How Much Should I Give? (No. 1)
In years gone by, in far too many places and in too many instances, it has been possible to hear only this one thought expressed with regard to this subject: "The Bible does not teach the Christian how much to give." This thought, sanctioned by too many preachers, elders, and Bible class teachers, has been the false flag under which many covetous souls have sailed along with clear consciences toward God, and yet all the while were guilty of robbing Him!
If one means that the New Testament has not set a specified amount in dollars and cents, then it is true. The New Testament has not even fixed a percentage to be bound as a hard and fast rule. However, if one means by that statement that there is nothing in the Bible to serve as principles to guide a child of God in determining how much he ought to give, then I deny the truth of such a thought. It is sad, but true, that many have used it in this way in order to justify their freedom to keep what belongs to God.
In speaking on the subject of giving Paul says it is "the proof of your love . . ." 2 Cor. 8:24; and will "prove the sincerity of your love." 2 Cor. 8:8. In other words, it is a way to prove that we do have love, and it shows how sincere our love is toward others and toward God and His work. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth." I John 3:18.
In Rom. 12:8 Paul commands that our giving be done with liberality. (ASV and in the marginal note of the KJV.) In Galatians 6:6 the one who is taught is commanded to "communicate unto" or share with the one who does the teaching, and this sharing is to be "in all good things." In I Cor. 16:2 each individual was taught to give "as God hath prospered him . . ." Again, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel shall live of the gospel." I Cor. 9:14. In I Cor. 5:10-11 covetousness is classed with fornication, idolatry, railing, drunkenness and extortion. In Col. 3:5 it is said to be idolatry. Covetousness is that inordinate desire which one has for a thing that will cause him to do wrong in order to obtain it, or to keep it after it has been obtained!
Summarizing these words we find these thoughts thus far that will guide us in our giving: (1) We must support the preaching of the gospel of Christ; (2) We must be willing to share all good things; (3) We must give according to, or as God has prospered us; (4) We are to give to prove we do love; and (5) We may show the sincerity of our love by the way we give.
This is ample evidence to show the necessity for giving, but now we are faced with another question.
The nearest we can come to amount is to study some divinely approved examples. In Act 2:44-45 and Acts 4:31-37 we find examples of individuals who were willing to give everything they had - even to the selling of their lands and possessions - in order to support the preaching of the gospel and to care for needy saints. Acts 5:4 shows us this was not a God-given requirement, but rather it was a willingness inspired by love. Notice also the example of the widow in Mk. 12:41-44. "And Jesus sat over against the treasury; and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." Her love inspired her to give all she had and Jesus commended her for it. We must have an attitude of mind that would make us willing to give all! This attitude will not be difficult when we have once learned the necessity of giving ourselves to the Lord and His work.
In I Cor. 10:11 Paul tells us the recording of Old Testament events was for our admonition or in order that we might learn from them. Surely it would be true that the examples of giving contained in the Old Testament may be used as admonition and guidance in our determination of how much to give; not that we point to a law to be bound upon us, but rather having the advantage of knowing what the Lord desired in this matter in the past. In 2 Samuel, chapter 24, we read of David's sin of numbering the people against God's will; of his selfishness in choosing a punishment against Israel instead of one against himself; and finally God's demand with regard to the sacrifice to be offered. You will remember that Araunah tried to give David everything necessary for the sacrifice, but we are given the King's answer by the pen of inspiration. "Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." 2 Sam. 24:24.
There is a relationship between this example and the one of the poor widow noted above. In one it is pointed out that our giving must come from more than our abundance, or what is left over after we have everything we desire. In the other, stress is placed upon the necessity of our gifts to the Lord coming from that which is of personal value to us; that which I have given a personal evaluation and which costs me something. Even as it was true that the animals sacrificed unto God during the days of animal sacrifices could not be the scrawny left-overs, so men today need to give of that which is the very best unto the work of the Lord.
(To be continued)
Truth Magazine I:3, pp. 10-11