I hear complaints and questions like these from Christians frequently:
- "Churches today only care about money."
- "There is too much abuse and misuse of church funds. Why should I give?"
- "How do I know the money will go to a good cause?"
- "The church's concern is one's income. I have been to several and they always ask about income. I tell them I will give what I can and their response is, 'You have to give at least ten percent of your income.' I understand that the church needs funds to operate, but to tell someone that they need to give ten percent is not right ... In my area alone there are what I call 'Super Dome Churches' where the pastor drives a Bentley and has a home three times the size of mine. Is this what is preached in the Bible? I don't think so!"
- "Some people lack the motivation to give away their hard-earned money because the church has failed to provide a compelling vision for how the money will make a difference in the world."
- "[Some] see their giving as leverage on the future. They withhold money from the church because they do not see a sufficient return on their investment."
- "[Some] people ... do not realize the church needs their money to be effective. Their church has done an inadequate job of asking for money, so people remain oblivious to the church’s expectations and potential."
- "[Others] are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about our responsibility to apply God’s resources in ways that affect lives."
- "The final category contains those who are just selfish. They figure they worked hard for their money and it’s theirs to use as they please. Their priorities revolve around their personal needs and desires."
For the sake of this study, I'd like to focus on the fourth group of people, those who've never looked at what the Bible says about giving.
What Does the Bible Say About Giving?
When my husband and I were looking for a good church, we observed that some churches seemed to always be asking for money. This concerned us. When we found our current church home, we were truly impressed to learn that the church did not receive a formal offering during the service. The church does have offering boxes in the building, but members are never pressured to give. Money, tithing, and giving are only mentioned when our pastor happens to be teaching through a section of Scripture dealing with these issues.
But please don't misunderstand! We love to give. That's because we've learned something. When we give to God, we get blessed. And although most of our giving goes to the church, we don't give to a church. We don't give to the pastor. We give our offerings to God alone. In fact, the Bible teaches us to give, for our own good and for our own blessing, from a cheerful heart.
But don't just take my word as proof that God wants us to give. Let's look at what the Bible says about giving.
First and foremost, God wants us to give because it shows that we recognize he is truly the Lord of our lives.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)
Everything we own and everything we have comes from God. So, when we give, we simply offer him a very small portion of all the abundance he has already given to us. Giving is an expression of our thankfulness and praise to God. It comes from a heart of worship that recognizes that everything we give already belongs to him.
God instructed Old Testament believers to give a tithe, or a tenth, because this 10% represented the first, or most important portion of all that they had. The New Testament does not suggest a certain percentage for giving, but simply says for each to give "in keeping with his income."
Believers should give according to their income.
1 Corinthians 16:2
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. (NIV)
Note that the offering was set aside on the first day of the week. When we are willing to offer the first portion of our wealth back to him, then God knows he has our hearts. He knows—and we also know—that we are submitted completely in trust and obedience to our Lord and Savior.
We are blessed when we give.
... remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (NIV)
God wants us to give because he knows how blessed we will be as we give generously to him and to others. Giving is a kingdom principle—it brings more blessing to the giver than to the recipient.
When we give freely to God, we receive freely from God.
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. (NIV)
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (NIV)
God promises that we will be blessed over and above what we give and also according to the measure that we use to give. But, if we hold back from giving with a stingy heart, we hinder God from blessing our lives.