The Big Issue: “What Does the Bible teach about Giving?” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes from: “The Big Issue” – what does the Bible Teach about giving? 4 October 2011

A few preliminary thoughts:

Not asking for money
The existence of this topic on the ”The Big Issue” could lead someone to ask – are they talking about this because they need money? The fact is that God has, and continues to provide wonderfully for PCF’s financial need, through recessions and boom and bust, and He will continue to do so. This is not a plea for money.
Encouraging discipleship
Rather what we are doing here is to respond to Jesus’ command to make disciples “teaching to obey everything I have commanded you”. Part of our discipleship is giving, and part of our responsibility as leaders is to teach about giving. But as Paul said “not that I am looking for a gift, but I looking for what may be credited to your account”
Between you and God
Ultimately the subject of giving is not one that we will inspect in each believers life – it is between you and God. But if we want the results of giving to be evident in our lives, we have to be willing to submit ourselves to the will of God.
Not a “faith” ministry
You may have heard of so-called “faith” ministries that pile the pressure on believers to give, with promises of abundance if they do and warnings of poverty if they do not. Whilst this does have a biblical root, the emphasis on it, in some quarters can be controlling and manipulative. We would want to disassociate overselves from all ungodly practices in this area.

Get on top of your financesThe ability to give generously pre-supposes that we are in control of our finances, and help for this will be available separately, when we introduce the CAP money course.

With these caveats in place, let us now turn to a biblical overview of the subject of giving, before turning to the practical implications:

A Biblical overview of Giving

Tithing 1

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. 31 …32 Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD. 33 No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution… (Leviticus 27)

Principles:
– The tithe belongs to the Lord
– No substitution

Tithing 2

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 (Deuteronomy 14)

Principles:
– Set apart a further tithe
– God will then allow you to use it for your own blessing!

Tithing 3

And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Principles:

– This tithe is for the support of those who give their full time to serving God
– It is also for the support of those who are poor and vulnerable
– God promises to bless those who do it

A Powerful exhortation to Tithe

Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Principles:
– Failure to tithe properly was tantamount to fobbing God
– It led to the nation being under a curse!
– God wants us to test us in His ability to bless

Other Old Testament Principles

Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.Proverbs 3 v 9-10

Principles:
When we give the Lord our wealth we are honouring him
– We are to give him firstfruit (ie the best) of all our crops
– Once again, note the promise of blessing

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.
Proverbs 19

Principles:
– We are lending to the Lord when we give to the poor!
– Yet again…God’s blessing is promised.

NB Freewill offerings – there are many freewill offerings encouraged of the Israelites, as well as the law of tithing.

Jesus on Giving – the sermon on the Mount

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Principles:
– The teaching of Jesus assumes giving, but talks now about the motivation behind it.
– Giving is therefore something that is done behind closed doors
– Once again, there is a promise of reward

Jesus on giving – the widow’s mite

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”Principle:

– God is more interested in attitude than amount
– Poor people can give too!

Paul on Giving – the Philippians

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Principles:
– Giving now takes on another dimension with a church helping out with a missionary who is ministering elsewhere
– The emphasis is not on the gift, but what the giver gets out of it.
– The gift opens the way for God to meet the needs of the giver

Paul on Giving – Corinthians

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Principles:
– Another church is held up as a model of giving
– Generosity came out of poverty
– They “punched above their weight”
– Giving is first to God
– We are urged to excel in the grace of giving

“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”

Principles:
– Giving should be in keeping with our income
– Giving should be planned

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God…

Principles:
– Giving is like sowing – you get out in accordance to what you put in
– Giving is a personal heart decision – not a complulsion
– Giving is to be done cheerfully
– Again – there is a promise of blessing – the new dimension to this is that it will result in more generosity

To Whom Should we Give?

Those who minister the gospel

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages

In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Cor 9 14

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 6

The Poor

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Who should we give to – summary

1. The Local Church – it is an obvious common sense truism that for the church to be effective in its ministry, there has to be the funds available for it to minister. And points two and three are of course also covered by giving to the local church
2. Ministers of the Gospel – we saw above how the Philippian church supported Paul at home and away
3. The Poor – The scriptures are full of our obligation to help the poor.

The Consequences of Giving

However difficult or embarrassing we may find it, again and again in both Old and New Testament we need to be aware that God has promised to bless those who give generously. Let’s enjoy that, and not downplay it.

How Much Should We give?

A Matter of Maturity – just as time spent in prayer increases with maturity, so giving should do so.
Between you and God – just a no one polices your prayer life, so no one will be policig your giving.

Not the Law of giving – the grace of giving

More about attitude than amount

In accordance with income

Ask God before you give
 for faith
 For wisdom
 For generosity

OT starting point – 10% – would we really expect to give any less? . the OT of tithing becomes the NT grace of giving. As below, it is a reasonable starting point for a Christian to give 10% of their income to Him.

Suggested Good Practice

 Tithe into the local church – if 10% is our starting point, the starting place for giving is the local church, supporting God’s work locally, the poor locally, workers locally and the churches mission giving.
 Choose other giving commitments – there is then the opportunity to prayerfully consider all the many other opportunities to give to the Lord’s work around the world.
 Look for opportunities to be generous
 Total giving – less than 10% is too little – 20% is plenty. As a rule of thumb one would expect that a mature Christian would be giving to the Lord between 10 and 20 percent of their income. Of course for those under a great amount of grace, it may be possible to go even beyond this!
 Remember that God also intends for us to enjoy his blessings
Remember gift aid! – thank God for the government’s tax policy that enables us to retrieve many thousands of pounds each year from the inland revenue. May God keep it for us.

And finally….

 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

John MacDiarmid
October 2011

Posted Under: The Big Issue

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