Giving has been a hot topic since people rubbed their first 2 pieces of silver together, and the conversation continues today. People pick churches based on whether or not they talk about money or take an offering. People leave churches when they do talk about money. If that person is you, I'll wait here while you go cut out all the places the Bible mentions money. See you in a couple of hours.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the subject, however one thing is clear: Financial giving is a worship issue.
Calling yourself a Christian means you are identifying yourself as a worshipper of Christ. Many people qualify their Christianity by saying something like, “I like Jesus in theory,” “I was raised in a Christian home,” or “I’ve been to church a few times,” but none of these things makes a Christian. Faith and trust in the only Son of God makes a Christian. One of the best barometers for what someone really believes about Christ is whether or not they give financially. You can argue in circles, but monetary sacrifice is truly a great measuring stick for spiritual maturity and true obedience to God.
So, I’d like to cover some common questions on giving.
How much should I give? I’ve heard 10% thrown around before…
In the Old Testament, God specifically said that believers should give a tenth because it represented the most important portion of what they owned. The message was clear: God gets your best, not what’s left. The specifics of 10% have not carried on into the New Testament, but the principle certainly does.
For today, Paul tells us that we should give “in keeping with our income.”
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 makes sense. If you are a poor college student eating Ramen and ravaging your friends’ couches for laundry quarters, then giving will look different than for the lawyer sitting next to you in a church service. Also, notice in this verse that when the giving happens, it happens before any other expenses, it happens consistently, and it happens with everyone. If you are a poor college student and you are not giving, you’re sinning. If you are a doctor with a 6 figure income, and giving $20 a month to ease your conscience…you’re sinning. If that is you, you need to address the idol in your heart and turn from that idol to restore money’s rightful place in your life as a tool for the Kingdom.
Will God treat me differently if I give?
God blesses those that give. To be clear, you can never purchase favor from God, nor can you buy a miracle. You couldn’t pay God back if you robbed Oprah, Donald Trump, and that IKEA guy. God does not and will never owe you or I anything. However, as a loving Father that owns every atom in the universe, it’s understandable that He will entrust more to those that hold nothing back from His direction. He may bless the giver in a wide variety of ways; a deeper understanding of His love, an opportunity to bless someone in need, an unexpected check…but the reward will always be Kingdom-oriented.
... remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Acts 20:35
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
I give because I have to. God’s happy, right?
God cares a lot more about the heart behind giving than the amount and so do good pastors. If you give financially because you feel obligated to do so, you’ve already missed the point. If you give because a sermon or church leader made you feel guilty, keep your cash. Then ask yourself if your bank statement looks any different than the atheist on the bus, in the next cubicle, or across the lecture hall. Giving because you want to bless others and be used by God is what God is after.
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. Proverbs 11:24
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor 9:7
I serve at church so I don’t have to give, right?
Wrong. That’s like telling your wife that she should calm down about you cheating because you only bought your mistress expensive gifts but went to the movies with your wife. Our time and our treasure belong to God, and the sooner we realize that all we have is His, the sooner we can use those things rather than be owned by them.
Hasn’t the universal church abused money? (i.e. Tele-evangelists?)
This question is popular. My response will not be.
In the book of Mark, we see Jesus watching the temple attendees throwing in their financial offerings. It is safe to assume that the temple was corrupt at some level and that those who were giving had no guarantee that it was being used in a godly fashion.
Here’s the problem. Jesus doesn’t address that. He points out an old lady giving out of her poverty and says that her fraction of a penny is worth more in the kingdom than the hundred dollar bills falling from the rich folks shiny bill clips.
Does God care how your money is spent when you give? Absolutely. I believe there will be terrifying consequences for church leaders that squander offerings. But your job as a church-goer is to trust that God will oversee that process. I am proud to serve on a staff where money is handled wisely, and with the Kingdom at the forefront of our monetary decisions. If you can’t trust your leaders with your cash, you certainly shouldn’t trust them with your soul. Ask questions. Find out how your church spends. But don’t let fear serve as an excuse to walk in sin against a God who gave you everything you’ve ever touched.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on." Mark 12:41-44
Final Thought: Financial giving reflects the rest of our Christian walk.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1
Picture this: You buy your friend a Porsche (stay with me). You deliver it to him with the pink slip taped on the windshield. Your friend can’t believe it. The next day you go out together for a spin around the block. As he takes a corner at high speeds, you notice a pack of Trident in the console and ask for a piece of gum. Your friend replies, “Sorry man, things are tight.”
It’s hard to think about what Christ has done for us and not respond in gratitude. But many of us don’t consider it. We don’t consider the price paid for us. We don’t remember the death that gave us life. We don’t recall the memory of an innocent man beaten bloody for our mistakes. That same Jesus is asking His bride, the church, to cling to Him and abandon their empty trophies and trinkets. Jesus gave Himself as the ultimate model of giving, and we are to ask what God would have us give.
The simple fact is that Jesus has designed the local church to be a center of mission in their community, fueled and resourced by the people who call that church home. I often hear that people desperately want to make a difference. There is no more powerful force than a Spirit-led community of faith.
Christians are marked by their worship and giving is a worship issue. If you think you can hide behind your church attendance, low income, family history, selfishness, or other lame excuses, know that God sees past it. You look like a 3 year-old playing hide-and-seek behind your own hand. God is not fooled, and He passionately wants your heart.
He invites you to use what you have to play a part in His reconciliation of men and women to their Maker.