Given the nature of God, and the freedom wrought by Christ in the New Covenant, what then are some principles of biblical giving?
The first principle is that biblical giving transcends monetary giving. In the US, we have a worldview that tends to reduce everything to its monetary value. Biblical giving certainly includes the giving of money, but it could also include the giving of services, products, clothing, etc. In Matt 25, Jesus gives us a vision of the judgment when he separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep, those who enter into His Kingdom, are those who clothed the naked, fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, showed hospitality to strangers, cured the sick, and visited those in prison. These are all forms of giving of oneself for others.
Biblically, having a giving disposition is a reflection of the work of the gospel of the Kingdom in our lives. When it comes to money, this disposition means giving out of faith and obedience, without regard for our own well-being, as the widow in Luke 21:1–4 “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Another principle for biblical giving is worshipful gratitude. As Paul writes in 2 Cor 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerfulness in giving reflects a heart of worship, one that delights in God. This attitude sees giving as a privilege, of being able to share in the work of the gospel (2 Cor 8:1–5). May God work this in our hearts!
The third principle for biblical giving is generosity. Biblical wisdom says that the wise and righteous person is generous (Ps 37; 112; Prv 14; 19; 28). Furthermore, our cheerfulness and gratitude is expressed in generosity, because we believe God will generously provide for our needs. This generous attitude was exemplified by the early church where “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32). If you are wealthy, generosity is a special calling for you, as Paul instructs in I Tim 6:17–19 “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Generosity here is tied directly to future salvation. Some also have the Spiritual gift of giving, as Paul says in Romans 12:8 “if it [i.e., the grace given to you] is giving, then give generously.”
Another important principle of biblical giving is benevolence. As testified in several of his letters, Paul was taking a collection for the Judean churches suffering from famine, which was the context for 2 Cor 9, mentioned above. Moreover, while there is nothing more righteous about being poor, nor less righteous about being rich, caring for and giving to the poor demonstrates a trust in God’s sovereignty in providing for the needs of His people. The priority for benevolent giving rests upon the poor within the church (“my brothers” in Matt 25; “especially those of the household of faith” Gal 6:10). In James 2, failing to care for the poor and needy is equated with lawbreaking, failing to love, and having a dead faith. But this ministry of giving is not a license for believers to quit laboring for money to buy their own food (2Thess 3:6–16). Rather, each believer is called to be “doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:28).
The NT also calls on the church to show honor to its elders by providing for them (I Tim 5). He says those that rule and teach well are worthy of double honor! The Bible makes it clear that there is right for the laborer to share in the fruit of his labors. Churches do well to support their ministers who are given charge of them—“Do not muzzle the ox while it is threshing.”
We, as a church, may also have the opportunity as the church at Philippi of supporting a church planter. Giving towards church planting is a special honor. Paul said such giving towards his ministry was “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). Jesus told the disciples, as he sent them out to preach, to take no money belt with them since a worker is worth his wage. Jesus said if you give even a cup of cold water to one of these because he is His disciple, then you would not lose your reward (Matt 10:40–2).
If the church agrees to other budgetary items, then we are obligating ourselves to give—these are like vows before God. In Eccl. 5:4–6, the preacher of wisdom states: “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” Jesus tells us not to make vain promises but simply to say “Yes” or “No” and mean it (Matt 5:37; cf. Jam 5:12). Church budgets are mutually agreed upon promises of the church. We must strive in our giving to fulfill our commitment. This is also a warning not to inflate our financial obligations. Debts, personal or corporate, are sinful (Rom 13:7–8).
- Have you ever thought about the deep biblical concern for generous giving? Do you consider yourself generous? How could you be more generous?
- What concern do you have for the poor who are within the church?
- How can you grow in the manner of your giving?