Last week in this space we talked about the biblical origins of tithing and the shift in the focus of measurement in the New Testament toward sacrificial giving based on the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:1-15; Rom. 12:1-2). Commenting on this shift, several of you noted that it’s not easy to calculate whether you’re “giving enough” to the work of the Lord. If you thought that after reading last week’s piece, I sympathize with you. You’re absolutely right, and I think that’s the point.
Instead of letting us rest in a percentage point of giving and feel like we’ve done our duty, God is calling us to continually reflect on the generosity of the gospel and repeatedly ask ourselves, “Am I giving of my material resources in a way that reflects the generosity of God’s gift to me in Christ Jesus?”As we hone our understanding of the Bible’s teaching on this matter and prepare to give generously and sacrificially to the Lord, let’s look at three other general Scriptural principles for giving:
1. Giving is a spiritual discipline that requires forethought and planning.At the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the collection for the saints, and he says, “On the first day of the week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come”(1 Cor. 16:2). Notice that Paul is teaching the Corinthians to set aside a portion of their resources each Sunday for giving to the Lord and meeting the needs of the poor. Paul knows that if we’re not intentionally setting aside resources and making preparations to give, we will fall into the trap of using that money for other things. Set aside your giving to the Lord on the front end to ensure that Lord has first place in your giving.
2. Giving is to be commensurate with your income.In the passage I quoted above, Paul says to set “something aside” in keeping with how “he may prosper” you. He teaches the same principle in 2 Corinthians 8:12 when he says, “For if the readiness [to give] is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”Paul recognizes that resources rise and fall, and that our giving will rise and fall, too. He’s instructing us to give proportionally, and to not be bound by a certain number or dollar figure. Let your giving track with the normal ups and downs of income.
3. Give generously, cheerfully, and sacrificially.In Luke 21:1-4, the rich were placing their gifts in the offering box, but a poor widow came and placed two small copper coins in the coffer. Jesus says of her, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”On the surface, this principle appears to undermine principle #2 about giving commensurate with your income, but that’s not the point at all. Instead, the Bible is placing us in a good biblical tension.We’re being called to look at what we have and consider our basic needs, and then sacrificially invest in work of the church. We’re not sacrificing if it doesn’t cut into our lives—that is, if it doesn’t hurt.We’re beginning to practice biblical giving, if we’re actually having to say no to things we’d like in our lives in order to give to the church and meet the needs of the poor (see Acts 2:42-47). By placing these two principles beside each other, the Bible is inviting us into the wisdom of a giving pattern that’s discerning, generous, and sacrificial (2 Cor. 9:6-15).
As those who have been given so much, let’s not be stingy or begrudging—trying to get away with giving as little as we can. Instead, let’s joyfully prove our earnest love for Jesus Christ by giving to His church in a manner that reflects, even faintly, the generosity of the gospel.