In the life and ministry of every Christian and Church, ‘giving’ is a very important discipline. Money (and of course other resources) and the Mission of the Church are inseparably connected. From this perspective, giving and stewardship are also intertwined. However, very few Christians have a proper, balanced biblical-theological understanding of giving and so not many give. Therefore, in this article we will focus on 1) the theology of giving and 2) a few principles and practical suggestions regarding the discipline of Christian giving.
- The God of the Bible is a loving-giving God: We are linking loving and giving, because biblically speaking, true love is always giving and that is what God is. In fact, we cannot define the divine love (Gk. Agape) without the concept of giving. Agape, means “‘self-less and sacrificial self-giving’ for the sake of the ‘other’ without expecting anything in return.” The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4: 8 and 16) and that love comes from God (v. 7). Therefore, the God of the Bible is intrinsically, in His very nature, loving and that means He is a giving God.
The God of the Bible is the Holy Trinity, a community of three equal and eternally coexisting divine persons that share the same divine essence or nature. The three persons within the Trinity are eternally loving-giving one towards the other in their relationship.
- Our Reasonable Response to God’s Love: For this great love of God towards us, our response should be ‘being filled with an attitude of gratitude’ and expressing it firstly by, ‘giving ourselves to the Lord totally’ or ‘living our lives completely for the sake of the one who died for our sake’. This is what Paul says in Romans 12: 1 and 2 Cor. 5: 14-15. He says in Romans, “I beseech you in view of God’s mercy, to offer you bodies or selves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual or reasonable act of worship.” Anything other than this total giving of ourselves to the Lord (whole life worship) is not reasonable and acceptable.
Some Principles and Practical Suggestions for Christian-Biblical Giving: What is biblical is Christian and vice versa, for the Bible is the ultimate authority for Christians in all matters of faith/belief and conduct/behaviour. We will first look at some principles and then move to practical suggestions, all based on the Bible.
- Some Principles of Christian-Biblical Giving: Firstly, since all good things belong to and come from God, we are simply stewards of what He allows us to have and use. As stewards, we are not owners and are accountable for the wise use of what has been entrusted to us, including the money (Psalm 24: 1; 50: 10-11; Hag. 2: 8; James 1: 16-18; Matt. 25: 14-30; Luke 19: 11-27). God is just as interested in how we manage what we keep as in what we give directly for His work.
Secondly, spiritual maturity is reflected in giving, because giving money is really a by-product or result of first giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8: 1-5). Mature Christians understand that according to the NT, every Christian is a participating member of the church and gives a portion of his/her financial resources on a regular basis to carry out the ministry (1 Cor. 16: 1-2).
Thirdly, and lastly, it is not the amount that we give, but the proportion between what we give and what we keep and the attitude with which we give that matter, in Christian giving (2 Cor. 8: 1-15). Often the question of how Christian giving relates to the OT tithe is raised. In answering this question, several key biblical ideas should be kept in mind: 1) the concept of the tithe (giving the first tenth or 10%) is a pre-law practice (Gen. 14: 17-24; 28: 20-22; Heb. 7: 1-10), 2) the tithe was an integral part of the Mosaic law and could amount to about 30% for the Jews, if all the required tithes were met (Lev. 27: 30-32; Num. 18: 26-29; Mal. 3: 8-12), and 3) Jesus never abolished the tithe, but only taught that people should stop violating the concept of the tithe through misunderstanding, legalism, and abuse (Luke 11: 42 and 18: 9-14). So what should we conclude? There is nothing wrong in Christians giving a tenth or ‘tithe’ to the Lord, if that is the appropriate amount for them. But we should not be legalistic about it. However, each Christian or Christian family should decide both what percent to give to God and how to biblically manage and use the rest. The percent given to the Lord can all go to the local church or in appropriate situations be used for that and other ministry purposes. There will be greater clarity emerging on these principles as we move to the practical suggestions.
- Some Practical Suggestions on Christian-Biblical Giving: We have to remember the ‘law of sowing and reaping’ and realize that finances are not an exception – “who ever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cor. 9: 6). Keeping this at the back of our minds, let us now look at some practical suggestion drawn mainly from Paul’s teaching (2 Cor. 8-9; Matt. 6: 1-4; 1 Cor. 16: 1-2). We should all learn or discipline ourselves to give,
- In proportion to our income or how the Lord has prospered us,
- Regularly, willingly, joyfully/cheerfully, and without compulsion,
- Sacrificially, gratefully, generously, and purposefully,
- For God’s approval and not for men’s applause – our giving should be in secret.
If we really want to give biblically, then we have to work hard with the help of the Holy Spirit and overcome the following hindrances to biblical giving (Matt. 6: 24-34; Mark 4 19; Luke 12: 13-21; 16: 13-15; 1 Tim. 6: 3-10 and 19-19; Heb. 13: 5).
- Selfishness and Deceitfulness of wealth,
- Fear of not having enough left and lack of trust in God,
- Love of money and lack of love for God,
- Secular or this-worldly mindset and desire for other things,
- Unwise financial decisions and management and too much debt,
- Extravagant lifestyle (often a result of trying to match with others).
To be loving-giving is to be like God who is loving-giving. To be made more Christ/God-like in every area of life (including giving) is the essence of sanctification (Romans 8: 29; 1 John 2: 6; 2 Cor. 3: 18). Therefore, if we are growing Christians, then there has to be a corresponding growth in our giving of time, talents and treasures to God and for His work. May the Lord help us all to excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor. 8: 7) and thus become more like Him. If we are biblical in our thinking about life, we know that we take nothing with us when we die and leave this world. This knowledge should make us wiser to use all our resources to further God’s purposes and to meet our family’s reasonable needs (Luke 12: 20-21; Job 1: 20-21; Eccl. 5: 15). In fact, how we use what God has entrusted to us demonstrates where our heart really is or what we value most. Money and material things are neutral – it is our attitude towards and use of them that reflects our true spiritual condition. May God enable us (you and me) to be more biblically spiritual in our attitude towards and use of all our resources, particularly money and material.