At any church, “giving” is one of the more sensitive topics for many that is also very important to discuss. That’s because “giving” is fundamentally essential for the existence and the growth of the local church and the church universal. We often associate giving with money. Although money is important, giving involves more than money. According to Todd Shupe, a disciple will give of their financial resources, time and talents. Recent studies show that tithers make up only 10 to 25 percent of a normal congregation. Only 5 percent of the U.S. tithes, with 80 percent of Americans only giving 2 percent of their income. Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while they gave at a 3.3 percent rate during the Great Depression.
According to Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, most Christians are familiar with the 10 percent tithe. “Make an offering of 10 percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year,” Deuteronomy 14:22-26. First, it is important to stop here and acknowledge that God does not need our money. However, God desires our hearts and our commitment to Him. A full tithe is a sign of trust and commitment and helps to support and advance the local church and its missions.
“Our financial resources are a blessing from God and our tithe is returning a small portion to God what we have received from God,” Todd Shupe said recently. “Stewardship is much more than financial giving to the church. It is also giving our time, talents, and witness.”
Time is a gift of God. How we choose to use it is a matter of discernment and stewardship. Some people lead lives of quiet desperation, always over-extending themselves to the point of exhaustion while others sit around in apathetic boredom. Some spend all their hours serving the needs of others at the expense of their own, while others live only for themselves. As Christian stewards, we try to manage time wisely and in a balanced way. As such, we give our time gladly to family and friends, to strangers, to the community, the church and to ourselves.
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the three servants who received different amounts of money to manage while the master was away? We’ve each received from God distinctive gifts and talents. Todd Shupe, formerly of LSU, believes how we develop and use these talents is a matter of stewardship. Like two of the servants in Jesus’ story, we can invest them wisely — or like the third, out of fear we can hide them (Matthew 25:14-30).
God desires that we serve as His witness wherever we go. For some, this may be mission trips or full time missionaries. For others, it may be as St. Francis of Assisi said, to “speak the gospel wherever you go and use words when necessary.” Todd Shupe believes that the best witness is through your actions – service to others.
Selected Scripture on Giving
1. The Lord Jesus expects and requires us to give: Jesus said to His disciples, “When you give,” not “if you give” (Matthew 6:2). Hence, Christian giving is not optional, but rather essential. We often hear folks say, “In the Old Testament they had to give, but not in the New — now we only give if we want to.” This is clearly incorrect. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
2. The Lord Jesus wants us to give for the right reasons: Jesus warned His disciples not to give for the sake of being admired by men. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them,” He said (Matthew 6:1). When we give, we must be careful to examine our motives. We ought to give for the glory of God and the good of His people. We must desire His approval of our giving, rather than the praise and admiration of people.
3. The Lord Jesus wants us to practice benevolent or charitable giving: Jesus said, “When you give to the poor…” (Matthew 6:2-3). Jesus is specifically teaching about “alms” in this passage: aid, charity or benevolent offerings for the needy.
4. The Lord Jesus reminds us that our giving is ultimately to the all-seeing heavenly Father: Jesus said, “When you give…; your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you,” (Matthew 6:3-4). When we give, we are not simply adding to the Church budget, we are giving back to God what came from God.
5. The Bible teaches that Christian giving is an act of worship: In connection with the previous point, we see this truth stressed in another way in Paul’s word’s “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save,” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Paul here teaches the Corinthians that their taking up of the collection is an act of worship which is to be a part of their regular Lord’s Day worship. When we put our money in the plate, we are worshiping Almighty God in accordance with His Word. Paul is speaking here of a “collection for the saints.” This is giving by the Church to the Church for the Church.
In summary, the Bible teaches that Christian giving ought to be cheerful giving. As Paul says “God loves a cheerful giver.” This is a truly amazing assertion. Paul assures us here that the Lord takes a special delight in those who are joyful, energetic, merry givers God says in Malachi 3:10: “’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.’” This is the only occasion in which God asks us to test him. In fact, after Jesus was baptized, the Enemy tempted him and He answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Clearly, we have not come close to reaching our potential for giving. Won’t you pray that we will give as we ought? That we will give for the right motives? That we will give joyously? And that we will give extravagantly.