us. Christians are those who have grasped just how generous God was when he sent his Son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Christians are those who realise that, “though he was rich, yet for [our] sakes he became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). And so, in response to the immense generosity of their Father God, Christians will in turn be givers. The Bible calls on each Christian to give (2 Cor 9:7).
2: GIVE GENEROUSLY & SACRIFICIALLY
In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to give at least a tenth (‘tithe’) of all their produce to God, in joyful response to his blessings to them. Much of the tithe went towards supporting the priests and Levites who served them in God’s work.
So, how much should “New Testament” Christians give?
The New Testament never stipulates percentages but we suggest a minimum of 10%. After all, can you imagine the disciples (of Jewish background) giving less than their previous tithe after they became Christian? (i.e. after they realised that God had so generously given his only Son to die for them.)
But this 10% should be a starting point from which we then decide how generous we can be, rather than a legalistic figure to enforce. For very low incomes, 10% may be difficult to manage. But many in our church have been abundantly blessed, and could even afford to give a higher percentage.
A good approach is to aim to make your giving sacrificial in some way. That is, we give beyond that point of comfort. Because God’s giving to us was so sacrificial, it makes sense that our giving involves us accepting a personal cost. Our tendency may be to give only if there is something “left over” after we have decided what we want or need. It would be more in line with the Bible’s teaching to first consider your giving, even though that may mean a sacrifice of some kind.
Notice how Jesus commends the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44). Her two copper coins represented a far greater sacrifice than what the rich had given. Jesus knew who had sacrificed more.
When we receive new income, e.g. a raise; a bonus; a liquidated investment, the Christian’s response is not simply: “How can this raise my standard of living?” but “How can this raise my standard of giving?”
3: GIVE CHEERFULLY & RESPONSIBLY
We read in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a cheerful giver. According to Paul, the opportunity to give in support of the work of the Kingdom can be considered a grace from God. We can also give cheerfully knowing that generous, sacrificial giving is often God’s way of helping us battle materialism and it leads to us storing up (real!) treasure in heaven.
In some practical advice about a collection for the Jerusalem poor, Paul says: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Cor 16:2). This tells us that, as Christians, we need to plan ahead responsibly to give. This is an important matter and one which couples and households should discuss, pray through, plan for and act on. That’s one of the reasons why, in the fourth term, we’ll be asking everyone to make pledges as to their intended giving, over the coming 12 months. It will help us as a church plan our finances more accurately and it will help us all to be more responsible stewards of our own personal finances. Being intentional about giving ahead of time helps you to examine how best to allocate the resources God has entrusted to you.
So: You may have recently become a Christian. You may have joined St Peters in the last few months and have not yet thought this through. You may have been here for ages and have just “never got around to it”. You may think that the amount you can afford to give will make no difference. But the Bible is clear: every Christian should consider the gift of God’s Son and, in response, give.
Consider the great example of the impoverished Macedonians, as described by Paul: “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to theLord’s people.” (2 Cor 8:4) What a thought! These Christians pleaded with Paul to give their money away. For them, giving to the gospel cause was a privilege and a way of expressing their partnership in the growth of God’s Kingdom.