GIVING – A SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY
If we are serious about being disciples of Jesus then we have to be serious about our responsibility to use what we have – our finances and our possessions, as well as our gifting and abilities.
Yep! This is teaching on MONEY. Not the most popular of subjects. We like to have it, don’t like to be without it, don’t like to be told what to do with it…cos it’s ours and we’ve worked hard to get it.
But, the Bible has a lot to say about it – where it really comes from and what we really should be using it for. And….that it is actually a blessing to give it away!!!
Malachi 3:6-12 gives us the clear command and also the benefits of simply obeying that command:
6 ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
‘But you ask, “How are we to return?”
8 ‘Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
‘But you ask, “How are we robbing you?”
‘In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. 12 ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.
You want to be blessed by God? Then give to Him what He has asked of you – the “tithe” – the 10% of whatever you earn. In the past, this 10% meant the first 10% of the fruit you grew or the crops you harvested, or the jewellery that you made. Nowadays it is 10% of your income. And what is this 10%? Is it before tax? After tax? After I have paid the mortgage or bought the food? Well, that is between you and God
And who should I give this “tithe” to? The “storehouse” equates to the church. The church officials have the responsibility of deciding how the money is used. Why should you say “no! I want it to go to ‘Donkeys for Jesus’”. It’s not yours in the first place – it’s God’s. The church officials have the responsibility for using it well. Throughout the Old Testament the tithes and other offerings were to be brought to the Levites who looked after them.
Why do I have to tithe? Why can’t I just keep my money, my possessions, my “stuff” for myself? Well, when you commit yourself to being a disciple of Jesus, you are committing yourself to giving what is needed to make the Kingdom of God “work” on earth – just like we pay taxes to ensure our society functions well. And just like the government and civil service and local authorities then use your taxes to provide the care, infrastructure and services that we need, so the church uses the tithes and offerings to care for the needy, support the spreading of the Good News at home and abroad, maintain the buildings and, yes, fund me so that I can continue to serve you. Without tax the country will fail, without tithes and offerings this church will collapse.
But….surely this is how it USED to be….surely this is Old Covenant (that is the “old agreement” made between God and man before Jesus came – an agreement based on mankind obeying God’s good and caring Law in order to live a right life) “stuff” and we are no longer bound by the Law?
Not so! The Law is written on our hearts now. It has not been ended, it has been fulfilled in Jesus and now through us. The New Testament goes MUCH FURTHER than the commands of the Old Testament and suggests the Disciple cultivating a spirit of generosity that is OVER-AND-ABOVE the command to tithe….
THE SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY
Jesus drew His disciples’ attention to exactly what His attitude was towards generous giving:
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’
This goes WAY BEYOND “tithing”. Jesus commends a widow who gave EVERYTHING SHE HAD. He does not call her foolish. He is clearly saying that “this is the right way to deal with money”.
And note that this is not even looking at “tithes”. This is looking at “offerings” – the money that we give OVER AND ABOVE what we have a duty to give to the church.
ON THE ONE HAND AND ON THE OTHER
On the one hand Jesus says that those who live for Him will care for the poor, the sick and the hungry, that they will lay down their very lives for others (see Matt 25:31-46). The Early Church clearly picked up on this – electing deacons to ensure that the poor and the widows were fed and cared for (Acts 6:1-7) – even selling land and properties to provide for those who were in need (Acts 4:32-37).
On the other hand Jesus warned that the one who sought riches selfishly to make their lives easy and pleasant were like the man who decided to build bigger barns for his bumper crop so that he could take his ease (Luke 12:13-21). That night his soul was demanded of him! In the same way, in the Early Church, when Ananias and Sapphira held back their generosity and lied about what they were giving they paid for it with their lives (Acts 5:1-11).
WEALTH IS A BLESSING – BUT FOR WHOM?
Most people would like to be like Topol in “The Fiddler on the Roof” – rich and comfortable. Most people would relate to the richest man in the world who when asked “what does the man who has everything want?” answered “just a little bit more!”
Some say that they do not want wealth because as a disciple they should be poor and that riches would lead them into temptation.
Neither of these is correct!
Wealth IS a blessing from God – but not for you….but for others!
My friend Michael became rich through much hard work over many years. When he finally became a Christian he thanked God for his wealth – because he saw it as a gift from God that he was then able to bestow on others.
GENEROSITY IS A BLESSING – BUT FOR WHOM?
I know of those who have “bled their parents dry” of everything that they have so that they, the children can be well-off.
That is SO wrong!
Let our attitude be that of an elderly friend of mine. Left a large legacy by relatives she just gave away, gave away. And her attitude? She loved it! She said that it made her feel SO good to know that she was helping her family and others.
Generosity is a blessing to EVERYONE! To the one who receives and the one who gives.
I am His disciple. Everything that I have He has given to me – not only my present but my eternal life. All I possess is a blessing that He has bestowed on me. All I have is His – my life, my abilities, my work, my possessions and my money. I give it all to Him.
There are those who say that the new covenant is not about giving Him my Tithe but of saying that “ALL I have I give to You – what do you want me to keep for myself?”
- Do I believe that we have the command to bring the “tithe” into the church?
- Am I doing so?
- Do I need to make any changes to my giving?
- What do I understand by the story of the “Widow’s Mite”?
- What do I feel about the concept of “it’s not what I give to God but rather what I keep for myself because it all belongs to Him in any case”?
- Do I want to cultivate a “spirit of generosity”?
- What will this look like?