By Ron Halbrook
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
Sacrificial, unselfish, cheerful giving – giving for the truth’s sake – is a vital part of the Christian’s life. Christ gave His all for us! When three thousand souls gladly received the gospel and were baptized on Pentecost, Jews from many nations were included. Whether local citizens or foreigners, none of these first Christians went without food and other necessities. The fellowship of regular giving was a part of the worship. The apostles oversaw this fund and administered it to the needy with the help of special servants chosen by the church (Acts 2:41-45; 4:32-37; 6:1-7).
Christians are glad to help any needy person at any time. Beyond that, it is a part of the New Testament pattern for the local church to maintain a treasury for the church’s work. Money is not provided by gala entertainments, solicitation of funds from the lost world, bargain sales, gambling ventures, business investments, or selling meals, trinkets, and candy. Paul sent word to churches he planned to visit, raising a collection for needy saints in Judea, saying, “Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). God’s plan for our giving is periodic or regular (upon the first day of the week), personal or individual (each one of you), provident or making provision for future needs by maintaining a fund (lay in store), and proportionate or according to each person’s ability (as he prospers).
The treasury of the New Testament church was used only for the revealed work of the church. That mission included the care of destitute saints, the edification and worship assemblies of the church, and the support of gospel preaching. The local church with its elders and deacons is the pillar and support of the great gospel revelation: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:15-16). The treasury was not used for social functions, secular education, recreational programs, political movements, medical facilities, community improvement projects, or reform of economic systems.
Paul was amazed to see what sacrifices some Christians made to give for the Lord’s work, when they themselves were suffering affliction and privation. These Christians went “beyond their power,” pled for the privilege to give, and went far beyond Paul’s expectation because they had. so fully given “their own selves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:1-5). For those who have this spirit in giving, God will bless both their labors and their abilities to do increased labor. What we bring to God in our hands is a reflection of what we bring to God in our heart. God loves the giver whose heart is filled with a love for giving (2 Cor. 9:6-10). God measures our gifts by this spirit of love.
A millionaire who gives $100.00 per week without making the least sacrifice has no advantage before God over the poor man who gives $10.00 per week by sacrificing. Jesus said that the poor widow who gave two mites – “all the living that she had” gave far more in God’s sight than the wealthy people who gave larger sums from their surplus (Lk. 21:1-4). The chart entitled “Do We Give 10 Percent?” shows that a person making the poor salary of $5,000.00 in a year would give $10.00 per week to give 10%. The person making the large salary of $50,000.00 in a year and who gave $100.00 per week would. be giving the very same percentage! Does that mean both men give the same proportionally? Even though the percentage is the same, the man giving $10.00 probably has a much larger heart because his income is a starvation wage in this country today. Ten dollars per week might be taking food off of his table.
Do We Give 10 Percent?
How much would we give? It is commonly thought that the Jews under the Law of Moses gave the Lord 10%, but actually they gave a great deal more. In addition to the tithe of all their fruits and flocks, they were to give the first-fruits and the first-born. In addition to all of that, they brought offering in the form of certain foods and animals.to the altar. In addition, every seventh year they released all debts. In addition, they supported prophets (men like Elijah and Elisha) and cared for such destitute people as widows and orphans. What about today? The New Testament simply points us to the Christ who gave His all for us, and teaches us to bring in our hands whatever we find in our hearts.
All of us can think of reasons (excuses?) why we do not wish to dig deeper and give more now, coupled with good intentions to do much better – later. We had best open our hearts now. Delay hardens the heart. Our circumstances may be worse instead of better at a later date. After the destructive War Between the States (1861-65), Dr. W.H. Hopson and his wife Ella described brethren in Virginia:
We found the brethren bearing their reverses nobly, and giving more liberally in their adversity than they had done in their prosperity. I heard but one regret expressed by them throughout the State, and that was that they had not given more of their means to the cause of Christ before they were swept from them (Spring of 1866 as described in Ella Lord Hopson [ed.], Memoirs of Dr. Winthrop Hartly Hopson [Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 18871, p. 165).
David Lipscomb scored Tennessee brethren in 1867, saying that the War alone did not account for the lack of support for faithful preachers. Complaining of “the desire to adorn the person with vain trinkets, garish ribbons, jewelry and glittering gewgaws, merely for vain show and to conform to a meretricious fashion,” he explained that in spite of widespread poverty,
. . . we venture the assertion that in Tennessee enough money has been spent for ribbons, lace, jewelry and frail, glittering glass trimmings, by Christian men and women, during the present year to sustain every preacher South of the Cumberland River in the constant, earnest proclamation of the gospel to anxious but dying sinners. Yet these preachers are actually now being driven from the field for lack of support (“Notes of Travel,” Gospel Advocate IX (25 July 1867): 583-87, see pp. 585-86).
He wondered how anyone could hope to meet God in peace after letting “souls for whom Jesus died, go down to hell for the sake of a little worldly display.”
The chart on the preceding page may help us to ponder “What We Bring In Our Hands” – and what we bring in our hearts. Are we giving sacrificially, unselfishly, and cheerfully for the truth’s sake?
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 10, pp. 302-304
May 19, 1983