“He wants us to be living, loving, caring and committed sons…
God does not find any pleasure in mere mathematical devotees”
We saw in Part one of this article that tithing, in the strictest sense of having to give one tenth of our ‘increase’ (that means monetary earnings for most of us), is not an obligation that anyone is under in this New Testament era. However, giving of our substance and increase in some way is most certainly an expected standard practice for all Christians. Jesus said, “When you give…” not “if”. The difference between tithing and Christian giving is not merely one of percentages; rather it is all a question of heart. In the second part of this article I want to answer this simple question: “How should a Christian give?” In other words, what is the heart of this matter all about?
How should a Christian give?
All New Testament references (and there are many) that in any way mention the topic of Christian giving never specify actual amounts. When we read such passages we find that instead the focus is consistently placed upon the heart with which we give. The reason for this should be obvious to those who know and love God. The New Covenant is a covenant whereby we are made sons (and daughters in a broad sense) of the living and loving heavenly Father. He wants us to be living, loving, caring and committed sons who are ever growing in His likeness. For this is His will and desire. God does not find any pleasure in mere mathematical devotees. The very idea of bringing into a life of sonship (for that is what this Covenant is all about) formal rules concerning our giving is the exact opposite of a relationship founded and built upon love. Love by very definition has to be expressed in some way spontaneously from the heart. It cannot be properly expressed by mechanical fulfilment of obligations. So what does our Father want from his sons who love him? To be like Him of course, in all His goodness and character; the Lord is kind, He is gracious, He is giving, generous and often surprises us with His so perfect gifts. I suggest that this is what God wants us to be like in our giving.
I realise of course that there are more things we can all give than simply money and goods. We can give of our time, our strength and prayers etc. Much of the heart principles I am about to mention can equally be applied to our giving in these other ways. However, we must not be turned from the fact that one of the ways in which we should be giving is quite basically of our material goods/money. The New Testament mentions this topic in many instances. Six ‘hows’ of our giving have emerged as I have briefly thought on some of these passages. No doubt the list could be lengthened but we will just look at these six.
1 & 2. Willingly & Cheerfully
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2Cor 9:7)
‘Willingness’ and ‘cheerfulness’ are clearly linked together. If I give something solely because I feel pressured into doing so it is unlikely that I am going to be overly cheerful about such an act. Genuine obligation is one thing, and every one who names the name of Christ should fulfil his necessary obligations in all areas of life, but being pressurized into doing something will not cause people to feel great joy in their giving. The Christian who walks after the Spirit and not after the flesh will never coerce people into giving their money for anything. Never allow your will to be subject to men’s persuasions on this matter. It is not the place of any man or woman to endeavour to bend your will in this way. We must be subject to the Will of God and when He Wills that we should give this or that and we do so in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit we will find there a great deal of cheerfulness. I am not saying that we must always experience some ‘special’ prompting from the Lord before ever we give anything. Giving in this sense is a general command. Therefore each one that is born of God should find an inborn ‘willingness’ and desire just to give.
Much is preached about giving our all, and I say Amen to that, but if you do not find an honest willingness and joy in giving much then I think it is better to either give a little or even not at all. Such would be better than to render oneself miserable thinking it to be the more spiritual thing to do. Of course, if you do not find it within you to give willingly and cheerfully in any instance then it is time to question whether you really have the Spirit of the Father dwelling in you!
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Mat 6:1-4)
I realise that there are occasions when for purely practical reasons we can’t always give anonymously, but God sees our hearts. I would suggest that as far is sensibly possible we should try to give in absolute secret but where we cannot for some practical or security reason (e.g. cash in the mail is not always a good idea) then just make it as low key as possible. No great fuss, no great announcement that you’re going to do such and such, just pass it on in as quiet a way as possible. Never take a thought for whether such and such knows about your generous contribution. Never be concerned with pleasing or impressing men. If you act out of this motive you will lose all heavenly reward. The approval of our heavenly Father alone is all we need seek. One day the Lord will make plainly known all those whom He takes pleasure in. It is interesting to note from Matthew 6 how that prayer, fasting and giving are all governed by some common principles. In summary of those principles it is: without fuss, from the hidden depths of the heart, unto God alone.
4 & 5. Generously & Unselfishly
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6)
Here we have one of the most twisted and abused Scriptures on the subject of Christian giving. The above quote (and similar) being made out by some to be saying, “If you want to be rich in this world’s goods this is the way to do it!” Thus reversing the principle of Christian giving from a heart of love and selflessness and making it a formula for looking out for one’s self! This is ghastly!
However, let’s be wary of ‘the law of reaction’. Every twisted and perverted use of Scripture usually contains some element (greater or lesser) of truth. If it didn’t the devil would have a more difficult time getting a foothold in the minds of the saints with such ideas. There is a ‘law’ in God’s universe that “that which a man sows he shall also reap.” This law applies to many things and should be understood first and foremost in the context of our either walking after the Spirit or walking after the flesh but that does not mean that this same principle does not come down even into the realms of very natural things, it does. Without doubt you and I will never out-give God in our generosity. As I once heard it put “he is embarrassingly generous to us.” Just never think that a valid reason for ‘giving’ is just so that you can receive more in the realm of material wealth. Such a thought is perverse.
There is another aspect here, which is ‘under the surface’ so to speak. Excuse the pun but I am referring to the reference in the above quotation to sowing and therefore to ‘seed’. Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24). When we act in an unselfish way it brings forth life in others. The seed dies (gives itself completely) but something far greater comes forth from it. Your $10 gift, which was a real pinch to give, may seem more like a thousand to the recipient. I don’t just mean in monetary value. There can be inestimable fruit in someone’s spiritual blessing when they are the recipients of God’s provision through another believer. The ‘sowing’ and ‘seed’ principle are wholly opposite to the idea of giving in order to reap for ourselves an increased harvest of this world’s goods!
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
“We are unprofitable servants!” As we have just seen, we do not ‘do’ in order to be rewarded. We do not give to receive. We are bought with a price. We are not our own but the Lord’s and so is everything that He has richly blessed us with. When we give we give of our Master’s possessions not our own. We are stewards of everything that God puts in our charge. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1Pe 4:10). In view of the associations with stewardship in this matter we could add to our list of words ‘cautiously’. We do need to be wise with what we do with our Master’s belongings. But we have more than just a servant/Master relationship with our God, “He has given us all things richly to enjoy.” We therefore may enjoy what God has given us but always with recognition that we are also stewards of it but when we give it must always be without any expectation to receive again.
Last but not least in this article we must answer the intensely practical question of “to whom do we give?” Or, “to what?” This will be answered in the third and final part of this series.
Go to PART 3 of this article: Should a Christian Tithe? ~ Who Should a Christian Give To?