This post is part 3 of a 3-part series on tithing and giving:
- Why the Apostles Didn’t Teach Tithing (And Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About It)
- Why Your Church Does Teach Tithing (Any Why You Sometimes Feel Guilty About It)
- What Jesus & His Apostles Taught About Giving (And How You Can Find Joy in It)
If you’re average like me you’re starting to think about some new goals and maybe some outrageous hopes for the year. Perhaps you’re thinking about new financial goals for earning, saving, spending and giving. If so, this final post in my series on tithing might come in handy.
Part 1 – Why the Apostles Didn’t Teach Tithing (And Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About It) asks why the Apostles never mentioned tithing even though they touched on every other subject necessary for the life of the Church including money matters like stewardship, charity, and supporting the teaching ministry of the gospel.
Part 2 – Why Your Church Does Teach Tithing (And Why You Sometimes Feel Guilty About It) asks why so many churches treat tithing like it’s the 11th commandment, or even emphasize it more than the 10 Commandments.
If Not the Tithe, then What?
The Old Covenant tithing laws taught Israel specifically why, when, how much, and to whom they were to give, but the New Covenant teaching on giving isn’t so explicit. You can’t look up the “Giving” section of the New Testament to look up the list of rules. But, Jesus and His Apostles were not exactly silent about giving, either. In fact, the use of money is one of the most mentioned topics in the New Testament. So, what did they teach on giving? Let’s tackle the subject with simple questions to guide us.
Why Should I Give?
Answer: Give to reflect the lavish love of God you experience in the gospel.
Freely you have received; now, freely give. Give because you are loved. Give as an overflow, an echo, of the love you received.
Notice, I didn’t mention stewardship – the Bible’s teaching that God requires us to steward (manage) His resources wisely and faithfully. This is true, but stewardship isn’t the biblical motive for giving. (Stewardship is a great reason to eschew gambling and consumerism). You could be an awesome money-manager without ever giving anyone a dime. But you can’t experience the unmerited love of God which He demonstrated by giving His Son without it creating a love in your heart that also overflows in giving to meet others’ needs.
Have you experienced His love for you? Bask in it, and then give it away.
When Should I Give?
Answer: Give whenever your means and another’s need line up.
When teaching that charity shouldn’t be done to earn praise from others, Jesus simply said, “When you give alms…” He didn’t say, “If…” He assumes that His followers will give to help those in need.
So, if you see a need and you have the opportunity to meet it or contribute to it, do it. You may give systematically (e.g. giving monthly to an international orphanage, or weekly to your church). Or, as James the brother of Jesus taught (James 2:15-17), give when the need is standing right in front of you. You will have to make choices and be selective; there is always more need than you will have means to meet.
But, whenever you can, give. Plan to give, and seek out needs that concern you.
How Much Should I Give?
Answer: Give as much as you decide you can without shirking your financial obligations to lenders, bills, and family needs.
Other than the above standard, the how much question is between you and God. Seriously. Dollars or percentage? Gross or net? It’s a matter of conscience. In other words, rather than telling us to give ten percent, the New Testament simply says, “Give whatever you’ve determined in your heart to give, knowing that God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
What’s that mean? It means, think about what you could give, or want to give. Talk to God about what you can and should do. Make a decision. Submit it to God. Follow through on it. Keep it between you and God. And, don’t let anyone give you a hard time about it. Whether you give ten cents, ten percent, or one hundred percent, your only judge is your God, and He will judge your motive, not your Schedule A.
Not able to give what you’d like to give? Then, ask God to help you be a wiser steward – a better earner, a better saver, a more frugal spender – so you can give more in the future as an outflow His love. Ask Him to help you get out of debt and live debt-free. Ask Him to help you enhance your billable skills and knowledge so you can earn more. Repent of any consumerism or materialism. Repent of any love for money. Offer Him your financial life and financial future. Then put your head and heart together with His, and make a plan…together…you and Him.
To Whom Should I Give?
Answer: Give to anyone in need (the poor, the sick, your enemy, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan) and to the people and institutions that promote the worldwide mission of the gospel.
The Great Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? – Anyone in need. So, like the Good Samaritan, Jesus calls us to invest His love in anyone in need.
The Great Commission is to go and make disciples of Jesus everywhere. This is a huge and expensive endeavor. So, as followers of Christ, give to financially support the people (1 Timothy 5:17-18) and institutions (your church, a mission agency, a Christian charity) God uses to make the gospel of Jesus known throughout the world.
Well, I hope this series of posts will help you experience the joy of giving out of love from God, and the freedom of conscience before God to give as you think best – when, how much, and to whom you think best.
I read somewhere that John Wesley once offered this simple financial advice: “Earn as much as you can. Save as much as you can. Give as much as you can.”
It’s hard to go wrong with that.
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