Key Principles on Giving for Believers
1. As Christians giving is a matter of simple obedience.If you aren’t giving, you’re unfaithful, disobedient and rebellious. God calls non-givers “robbers” and “thieves”. Some say that the Tithe is an “Old Testament” expectation and that God no longer requires or expects a tithe in this age of Grace. In fact, God never abolished the tithe; in fact, even Jesus noted that the Pharisees were still practicing the tithe (which he affirmed them for doing), but that they were tithing for the wrong reasons. In the New Testament, He raised the standard under Grace as I referenced earlier with the examples of murder and adultery. So you may not give, but let’s not pretend that such a state is sanctioned by the Lord or that you are right with the Lord if you aren’t. It is inconsistent with the Christian’s life of grace and generosity to refuse to give to others who are in need and God’s plan has always been that giving is done first and best through the church.
2. Biblical giving is not about portion, but proportion.
In the Old Testament, it was between 23 1/3% and 33 1/3%. They had more than one tithe. So I’m cool with going back to those days, how about you? :-) In the Old Testament, the tithe was a “regulation” — a constant reminder that God owns all, He is perfect, we are not and that we will ultimately give account to Him because none of us could keep the law in order to attain salvation. In the New Testament, we give from our hearts – not from our heads. If it’s figuring out to the exact penny what you should give and not a penny more, you are completely missing the point. The Christian life is not about rules and regulations and keeping records and making notes. It’s about wild abandon and personal sacrifice and unabashed joy and insane generosity and crazy love and enthusiastic worship and supernatural priorities. The little widow lady gave all she had and she was needy! She gave more than the rich guys with their trumpets and fanfare because they had plenty more at home. Sadly, there are very few in today’s Western church who have followed the example of the widow who gave her two mites and have given out of their need. How many of us have every made a genuine sacrifice of our standard of living in order to give? In the end, most of us will always find a way to do exactly what we want to do. If we really wanted to obey, to be generous, to sacrifice — we’d find a way to do it one way or another. But most of us are quite comfortable doing what is easy rather than what is right. And as I learned as a child, “Right things are seldom easy and easy things are seldom right.”
3. Giving is a spiritual discipline that will deepen your joy, faith and maturity.Small children are innately selfish. Grandmothers aren’t. There’s a reason. Take away a child’s toy and she’ll cry. Let an adult see his home burn and often they’ll say, at least we’re all safe. That’s what maturity does. If we are still clinging to every shiny bauble and trinket that God has rolled our direction and then with pouty lips and an impudent face shake our heads in defiance or run and hide when He asks for it back so it can be given to others, then we are making a statement about where we are in terms of maturity. God does not bless us to increase our standard of living, but to increase our opportunity for giving.I have never counseled someone with financial difficulties in nearly 30 years of ministry who had been actively tithing. Almost also, financial counseling was the result of over-spending, putting non-emergency items on credit cards, living above one’s means, refusing to save for emergencies, covetousness or a combination of all of the above. The discipline that comes with a planned system of giving spills out to all the area of our lives. It gives us a plan, categories, direction, goals, accountability and requires thought. When we think enough about our finances to set aside the firstfruits to the Lord, we’ll also give thought to the remainder of what we have. We will live better on the 90% by living God’s way than 100% living by our terms.
4. Blessings follow obedienceI dare you to try this. Start giving. This week, plan on being a blessing to someone. Write a check, buy someone some tires, pay for someone’s lunch anonymously this afternoon, leave some groceries on a doorstep, send a missionary a check, give to the property fund of your church, help some kid in seminary who’s working to go into the ministry – and watch what God does in return to you.
I dare you to try tithing… Even if you’ve never tithed before…test God and see if you don’t live better. I’m not teaching a prosperity gospel. You can be the most generous person in the world and still go to hell. God is not obligated to make you rich just because you’re generous. I’ve known people who wrote huge checks for spiritual projects and then went bankrupt several years later – and still had no regrets. But it is the height of arrogance to demand that God make our life easy and to answer every self-centered prayer or to get frustrated with Him when life is hard when on this most basic of issues — how we handle our money and whether or not we are generous toward the OWNER of all that we have — we ignore Him, refuse Him what is His and insist on clutching every speck of material gain as if it will always be there for us.
I close this serious out now with the challenge to seriously think about how you handle your money. I know people don’t like to talk about sex, religion, politics and money. But if you hold a Biblical worldview, you’ll know that God very specifically has standards and expectations for each of those areas. The wise believer, searches the Scripture and is not satisfied with “just getting by” or “staying on the good side of the line”, but instead — confidently trusts God’s plan and His promises so that we will be positioned to enjoy His best blessings for our lives and all that we do.