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New Testament Principles on Giving PDF Print Write e-mail
Thursday, 02 June 2011 00:43

The beauty of simple church is - it's simple! We enjoy the simplicity of sharing our lives with each other, growing in our walk with God, and reaching out to the lost with the gospel.  However, one area that can be neglected is giving.  Some people even got involved in a simple church due to the troubling focus of some bigger churches on budgets and money.  Perhaps they were in a situation that was even legalistic or manipulative. However, it is really important that we not neglect this area of service to the Lord, for the welfare of others, as well as for our own spiritual growth.

I have noticed two extremes when it comes to finances and giving. The first is where leaders demand that the members give. They may not come out brazenly and say it that way, but through manipulation, guilt, or the promise of financial blessings from God, they will get your money out of your hands and into “the work of God.” Some leaders are experts at this, to such an extent that those who give are unaware they have been taken advantage of.

The other extreme is to ignore the public discussion of money, as if it were evil even to speak about it. This extreme practice may have occurred because some of those hurt by leaders, like those mentioned in the first paragraph, had an awakening and realized they had been abused. They thought they were protecting themselves by avoiding any discussion of finances whenever possible.

I remember some Christians in Russia telling me they did not support their pastor because they thought paying him would corrupt him; it would become a problem instead of a blessing. They did not trust him, and thought he would become greedy if they paid him for his service. Another Ukrainian friend of mine told me recently that he had never been paid by the ministry he worked for. He tirelessly gave his time and energy to this ministry, but they never paid him. I asked him why. He told me he thought the leaders believed he would become greedy and expect money from them every week. It turned out they had never even had a discussion about it! What a crime. We who are involved in house churches often err in this manner too. There is a better way to handle our money…

Examples to Follow

The first thing we need to do is remember what The Greatest Giver did - "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (II Corinthians 8:9)  The Lord Jesus chose to leave the glory of heaven and the close fellowship with the Father to die on the cross for our sins!  His great love for the Father and for us compelled Him to "become poor," to “become sin” so we might become righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Paul held up the Macedonian Christians as role models - they were extremely poor, but they gave sacrificially and actually begged to give to other Christians in need! (II Corinthians 8:3-4) What was their motivation?   Verse 5 gives us a clue - "They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God." This wasn't a rule they had to follow, but a response to Jesus’ love for them. They loved others sacrificially after they gave themselves to the Lord - they knew that everything they had was from God, and that He would take care of their needs as they imitated His love by giving to others!

How can we give cheerfully? Paul wrote, "Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) The word cheerful in the Greek is “hilaros” - which is the root of the English word "hilarious," which means extremely funny, very amusing. Therefore, God wants us to give wholeheartedly, or cheerfully, not reluctantly. We can give hilariously- motivated by generosity and joy, because the Spirit of God will give us the grace, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed."  (2 Corinthians 8:8) When we give ourselves to the Lord, He gives us all the grace we need to be generous.   Paul also warns us about giving little or reluctantly, "Now this I say he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully." (2 Corinthians 8:6) Imitate God and be a cheerful giver!

We have seen that our greatest desire in giving is to please God. “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10).  Now we will look at some practical ways to live this out as a church.

Three Practical Applications

First, are there Christians in your church who have needs?  Seek God and the advice of others as to whether you should help them or not. Sometimes there are legitimate needs, and sometimes you might get in the way of what God is trying to do in a person's life by giving them money. Their need could be the result of their own negligence, laziness, or wastefulness. Therefore, seek God's wisdom and the counsel of your leaders before you give. They may know something that you were unaware of. Recently I wanted to help someone with their doctor bills, only to find out from one of the leaders that another brother had already met that need. Praise God for that brother’s generosity and the leader’s knowledge! Now I could help someone else.

Second, are there opportunities for reaching the lost through your giving?  Are there needy neighbors, people you work with, or poor people who have a physical need that you can meet with the hope of sharing Christ with them as a result?  Are there Christians you know who want to participate in an outreach to unbelievers, but don't have the money to go? The church leaders asked Paul to give to the poor, “They only asked us to remember the poor-- the very thing I also was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10) We often think of the poor as those who don’t know Jesus Christ. But, many of the poor in the first century were followers of Jesus.

Finally, are there Christian leaders in your churches who are working hard to spread the gospel, and making disciples in many churches that you could support?  Paul said he gave spiritually to the believers in Corinth by preaching the gospel, teaching, praying, and being a role model. Therefore, he had the right to receive material things (food, housing, clothing, and/or money) from them in return. “If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:11) Although Paul had the right to be taken care of by the Corinthians, he did not insist upon this right. He did not send them a bill every week! Instead, he taught them their responsibility to provide for his needs. “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) They had failed to be faithful in their support of the apostle. He did not ignore this, but addressed it openly. He told the Philippians that he wanted them to give faithfully because it was good for them, “I don’t seek the gift itself, but the profit which increases to your account.”  Paul said, “For even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:16-18)

Give For Current And Future Needs

The temptation is to wait until there is a need and then give money. Paul taught the believers to set aside money each week based on their income, “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (I Corinthians 16:1-2). There is much value in giving to the Lord weekly, it reminds us that He has first place in everything in our lives, including our money.  And it allows us to have money readily available to meet present, as well as future, needs.  If we wait for an emergency to give, we will have likely spent the money on something else. We need to learn to give consistently, just like paying our rent or the electric bill.

While tithing is not in the New Testament, I believe it is a good place to start.  If that is too much for you to begin with, consider starting with 5%, and seek to increase during the months ahead. Ask God for the grace to give much more than 10% in the years ahead! These ideas are simply guidelines for you to consider, and you need to have your own convictions about these matters.  When we cheerfully give our money to build God’s kingdom, it is also an opportunity to trust God to meet our needs as well.

Around the world, simple churches are making a huge difference in giving to the work of expanding God’s kingdom. Simple churches usually are not concerned about finances for church buildings and paid staff members, but as they commit to be faithful and generous in giving they are able to significantly support missionaries and those that are involved in planting new churches. I pray that you will reread these passages and ask the Holy Spirit to help you act on the truth. It would also be healthy to openly discuss these issues with the brothers and sisters in your church.

By Stephen S. Nelson

Questions to Consider (please share your comments and ideas here, so that we can learn from one another)

  1. How does your church encourage people to give?
  2. Does your church provide a way for people to regularly give, so that the whole church can be involved in meeting the needs of others and supporting missions? If so, how do you do this?
  3. If your church collects financial gifts, how does the church decide how the funds will be used?
 
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