“There are three conversions necessary to every man: the head, the heart, and the purse.” Martin Luther
Last week, we began a five-part series on Generosity at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. I asked the congregation to take on “The 90-Day Challenge.” The commitment stated, “Between now and May 10, I will worship God with my giving; I will give generously; I will give my first and my best; I will trust God to provide for my needs; I will look to see how God meets my needs; and I will share the results so others can praise God.”
A challenge of this nature, or anytime you bring up the subject of money for that matter, raises a number of questions. In this message, I want to ask and answer five basic questions: What should my perspective be about giving? What is the purpose of giving? What principles should guide my giving? Should I give a tithe? and How much should I give? The answers to the first three questions are found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-22 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.
What should my Perspective be about Giving?
God owns it all (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The first and most important principle in money management is recognizing that none of it belongs to me. Everything belongs to God. Rather than being an owner, I am a steward of what he has entrusted to me.
We give back to God what he has given to us (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16). In a very real sense, none of us makes a donation or gives an offering to God. We are simply acknowledging his ownership and giving back what already is his to begin with.
Giving is a natural part of worship (1 Chronicles 29:10, 13, 20-22). Giving is one of the many ways (prayer, service, singing, sharing, silence, etc) we worship God.
You cannot separate doctrine and duty (1 Corinthians 15:1-16:1). After teaching about the reality and necessity of the resurrection, and leading the Corinthian church in praising God for bringing Jesus back from the grave, Paul addresses the subject of “the collection.” Theology and practice, doctrine and duty are closely tied together.
What is the Purpose of Giving?
Our gifts support the ministry of the church (1 Chronicles 29:16). David took an offering to build the temple. The tithe in the Old Testament Law was used to support the ministry of the Levites and priests.
Our gifts minister to those in need (1 Corinthians 16:1). The context of 1 Corinthians 16 is that Paul is raising funds for the church in Jerusalem which is experiencing a famine.
Giving has a unifying effect on the church (1 Corinthians 16:1). Paul is raising money from Gentile believers in Corinth and Galatia to minister to Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Giving focuses the church on what is most important.
What Principles should guide my Giving?
Giving should be …
Periodic – “On the first day of the week…” (1 Corinthians 16:2a). If you get paid weekly, give weekly. If you get paid twice a month, give twice a month. The pattern of your giving should match the pattern of your income.
Personal – “…each of you…” (1 Corinthians 16:2a). Rich or poor, young or old, all of us have the responsibility and privilege of giving.
Planned – “…put something aside and store it up…” (1 Corinthians 16:2b). Don’t wait until the offering plate is passed to decide what/if/how much to give. Think, pray, and decide before you ever come to church.
Proportionate – “…as he may prosper…” (1 Corinthians 16:2c). The amount we give should not remain static throughout our lives. As our income increases, so should our giving.
Properly Protected – “…those whom you accredit…” (1 Corinthians 16:3-4). The offering should be handled with integrity and grace.
Should I give a tithe?
To answer the question about tithing, you have to understand that the principle of the tithe existed long before the Law was given. Abraham offered a tithe to the priest, Melchizedek, after God delivered him in battle (Genesis 14:17-20). Jacob promised God a tithe if he brought him safely back home (Genesis 28:10-22).
You also have to understand that the Law required three separate tithes, which totaled up to 22.3%. The Israelites gave a tithe (10%) to God of all produce and animals (Leviticus 27:30-33). A festival tithe (10% of the remaining 90%, or 9%) was eaten in Jerusalem as part of a sacred meal (Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11, 18). A charity tithe (10% over 3 years, or 3 1/3% each year) was used to help the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12-15; 14:28-29). In essence, the Old Testament tithe was a flat tax on everyone who was part of the nation of Israel.
Beyond the tithe, there was also a freewill offering that was to be given from the heart (Exodus 25:2; 35:29).
How much should I give?
After studying the biblical passages, you are left with the conclusion that the New Testament does not teach tithing, per se. Instead, it teaches generous giving (2 Corinthians 8-9). 10% might be a good starting point, since it was the practice of godly people before the Law was given. However, it was not meant to be a requirement or a limit.
The story is told of Sam Houston, hero of Texas history, who gave his life to the Lord in the latter years of life and asked to be baptized. He was taken down to a little country stream, and the pastor said, “General Houston, you should take your glasses off because I am going to immerse you in water.” There were also some papers in General Houston’s pocket, so he took those out as well.
Then, just as he was getting ready to go into the water, the pastor noticed that General Houston still had his wallet in his pants. He said, “Well, General, you might want to take that wallet out of your pants. It is going to get wet.”
Houston responded, “If there is any part of me that needs baptizing, it is my wallet.” So Houston was baptized, wallet and all.
Give generously, and see what God does.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 16, 2020. It is part of a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.