PLEASE READ: Matthew 6:1-4
If you’re a Christian and claim to follow Christ, giving is probably a consistent part of your life. How to give, however, is often sadly misunderstood. Today we sit in churches that cajole us to give, either promising us a wealthy return, or by convincing us it’s our moral duty, which leads to guilt if we are unable. As for those who are needy, they are actually more worthy of being a recipient. Strangely, the Church often makes itself the focus of the funds, instead of those who are actually in need of them.
So where is our money going? Is it really reaching people, or is it building up the overhead? And where are the boundaries between the two? How do we give properly and responsibly, with excellent stewardship in a way that pleases and glorifies God? And what about those times when we are the ones in need? Do we still have an obligation to give although we are unable? And what does God truly expect from us during our time of lack?
As we will find, the LORD makes giving incredibly simple. What has been taught by mega churches and mainline denominations is often laced with greed and manipulative tactics that incite either fear and guilt, or wanton pleasure.
None of these are biblically supported.
The Desire to Give
God created us with an innate desire to meet the needs of others. We do that not only through monetary gain, but our other resources, such as time, energies, talents, skills, and gifts. Giving actually has much more to do with motivation than is does money.
I think we can all relate to times when we’ve had opportunities to relieve someone who was in trouble, pain, distress, hardship, or want. Try to remember a time when you met a legitimate need and witnessed the relief it brought to that individual, as well as the joy it brought to your heart. There is little that can compare. Those heartwarming moments are both life-changing and life-giving.
Giving is something God created us to do. God is an extravagant giver. He spared no expense to redeem mankind, and it was not deserved. The giving God demonstrates is sacrificial, and it is always done freely, being motivated by His loving-kindness, mercy, and compassion.
The giving God desires likewise comes from a compassionate heart of love that is genuinely motivated toward the well-being and goodwill of others. The moment we have to be told when and how much to give, the inherent joy of giving is lost, and we are robbed of the blessing it becomes as well as the reward He longs to give. Giving was never meant to be a moral obligation or duty that places unnatural burdens upon us. I’m happy to tell you, the current model in many churches that place heavy demands was never God’s intention or design. God does not look at how much we give, but the heart with which our gifts are given (whatever form they may take).
All of us have a measure of stewardship. The Lord made it very clear that we will always have the poor among us. Some of us just have more money than others, yet are poor in time, energy, and other resources. Money is all some of us really have. It’s nothing to cut a check or drop a bank note. And then some of us are more wealthy in time, energy, skills, and natural talents.
How we give, to whom, and our motivation for giving is what God is truly interested in.
The more important question is this: What motivates you to give? When do you find your heart aching to relieve the distress of others?
God’s Model for Giving
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering,” (Exodus 25:2, KJV).
This verse in Exodus was the first time God asked Israel for anything. Until this time, they were utterly dependent upon Him for water, food, shelter, and protection. During their exodus and their journey through the wilderness, Israel lived in tents. God (who is so intimate), in His lovingkindness chose to dwell in a tent among them. The tent He was to dwell in was called the tabernacle. God’s tent was where Moses and Aaron (the priest) would meet with Him on behalf of the people. It would house the Ark and the articles of worship. God did not want anyone to give unless it came from a willing heart. In other words, the offering had to come from those who wanted Him to dwell among them. Today, that same standard is taught by Christ and His Apostles. God loves a cheerful giver. He wants us to give according to what we have with willing hearts unto God. That is the gift He delights in and receives. That is the gift He rewards.
Chances are, if you are a Christian, you have been told you must tithe. The tithe was an exact measurement, being ten percent of the wages earned. This amount was to be set apart for the priest’s livelihood, who gave their lives in service unto God in the temple. Offerings, however, were of a different order. Today, we have pastors, who are often dependent upon their congregants for their livelihood. Please understand, the tithe originated in the Law of Moses. As new covenant believers, Christ sets the bar much higher. That old covenant model changed drastically once Pentecost was fulfilled:
And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” (Acts 2:44-47, KJV).
The brotherly love and unity among believers in Acts brought about a motivation to meet the needs of everyone. No one was left out, because they were not giving to one man — a pastor or apostle — but to each other. Everyone was a giver, as well as a recipient.
Sadly, the current church model is that all men (the congregants) are giving to one man (the pastor) and the church projects. Sadly, that model is a far cry from the one demonstrated in Acts by the new covenant church. Does that mean we all need to live in a commune? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that our resources (money, time, labor, energies, and talents) are often missing their target — the people who need them most. The gifts being given are sadly motivated by either by duty or greed, and channeled in a way that leaves many in want, or which burdens those in need who actually should be receiving instead of giving.
The whole goal of giving should be to meet the needs of the Body of Christ as a whole — not one person, ministry, or project. I have watched literally millions of dollars go into buildings when people who had legitimate needs for their children and families were being prodded to empty their pocketbooks. It’s heartbreaking. When the apostles (who founded and fathered many of the new covenant churches) had a specific need, they received gifts from the people in a particular region or church. They were merely recipients for the task at hand — not stewards or distributors of all the funding. People were accountable to God first, and then to each other. And those who could not give money, gave of their resources and talents instead.
And then, of course, we cannot forget the widow’s mite, which Christ said was worth more to God than all the others who gave out of their abundance.
What is profound is that Christ draws a parallel in the picture He paints for us in Matthew 6:1-4; that being the right and left hand. He talks about the rewards for those who announce their giving for men to see. How many times have you witnessed this done in churches — the flagrant waving of a tithe or offering? A name placed upon a brick wall or building?
On the contrary, Christ calls us to give in secret. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. As an RN, I’d like to shed some insight on this, although many of you may already understand what Christ is saying.
The right hand is normally dominant. If that is the case, the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing. Always. Yet Christ draws a peculiar image in saying, the left hand should NOT know what the right hand is doing with regard to our giving. That implies a clandestine secrecy between the giver and God.
Hands are paired; being intricately wired together neurologically. Despite which one may be dominant, they work together. And even if one is solely performing an act, the other is either interactive or assuming a supportive role. In the very least — the non-dominant hand knows what the dominant one is doing. Until you have one hand that is lame or injured, you don’t know what you’re missing. Truly. The dependency of both hands working together is something we all take for granted until we lose one. Therefore, the command Christ gives is one that should speak very clearly to us of the need to give unto God and not unto man. This secrecy even among those who often know what we’re doing will reveal the motives of our hearts.
If we are not going to get the engraved brick or any public acknowledgment for our gift, how quickly does our motivation for giving change?
In closing, I encourage you to give willingly unto God, with joy, according to what you have. Do not ever feel obligated to give what you do not have out of duty or obligation. That is a burden Christ does not put upon anyone. In like manner, if you are someone who cannot give money, there are many other ways you can give and volunteer your time, energy, resources, and talents in meeting the needs of those around you. There is no need to feel left out.
And finally, do not ever be ashamed to be someone in need who must ask for help. You may not be able to give at this time in your life — at least not monetarily. If you are struggling, and you’re in a time of hardship, there is no shame whatsoever in asking for help and assistance from the Body of Christ. It has always been God’s design and intention that we have all things in common, being able to meet the needs of the brethren.
The goal of new covenant giving is that we should all be meeting each other’s needs, giving unto God willingly with joy, and rejoicing with each other; never under obligation or compulsion, but with a joyful spirit.
Only then will your Father in heaven see and reward you. All our riches are His, and our reward is with Him.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: by sasint | Pixabay