By Lori Gardner
If you have ever watched a church service on TV, you have probably heard someone asking for money. Many televangelists (not all) beg, plead, and make empty promises to get people to send in their hard earned dollars. Some of them insist that the more you give to their ministry, the more God will give to you. They are not promising spiritual blessings, either. They are talking cold, hard cash and the things that money can buy. They promise an abundance of riches can come to you if you give as much as you can to them. Some even go as far as to say that bad things will happen to you if you don’t donate to them. Some of these men and women have made millions from donations to their “ministries.”
Most churches teach that all believers should give “tithes” on a regular basis to support the work of the Lord. That means donating one-tenth or ten percent of all your income. Others want to make you commit to give offerings above and beyond your tithe. They preach that if you don’t, you are robbing God and they usually have a verse or two of Scripture to back it up, or do they? It seems everyone has an opinion about what to give, how to give, and why to give. If we are not careful it can all add up to a lot of confusion. A lot of the controversy over this subject stems from the fact that many people fail to “rightly divide” the Scriptures. Once we look closely at God’s Word, we have a clear picture of the way God wants us to give to Him.
Thousands of years ago, as the Israelites were wandering in the desert, the Lord said He would give to the children of Levi a tenth of all the goods in Israel for an inheritance. The Levites were the tribe that served as priests in the service of the tabernacle and later in the Temple (Numbers 18:20-21). They weren’t going to inherit any land, so they wouldn’t be able to raise cattle or sheep and they would have no way to grow their own crops. So, God required that the farmers from the other tribes donate one-tenth of their fruit, grain and livestock to help them out. The tithe was a way in which the Lord provided for that particular tribe. We can certainly learn a lot from the verses of Scripture that explain tithing, but these things were never meant to be instructions for believers today in the dispensation of grace. They were only meant for the nation of Israel while they were living under the Law of Moses.
Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law when He died on the cross for our sins. We no longer have to follow a set of rigid rules in order to worship the Lord. We have been freed from that bondage (Galatians 3:25; 4:3-5). We are told to stand fast in the liberty that Christ has given us (Galatians 5:1). In Romans 6:14 the Apostle Paul tells believers today, “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
When Paul wrote his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, he gave us a good example of how to give. The churches at Macedonia were going through some very hard times. They were in deep poverty, yet they found a way to give liberally to the poor saints at Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians 8:5 — “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” Notice the first thing they did. They gave their own selves to the Lord. This isn’t talking about their salvation. They were already believers. This is speaking of their time, talent, and love. Romans 12:1 tells us that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We should strive to live a life that is holy and acceptable as our reasonable service to Him. That’s what the Macedonians were doing. Even though they were poor, they gave with an “abundance of joy” (2 Corinthians 8:2). They freely gave their offerings with a loving heart and attitude of kindness. Our giving should come straight from a willing heart as well. If God has allowed us the privilege of being able to share with others, we should.
2 Corinthians 9:7 — “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” According to this verse, there are three different kinds of givers.
- The Grudge Giver—This is someone that gives to the work of the Lord grudgingly. That carries the idea of sorrow, grief or being annoyed. He or she will give to the work of the Lord, but they are not happy about it. They grieve over all the other things they could be doing with their time and money. Proverbs 15:2a tells us, “He that is greedy for gain troubleth his own house …”
- The Necessity Giver—This type of giver only does so out of necessity or obligation. They give only because they feel like they have to give. Could it be they have not rightly divided God’s Word? They probably never learned that the tithing laws are not for us today. We are to give as God has prospered us because it pleases Him, not because it is required (1 Corinthians 16:2).
- The Cheerful Giver—This person gives to the Lord cheerfully and it comes from the heart. In Greek, the word “cheerful” means “hilarious.” This is someone that has a joyful attitude concerning spiritual things. The cheerful giver realizes that every good and perfect gift comes from God and he/she is only too happy to give whatever is needed (James 1:17). After all, it is only giving back what God has given to them.
Paul calls giving a “grace” (2 Corinthians 8:7). That means that it is a privilege that we don’t deserve. The Macedonian believers freely gave “beyond their power” as God had gracefully provided for them (2 Corinthians 8:3). We have been given the ultimate gift of grace. The Lord Jesus Christ gave up the glories of heaven to come to this earth, suffer and die in order to pay for our sins. He graced us with an “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). When we deserved death, He gave us life! He has redeemed us, forgiven us, and given us a glorious inheritance in eternity (Ephesians 1:6-12). Could the few earthly things that we donate to the Lord’s work ever be as precious as what He has already given us?