About Giving

 

Giving is an important subject in the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, due to inadequate teaching, it is also a controversial subject. At Life Church we want your understanding of giving to be based on God’s Word.

Giving Is Part of God’s Nature

God gives! He created us and gave us life. He gave our fore-parents Adam and Eve everything they needed for a happy and fulfilling life. When they disobeyed him and tried to cover themselves with leaves, he was merciful and gave them more adequate clothing. The Bible teaches us that . . .

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:17-18 NIV )

The Bible contains many more examples of God’s giving nature – here are a few more:

God wants us to share in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV ) and this means that we also need to give.

God Expects Us to Give

Many pastors begin their discussion of giving with Old Testament references to tithing. We will examine these scriptures also, but we will begin our examination of giving-related scriptures in the New Testament. Consider the following passage:

But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-9)

God wants us to excel in giving! Most of us understand what it means to excel in something. We achieve excellence by following these steps:

  1. Set a long-term goal of excellence.
  2. Start where you are.
  3. Set a short-term goal that stretches you in the direction of your long-term goal.
  4. Practice until you achieve your short-term goal.
  5. Re-evaluate your position – has your long-term goal been achieved?
  6. If not, return to step 3.

We can use these same steps to excel in giving!

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Set a Long-term Goal of Excellence

If we want to excel at giving we need to set the right goal. There are four principles that will help us in this area: (Click on a principle for more details.)

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God Owns Everything
The Bible declares that . . .

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1-2)

If we don’t begin with this perspective, we will fall short of our objective. We and everything we own already belong to God. All we have is temporary custody of our lives and our possessions. Our giving is not a matter of handing over to God some new “property”; it’s a matter of us acknowledging the fact that what we give him he already owns! Here are some more scriptures that reinforce this important truth:

Sacrificial Giving
God sacrifices his own “comfort” by loving us, providing for us,and putting up with our many failures. We see this demonstrated supremely in God’s sacrifice of his only Son to provide us with salvation and to restore us to himself. God expects us to give sacrificially and he commends such giving when it happens. Here are some examples:

One of the most important ways that we give to God sacrificially is by giving him our best and by giving it to him first! We see this principle illustrated in the following passages:

Cheerful Giving
Our attitude towards giving is important to God. If we find that we are giving reluctantly then we are not giving excellently. Consider the following scriptures:

It is important to start by giving the largest portion of our resources that we can give cheerfully. Then, if we find that our level of giving falls short of excellence, we should ask God to transform our attitude so that we can be cheerful about giving an even larger portion.

We also need to understand that giving cheerfully and giving sacrificially are not mutually exclusive. Every time we use our resources for one purpose we are sacrificing some other purpose for which we might have used the same resources. The money we use to go out to dinner and a movie could be saved towards a downpayment on a house. The time we spend watching a television program could be spent studying for an exam.

If we are wise, we prioritize our use of our resources by using them to take care of things in decreasing order of importance:

  • We pay our mortgage or rent before we buy a television.
  • We finish homework before we watch television.
  • We spend time with our family before we go out to play basketball.

If we are very wise, we prioritize God above everything else. Naturally this should be reflected in our giving!

Tithing
Most discussions of Christian giving start with the concept of “tithing” or giving a tenth of your resources. We have chosen to deal with the tithe last. One reason for this is that we believe the New Testament admonition to excel at giving represents a more fundamental principle
(2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV ). Our other reason for dealing with tithing last is that historically there has been no small amount of controversy over whether tithing is part of the old covenant and therefore no longer applicable to Christians.We believe that the relationship of the tithe to the old covenant is actually a secondary issue. Remember that as we seek to excel at giving we need to begin by setting both long-term and short-term goals. How do we determine what those goals should be? The Holy Spirit’s instruction through Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV make it clear that whatever goals we set should not be imposed legalistically. Nevertheless, we need to look to some source as we “determine in our heart” what to give.We believe that the best starting point is God’s Word.
The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NIV (note vs. 11) that what happened to the people of God during Old Testament times was intended to serve as examples for us. It is reasonable therefore to look to Old Testament accounts of giving not as a matter of law, but rather as examples for goal setting.

What then do we find when we turn to the Old Testament?

  • After defeating Kederlaomer, Abram gave Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a tenth of all the plunder before doing anything else with the wealth.
    (Genesis 14:1-24 NIV )
  • Jacob vowed to give back to God a tenth of everything that God gave him.
    (Genesis 28:10-22 NIV )
  • God commanded the Levites to give the priests a tenth of everything they received from the rest of the Israelites.
    (Numbers 18:25-32 NIV )
  • God commanded the Israelites to give him a tenth of everything they received.
    (Levicitus 27:30-33 NIV )

Armed with these examples we believe that Christians should normally set a goal of giving a tenth of their income to the work of God’s Kingdom. Because the amounts deducted from our paychecks represent either benefits we receive (e.g. medical or dental coverage) or taxes that God expects us to pay (Matthew 22:15-22 NIV ;Romans 13:1-8 NIV ), it is best to base your giving on the “gross” amount (i.e. your income before payroll deductions) rather than the “net” amount (i.e. your actual paycheck after all of the payroll deductions have been taken out).

We also believe that you should first make sure that you adequately support the congregation in which God has placed you with your “tithes” and then give additional “offerings” to the ministries that God has placed on your heart.

How Do I Get There?

So far we’ve learned that God is a giver and that he expects us to reflect his giving nature by excelling at giving. It’s now time to look at this in a practical way (Click on a topic for more details.):

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Practical Steps
The path to excellence in giving is fairly straightforward. We recommend that you set as your long-term goal giving a tenth to your congregation and an additional offering to other organizations that support the work of God’s Kingdom.

  • If you do not have a budget start one.
  • Arrange the items in your budget in decreasing order of priority. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you with this.
  • Make your giving to God the first item in your budget and set it as a percentage (ideally at least a 10%) of your income.
  • Set aside God’s portion from every paycheck or other form of income (e.g. monetary gifts) that you receive. Give it as soon as possible (e.g. during the next Sunday service, by mail the next day, via online payment, etc.).
  • Try to increase the percentage that you give on a regular basis until you reach the level of excellence that God has set for you. For example if you were initially giving 5% or even only 1% of your income you should try to increase the percentage that you give at regular intervals (perhaps every month) until you reach a percentage that reflects excellence for you.
Kingdom Economics
One very important way that we can achieve excellence in giving is to embrace Kingdom economics. God has called believers to cooperate economically both for their own benefit and to advance his Kingdom. We can see examples of this in the following passages:

Here are only a few of the ways that this can become a reality:

  • Sharing housing and transportation resources
  • Pooling resources to purchase housing
  • Coming together to make bulk purchases of key commodities
  • Working with other believers (and potentially community members) to establish food cooperatives
  • Coming together to establish business

At Life Church we believe that it’s not enough for us to tell you to do these things. We actually want to do whatever we can to support cooperative economic efforts among members of the congregation. We are committed to helping our members pursue Kingdom economics by supplying information, training, and networking.

Benefits
No explanation of biblical giving would be complete without covering the benefits of giving. We began this presentation by establishing that giving was a fundamental part of God’s nature. We now return to that theme by considering this great biblical truth:

God wants to bless you!

It is amazing to realize that the God who created the entire universe wants to personally bless you. The biblical evidence of this is overwhelming, so we will only need to examine a few key passages:

In addition to these general examples of God’s blessing, we observe that God also blesses us specifically in response to our giving. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • There was a widow who sacrificially prepared food for God’s servant Elijah during a famine. God rewarded her by miraculously extending her meager supplies so that she had food to eat every day throughout the famine (1 Kings 17:1-16 NIV ).
  • The Apostle Paul expressed his appreciation for the resources that the Philippian church had contributed to his ministry. He assured them that God would meet all of their needs (Philip 4:10-19 NIV ).
  • While writing about their financial gift the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church that God was able to cause his grace to operate on their behalf so that they would have everything they needed both to carry out their own ministry and to bless others as well (2 Corinthians 9:6-15 NIV ).

As you pursue excellence in giving, make it your goal to give:

  • out of gratitude for what God has done in your life, and
  • out of your commitment to God’s Kingdom

Never doubt however your heavenly Father’s commitment to provide for you out of his divine riches!

We hope that you’ve found this teaching helpful. God bless you as you reach for excellence in this important area!

 

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