Thursday, May 14, 2020

Reflections on Giving (Pt 3)

This week I have been reflecting on Christian giving. I wrote earlier that the first principle of biblical giving is that we are to give thoughtfully, freely, and joyfully based on 2Corinthians 9:7. In a second blog I considered the proper biblical motives, which are giving to serve the needs of others and giving to the glory to God. Another biblical principle for giving is that of proportion.

Giving reminds us that what we have is not ours. It on loan to us from God. We are but stewards of all that we own. Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites were required to give a tithe (10%) of their increase. Actually, by the time you add up the regular tithes, special offerings, and sacrifices that were required, their percentage was probably something more like 20-25% that was required of them. New Testament giving does not spell out the tithe, but it does indicate proportional giving. 1 Corinthians 16:2 instructs the believers, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.”

In 2 Corinthians 8 the Apostle Paul gave the Corinthian believers instructions on giving. He said that giving is “acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” God does not expect us to give what we do not have, but he does expect us to give in proportion to how he has blessed us. I fear that the American church has largely forgotten that. We seem to be more interested in how many toys we can collect, how big a house we can build, what restaurants we can afford. This virus is a wakeup call. We can respond to the stay at home order by yearning for the freedom to go play again, or we can use this time to reflect on what we really need for life. Proportional giving is a reminder that our stuff is not ours to squander. It is a stewardship from God to use for his glory.

So, do I have to tithe? If you are asking that question, then your motives are still questionable. The question we should be asking ourselves is not: How much do I have to give? We should rather be asking: How has God blessed me and how much can I give? I don’t believe that God expects us to starve our children in order to give, but truthfully, it is often the poor that are the most generous with what they have. The more we have, the more tight-fisted we seem to become. In the meantime, churches have needs, pastors are poorly paid, missionaries are struggling to raise the support they need, people are living on the streets, children are going to bed hungry, and record numbers of people are being forced to leave their homes and belongings behind because of war and religious persecution.

It is said that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. It’s not actually true. The fiddle hadn’t been invented yet. But the truth is many of us are metaphorically fiddling while others are struggling. Giving is not about churches and preachers greedily wanting to amass a fortune off the backs of others. Biblical giving is about serving others by giving proportionately to how God has blessed us. Let me challenge you to prayerfully reexamine your own giving. Are you giving? To whom are you giving? Are you giving enough? How much has God blessed you? How much do you really need to live? May we give in proportion to God’s blessings, honoring God, blessing the church, and helping those in need.

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