We Gather Together Part III
Worship (XI): Giving (2)
In our last lesson, we noted that there is Bible authority for giving upon the first day of the week to establish a treasury for the general operation of the church and the carrying on of its business. Now, we want to notice how the Christian is to give in order to be pleasing to God.
Bible Principles For Giving
The New Testament legislates some principles for giving which we need to observe. We need to learn those principles and follow them obediently that our giving might please God. Consider the following principles which govern biblical giving:
(1) As you have been prospered. Paul said, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him . . ." (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The amount which we give should vary in proportion to how much we have been prospered. Notice that this passage does not use the word "prosperity" in the sense of "wealthy;" giving is not something which is done only by the rich. Rather, Bible giving is based upon our earned income. As a man makes more money, he should be giving more.
(2) Bountifully. Bible giving requires bountiful giving. Paul wrote, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6). The attitude of the Christian should be to see just how much he can give, not how little he can give. The attitude of giving as little as possible is going to send some people to Hell.
(3) As he purposeth in his heart. Paul continued, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give" (2 Cor. 9:7). Bible giving is planned giving. To purpose in one's heart is to plan one's giving. The Christian should sit down with his paycheck, consider how much God has given to him, and plan how much he is going to return to the Lord. The disposition of waiting until the collection, plate is passed. and hurriedly getting out one's billfold to put in the two smallest bills in the wallet is not.. scriptural giving. Bible giving is planned giving.
(4) Cheerful giving. Again, Paul wrote, ". . . so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (I Cor. 9:7). The man who gives with the disposition that tic wishes that he did not have to give this to God would do better to keep it in his pocket. God is not made better by anything which man can give to him.
Hence, if a man begrudges what he has to give to God, he might as well put it back into his pocket, spend it selfishly on himself, and get whatever temporal pleasures he can get from it before burning in Hell for his attitude. The man should not give out of necessity. The man who gives because "we will lose the building, if I do not give" is not giving scripturally. Scriptural giving is cheerful giving. It is the natural response of a heart which feels indebted to God for the good gifts which God has given to him.
Try to imagine a man with ingratitude toward his fellow man in the same sense as many feel toward God. Suppose that there was a generous man who gave his neighbor $20,000 one year. Then, when that man's birthday arrived, the man did nothing to show his appreciation for the gift which the man had given to him and even begrudged the $5.00 tie which his wife bought for the rich man. Such ingratitude would be Beverly condemned by men today and properly so. However, consider the good things which God has done for us. He has given us the ability to earn our wages (Deut. 8:18); He provides the natural things which make life on this earth possible (Acts 14:17); He provides us with salvation in heaven through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10; 1:3-4). Yet, man is so hardened in his heart toward God that he begrudges the pittance of what he must return to God! Such ingratitude will cause the borders of Hell to be full!
(5) Sacrificially. Most of us give of our abundance; the Bible exalts sacrificial giving. Notice the lesson which Jesus taught:
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had (Lk. 21:1-4).
Most of us give more like the rich men than like the widow. Yet, this Bible example exalts sacrificial giving. Compare these other cases of sacrificial giving: Acts 2:45; 4:32, 36-37; 2 Cor. 8:1-5. We need to deprive ourselves of some of the things that money can buy for us in order to give sacrificially to the Lord.
One of the most abhorrent abuses of Scripture is committed when some well-to-do Christian tries to justify his niggardly giving by appealing to Lk. 21:1-4 to reach the conclusion that it does not matter hove much a person gives. His withholding from God what' is His due is the very attitude condemned in the passage. To compare himself to the poor widow is ludicrous and obnoxious.
The Bible And Tithing
Some are not content to let these biblical principles be their guidelines for determining how much they should give. Consequently, they seek to revert to the Mosaical law for binding the tithe upon men. The tithe was, indeed, a legislated proportion of what one earned to be given to God (Lev. 27:30-34). The man who refused to give the full tithe was guilty of robbing God (Mal. 3:8). Yet, that law is no longer binding upon Christians.
The old law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14-17; Eph. 2:14-16). The man who returns to the old law for authority for one religious practice is obligated to accept the entire old law (Gal. 5:1-4). Such a man is severed from Christ and fallen from grace. Hence, we reach the conclusion that tithing is not binding upon the Christian today.
How Much Should I Give?
However, the idea that I should give less then a tenth is not the necessary implication from saying that tithing is not binding today. If those who depended upon animal. sacrifices for their worship before God were expected to give a tenth, we who stand before God on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ should want to exceed that amount in our giving.
In order to arrive at how much we should give, let us consider some of the Bible examples given to us with reference to giving. Consider the following examples of giving:
(1) God gave His Son (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8-10).
(2) Christ gave His life (2 Cor. 8:9; Jn. 10:17-18).
(3) The poor widow gave all that she had (Lk. 21:1-4).
(4) The early church sold possessions in order to give (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34-37; 5:1-10).
(5) The Macedonians gave beyond their ability to give (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
(6) Stephen gave his life (Acts 7:54-60) as also did James (Acts 12:2).
Having these great examples of sacrificial giving before us, we should be able to determine how much we should give. We should want to sacrifice for Christ in the same fashion as these people did. The man who deprives himself of the things which money can buy in order to promote the cause of Christ has grasped the meaning of sacrificial giving.
Each of us needs to sit down and consider what it will take for our giving to be pleasing to God. We live in a very prosperous country and have many luxuries of life of which other people are deprived. We drive nice cars (many of us own two or three of them), we live in nice homes, we have beautiful furnishings, we wear expensive clothes, and we eat the best of food. Is there any justification for a people so richly blessed not giving to God more than a tenth of their income? Can we really say, "I can't afford to give any more than I am presently giving?"
Learning To Live With Prosperity
To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound" (Phil. 4:12).1 am not so sure that we have learned the lessons which Paul learned. The manner in which most of us handle our prosperity reflects a serious problem in not knowing how to abound with the right attitudes. We more nearly resemble the rich farmer whose lands brought forth plentifully. Consider his attitude:
The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And 1 will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Lk. 12:16-21).
In our prosperity, we think like this rich man. We think of building greater houses and going on vacation and buying nicer cars and wearing better clothes. We are sometimes rich toward this world instead of toward God.
In prosperity, man tends to trust in his riches. He acts as if his wealth can deliver him. Instead of trusting in God, we depend upon our life, health, and accident insurance or our workmen's compensation. We need to be alert to the dangers which face us as wealthy people (1 Tim. 6:17).
Furthermore, we need to be busy using our wealth in laying up treasures in heaven (1 Tim. 6:19). The things for which we use our money in service to the Lord will be the only things which endure. Those who have treasures in heaven have treasures which no thief can steal, no fire can destroy, no natural disaster can ruin, etc.; he has an eternal treasure (Mt. 6:20). As we meditate upon the scriptural instructions about giving, let us take into consideration our special blessings of living in a country abundantly blessed with material wealth. As a people blessed with physical prosperity, we have added responsibilities to use that money sacrificially in the service of the Lord.
Even as we give attention to having correct doctrine preached in the pulpit, using the right elements on the Lord's table, offering to God only singing instead of introducing instrumental music, and offering scriptural prayers to God, we should also give attention to this item of our worship. Let us individually consider whether or not the manner in which we are giving to God as well as the quantity which we are giving to God is acceptable to Him. Men can lose their souls because of the manner in which they handle their material prosperity. Let us use ours in such a way as to lay up treasures in heaven.
Questions - Lesson XI
Truth Magazine XXIII: 45, pp. 722-723