A Call to Generosity
What is my responsibility as a Christian to give of my money? Why should I take the money I earned and give it away?
I have three thing that can help answer those questions. First, we will discuss that the Bible requires Christians to give of their money to the poor, as well as the church. Next, we will discuss how much the Bible requires us to give. Lastly, we will discuss the why behind what God is trying to accomplish through the generosity He calls his people to.
God clearly lays out in many different passages that Christians are to give of their resources to the poor. One such passage is Matthew 6:1-4 where Jesus explains how it looks when His followers give to the poor. He says “when you give”, not “if you choose to give”. This is an assumption made by Jesus that we will give to the poor. In addition to giving to the poor, we are also to give to the church. Let’s first approach this requirement practically. After doing so, we will back it up with scripture.
God called his church to exist and gave it a mission. God’s mission for the church is to make disciples. In our culture today, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for churches to fulfill their mission before God without financial support. The logical place that the financial support would come from is the Christians who attend that local church. In addition to just making practical sense, scripture gives us numerous examples of Christians giving of their money to the church. One example of this is in 1 Corinthians 16. The Corinthian church was collecting money from its members in order to care for other Christians in need. Notice that giving to the poor can be accomplished and organized through giving to the church.
Now that we have an understanding that God calls us to give to the poor and our local church body, let’s discuss how much we are asked to give. Most people, when they think of giving to the church, think that the requirement is to tithe 10% of their income to the church. The traditional 10% tithe to the church was derived from Numbers 18, where God called his people to give a portion of their resources to the priesthood. There were in fact two other tithes required of the Israelites, but they won’t be discussed here. With the coming of Jesus, I would suggest that the requirement behind giving is quite different than it was in the Old Testament. When Jesus came to teach Israel about God’s law, he vastly expanded their knowledge as to what the law really was. Jesus said that if you hate your brother you are guilty of murder. If you lust after a woman, you are guilty of adultery. Jesus raised the expectations considerably when it comes to living according to God’s values and principles, and giving is no exception to that. With that being understood, we are called to give in such a way of our finances that mirrors the generosity that God has shown us. Another way of saying that is the traditional tithe is like training wheels for giving, not a rigid place to stay.
Let’s observe that God needs nothing from you or me. In fact, God already owns everything. When then does God require me to part with money if he owns everything and needs nothing? The generosity that God calls us to is not for his benefit, but ours. Regular, sacrificial generosity develops a generous heart in the giver that starts to look more and more like God’s generous heart. If we decide to keep all of our money, our heart will follow it, leaving us selfish and greedy. Giving is the antidote to greed that God knew we needed.
There are plenty of objections to giving, some with more merit than others. We will discuss how this practically works in the next blog post What Does Practical Biblical Giving Look Like, which will be posted next week.