By Norman Midgette
How well have we obeyed the Lord’s commands and instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2; 2 Corinthians 8:24 and 9:6-11 during the year recently come to a close? In the next few weeks you will fill out federal and state income tax forms and on Schedule A of the federal form you will list your contributions for the year. Will that honest figure reflect an honest effort at giving as you were prospered?
The figure we put on that line is far more critical to the condition of our soul before God than it is to the amount of tax we may be exempt from paying because of it. The government might audit you next year and force you to prove your figure but God audits your heart every Sunday with a judgment far more important. The results of the “audit” of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 shows we can fail this test before God with disastrous results. If this teaches us anything it shows that our giving is observed by God as well as important to him.
The way 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 reads shows that human judgment has to enter the picture in determining how much we have prospered. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1 Cor. 16:2). The question was recently asked in a private conversation here what income figure should be used to determine our prosperity. There seems to me to be but one honest way to answer that which is both equitable and reasonable. The “Gross Income” figure would hardly be the correct one because one in business might sell an item for $500.00, which would appear as gross income but it might have cost $450.00 for the retailer to purchase it. If all other expenses are disregarded, what was the merchant prospered? He prospered $50.00. You may be employed by a company and certain expenses are incurred, such as travel or special clothing, in your work and in the earning of your salary. Expenses directly involved in the earning of your income could reasonably be excluded from your “Gross Income” and could hardly be considered a part of what you are prospered. However, the money you have left over after these business related expenses are taken out is what you have prospered. By definition the word includes the fact of “gain” (Thayer) or “profit” (Bauer).
In case you are now wondering, “What else can I exclude from my income before arriving at a figure from which to determine my contribution?”, can there be any in the light of the definition of “prosper”? Taxes are a part of your expenses from your prosperity. Your house expenses are part of your expenses from your prosperity. So are your medical, your recreational or your savings expenses.
Our prosperity is what we have gained or profited above the cost of earning the income. This is the only equitable and reasonable way, to me, to arrive at a “prosperity” figure from which to determine the contribution. From this point your judgment will have – to decide what percentage or amount to give. I believe this is a reasonable answer to a legitimate question, “How much am I prospered?”
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 5, pp. 132, 151
March 2, 1989