Today's topic is a sensitive one for some. In fact, I once heard a man say that he would never preach a sermon on this topic because he didn't feel that it was any of his business. He didn't believe in preaching on giving. Obviously, I disagree with the gentleman since our lesson today is all about giving. I am willing to teach on this subject simply because the Bible addresses it! If the Bible addresses a particular issue, then we ought to study it and know what the Scriptures teach concerning it.
The purpose of this lesson is not to tell you how much you must give to the Lord and His work--that is between you and the Lord. Let us simply analyze what the Bible teaches on giving and draw some applicable conclusions. We will consider ten principles in all in this lesson. I encourage you to contemplate these truths as objectively as you can. Forget about yourself for now and your practice in reference to giving. Let's open our Bibles and see what it teaches on this subject, and then let us have the conviction and desire to always obey God's word to the best of our ability.
With that being said, let's begin with this principle:
1. GIVING BENEFITS US MORE THAN IT DOES GOD.
In this regard, I believe that giving is like everything else that God has instructed us to do. Obedience to His will always benefits us more than it does Him! Jesus taught in Acts 20:35 - "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is certainly true that the Lord can and does use the money we give to His church for good works, but when we give of our means, the greatest benefit goes to us. If this is not the case, how is it more blessed to give than to receive?
Contemplate some biblical examples of giving on this point: Who benefited the most from Abraham's offering of Isaac? Abraham did (Gen. 22)! Who benefited the most from the contributions that were made to build the tabernacle? The Hebrew people did (Exo. 36)! Who benefited the most from the selling of possessions, goods, houses, and lands, and the giving of the proceeds? The Christians did who were doing the giving (Acts 2:45; 4:34-37)! Who benefited the most from the widow's offering of two mites? The widow did (Mark 12:41-44)! Who benefits the most when you give to the Lord in a Scriptural manner? You do, according to Acts 20:35!
2. WE OUGHT TO GIVE GENEROUSLY.
The Bible teaches that Christians are to be generous or liberal givers. Romans 12:8 teaches that he who gives should do so with liberality! That's pretty plain, isn't it? We need to be generous with our money. Or, perhaps more accurately phrased, we need to be generous with the money and resources the Lord has entrusted us with! Don't forget that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). We are merely stewards of the rich blessings He bestows. Understanding this principle should make it easier to be a generous giver.
II Corinthians 9:6 states - "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." God uses a farming illustration to help us comprehend this truth. It should be understand by all that if a farmer doesn't scatter many seeds, then he will not get much of a crop to harvest. Likewise, if we are stingy givers, then we will have some stingy reaping spiritually. However, if a farmer sows a lot of seed, he will get a much larger crop to harvest. Likewise, if we are generous givers, then we will reap bountifully spiritually.
3. WE OUGHT TO GIVE ACCORDING TO PURPOSE.
In II Corinthians 9:7, Paul wrote - "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." We are to purpose in our heart what we are going to give; that is, we should have our mind made up long before the collection plate is being passed around. We should not simply reach into our purse and wallet and pull out whatever we can find at the last minute. We should purpose or determine ahead of time what we are going to give.
As a side note concerning the purpose of giving, we learn from II Corinthians 8 that the Macedonian Christians gave generously. Their intent was to give to help meet the needs of poor saints. This is also the purpose of giving mentioned in I Corinthians 16:1,2. We can be confident that one of the purposes of giving is for benevolence. The money given can be used by the church for doing good to those in need. The other major purpose of giving is so that there will be funds to help spread the gospel and edify the church. Please study I Corinthians 9 concerning this aspect of the subject.
4. WE OUGHT TO GIVE FROM THE HEART.
Let us purpose to give from the heart; that is, love should be our motive in giving! The apostle John once wrote - "We love because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). It could also be said that we give because He first gave to us. I'm thinking particularly of John 3:16 and the great gift that God gave to us there--the life of His Son, Jesus. Clearly, the Lord loves us from the heart, and He gives from the heart. Shouldn't we do the same?
5. WE OUGHT TO GIVE CHEERFULLY.
If we are giving from the heart, it won't be a burden to give, but a joy. "God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7). We should be full of joy when we put our gift in the collection plate! We should be thrilled to be able to help support the Lord's work. We should be excited to know that much good will be done because of our giving. I believe it is impossible to be a cheerful giver if one feels as if he is being forced to give. God wants us to give voluntarily.
Under the Old Testament, God required His people to tithe. That is, He required them to give one tenth of their income. In fact, when one includes all of the animal sacrifices they were required to make, the Hebrew people actually gave much more than 10%! Today, however, God does not require us to give a certain amount or percent. The New Testament does not instruct us to tithe. Of course, I've heard it said before that today God's children are much more blessed than those who lived under the Old Law. We have the complete will of God and are blessed to be in Christ. Doesn't it make sense for us to give at least as much as they did to the Lord? Doesn't it make sense that we should give at least one tenth of our gross income back to God? I think it does, but you must decide that for yourself. Whatever you choose to give--whether it be 5% or 50%, remember that God won't be pleased with it unless you give it cheerfully.
6. WE OUGHT TO GIVE ON EVERY SUNDAY.
We've already noted that God wants us to give generously so that we can meet the needs of others--in evangelizing, edifying, and in benevolence. These needs will always be present, and that is why Paul instructs the church to have a collection on the Lord's day. I Corinthians 16:1,2 reads - "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come."
Paul didn't actually say we should give of our means every Sunday, but such is implied. He simply said we should give on the first day of the week. Of course, every week has a first day, and that day is Sunday. Every time Sunday comes around, we should give as we have been prospered.
Those who disagree with this conclusion should carefully study Exodus 20:8. That verse instructed the Israelites to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Did the Hebrew people ask: "Which Sabbath day, God? Once a month? Once a quarter? Once a year? How often shall we remember the Sabbath?" Did they ask those questions? Certainly not! They understood that God meant every Sabbath, and the reasoning is identical for us in I Corinthians 16:2. There is no reason whatsoever to think that Paul meant anything else than every Sunday. This same reasoning is also applied to Acts 20:7 to show that the Lord's Supper should be observed on every Sunday.
7. GIVING IS A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
The wording Paul used in I Corinthians 16:2 clearly conveys a personal responsibility for giving. "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside..." This is a minor point, but it should still be noted that every Christian has a responsibility in this manner. Christian couples ought to decide together how much they will give. The decision ought not to be made by either the husband or wife alone. It should be understood that what is true for giving is true for other acts of worship also. No one can fulfill your personal responsibility to sing, pray, commune, or study. Each individual is personally accountable in these areas (and others).
8. WE OUGHT TO GIVE ACCORDING TO OUR PROSPERITY.
God wants us to give as He has prospered us. He would not expect someone who makes $200 per week to give the same as one who makes $2000 per week. Our duty is to give as we've been prospered, not to give as much or more than someone else. Whether we are financially blessed or not, we should praise the Lord and give as liberally as we can.
I encourage you to carefully consider your own giving. Do you give according to the way the Lord has made you prosper? Or, are you giving as little as you feel you can get by with?
9. GOD GIVES TO US IN PROPORTION TO THE WAY WE GIVE TO HIM.
If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly. If you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully (II Cor. 9:6). In other words, if you give sparingly (and not as you have been prospered), you will not reap as richly as the one who gives back to God generously! Jesus taught this principle very explicitly in Luke 6:38 when He said - "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." It is undeniably true that God blesses us in proportion to the way we give.
10. OUR GIVING REFLECTS THE WAY WE FEEL ABOUT GOD.
Sadly, some think of Christian giving as only a duty, or worse yet, as if they were throwing good money away. This is the wrong attitude. Remember John 3:16? God loved mankind so much that He was willing to give Jesus as a sacrifice for the sins of the world! God is willing to do anything for us (Romans 8:32). No price was too much for God to pay because of His love for us.
The way an individual gives indicates the way he feels about God. In II Corinthians 8:24, Paul encouraged the Corinthian brethren to show their love--that is, prove it to be genuine by giving generously. A similar thought is found in verse 8 of the same chapter - "I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others." Evidently, Paul believed that a little competition was good because here he challenged the Corinthian brethren to be like those in Macedonia. He wanted them to prove that they truly loved and would give freely to help support the works of benevolence and evangelism that were being accomplished in the first century.
The truthfulness of this principle can be seen via secular examples also. For instance, husbands, on your wife's next birthday, tell her how much you love her and then try to convince her that you are telling the truth by buying some small, cheap trinket. If you have been richly blessed financially, that probably won't reflect much love to your wife, will it? Likewise, the Lord knows what we think of Him when He observes us as we give. He knows whether we think He's the focal point of our existence or if He's really not important at all.
Dear listeners, do you give as God would have you to? Are you a cheerful, generous giver? Are you a good steward for the Lord? Do you give each Sunday as you've been prospered? The manner in which you give communicates volumes about your relationship with the Lord and what you think of Him.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.