Giving to the Lord’s Work

Rev. Scott L. Harris

      John MacArthur found the following statistics in studying the subject of money in the Bible. “Sixteen out of thirty-eight of Christ’s parables deal with money; more is said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined; five times more is said about money than prayer; and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions.” Obviously God has something to say about finances.

      From the very beginning, let it be clear that the design of this paper is simply to present to you Biblical truth concerning giving to the Lord’s work. We only encourage you to give serious consideration to what God has said and then seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in your specific response.

Introduction: God Doesn’t Need Your Money

      God is self-sufficient. There is no need within God for anything other than Himself for He is complete within Himself. He has no need for anything to be given to Him or be done for Him because He already exists in perfection. God already owns everything because He created it all. Gold and Silver do not impress Him. Wealth does not move Him. We do not do God a favor by giving to this church or any other group. God does not need us or our money. In addition, God promises to meet the needs of His followers, therefore the Church does not need to pressure you to give.

      It is man that needs God. It is we who live and move and have our very existence in God (Acts 17). God is the one that sustains our lives and without Him we could not even exist for He holds us together (Col. 1). Our dependence upon God is complete. The Christian recognizes this truth and gives thanks and praise to God for everything. The non-Christian continues in either ignorance, defiance or both and gives praise to himself for what he has, not God.

      If God does not need us or our money then why should we serve Him and give our money? Because it is a wonderful privilege. As A.W. Tozer put it, “the blessed news is that the God who needs no one has in sovereign condescension stooped to work by and in and through His obedient children.” Serving and giving are displays of our hearts – what we really believe and feel toward God. They are ways to be a reflection of who He is and thereby bring greater glory to Him. They are ways to be included in His great work.

      While it is true that God does not need us or our money, for He will accomplish His will with or without us, He desires to use us, our abilities and resources for His own glory. We need to give in order to be a part of His work and receive His blessings.

Having Financial Peace

      God wants our focus to be on Him and not on the things of this world. That is why He promised His followers that He would provide for their material needs if they would put His kingdom and righteousness first in their lives. God wants our hearts to be set on Him and not on this world and the things in it.

      Jesus addresses this directly in Matthew 6:19-34 stating: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, [as to] what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, [as to] what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and [yet] your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a [single] cubit to his life’s span? 28 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [do so for] you, O men of little faith? 31 “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. [Each] day has enough trouble of its own.”

      The Apostle Paul brings out the same point in Philippians 4:6,7, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   When we place our lives in God’s hands we do not need to worry.

      The problem that many people have with giving is that they are either unaware of God’s promises to provide or they simply not trust Him to do it. They believe that they must provide for themselves by their own means and methods. Certainly we must work to earn a living (2 Thess. 3:10), but our approach to work is simply to be faithful to God first and foremost by doing what He says and living in the manner He proscribes trusting Him to meet the needs that we will have.

      I, like most other pastors and missionaries, have many stories of God providing when my own resources had run out – food left on the doorstep, medical bills of multiple thousands mysteriously being “Paid in Full,” vehicles provided when the old one was about to breakdown, vacations given when we were most in need. Life is much more peaceful when its focus can be on the Lord and you rest in His promises to provide for the necessities of life.

Being a Steward

      Another problem many people have with giving is that they are self-centered. Adding to this problem is the love people have for the things of this world and belief that they deserve to have them. They fail to recognize that God does not exist for their benefit. We exist for His good pleasure. God owns it all and we are nothing more than stewards/managers/administrators of what God has let us use the short time we are here on earth. You do not really “own” anything, but simply use what God makes available to you while you are alive. We arri
ve in this world without anything and we will leave it without anything. Since God owns it all, He has rights and you have responsibilities. He will hold you accountable for what you do with what He given you – both material items and your spiritual gifts.

      In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus taught that God is the owner & has rights. People are stewards and have responsibilities. The talents belonged to the owner, not the slaves. The slaves had a responsibility to carry out the owner’s desires. The ramifications of this are that

      A. Every spending decision is spiritual. Since the money is not yours, but simply what God has entrusted to you, every use of it should be reflective of God’s desires and not just your own.

      B. Your checkbook reveals something of the spiritual condition of your heart. Remember that Jesus said in Matt 6:21 that where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

      A clear Biblical principle is that we cannot love God and the things of this world (Matt. 6:24; 1 John 2:15,16). James goes so far as to say that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. “   The idea in this is not that God is the great cosmic kill-joy who does not want you to enjoy anything. The breadth of Scriptures makes it clear that we may take advantage of and enjoy the things of this world including pleasure, possessions and power, but we are not to be in pursuit of them (see Ecclesiastes 3:12,13; 5:18; Psalm 128:1-5; 1 Timothy 4:4,5 etc.). But the fact is that this world is passing away (1 John 2:17; Matt. 24:35; 2 Peter 3,10,11), so the wise course of action is to pursue what will transfer into eternity.

      The person who is truly successful will pursue loving God (Matt. 2:37); becoming like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29) and serving God and other people (Mk. 9:35; 10:42-45). None of these have much to do with a person’s financial state. We are only stewards of what God has entrusted to us, and what He requires of us is faithfulness to Himself (1 Cor. 4:2).

      The question now arises of “What then does God want us to give?”

Old Testament Tithing

      There are many that advocate that Christians should “tithe.” They believe that God commands all believers to give 10% of their earnings to God’s work. They cite several Old Testament scriptures and in particular Malachi 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation [of you]! 10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

      This is a wonderful Scripture passage about tithing, but it was written to the nation of Israel while they were in the land. The Church is not Israel. This tithe was just one of the many taxes placed upon the Israelites. There were three different tithes.

      The first tithe is sometimes referred to as the Levites’ tithe. It is explained in Leviticus 27:30 and Numbers 18:21-24. Ten percent of all the produce of the land as well as the stock was to be set apart as holy unto the Lord. If the individual wanted to keep the particular item for himself, then he would have to substitute something else of equal value plus twenty per cent. Its purpose was to support the Levites in their ministry to the Lord. The Levites were to give ten per cent of what they were given (a tithe of the tithe) to the High Priest. Details are also given about where they could eat the tithe,

      A second tithe is described in Deuteronomy 12:6,7, 17-19 and 14:22-28 which was sometimes called the “festival tithe.” This tithe would be collected locally every third year for the support of local Levites and the relief of the widow, orphan and poor. The people shared this tithe with the Levites in a feast of rejoicing before the Lord.

      These tithes were religious in the sense that God required them for the support of those who ministered in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. These tithes do not take into account the other required offerings such as the various sacrifices (Lev. 1-7), leaving the corners of the fields for gleaning by the poor (Lev. 19), letting the land rest every seven years (Exod. 23) and the Temple Tax instituted in Neh. 10:33. The total estimates of tithes and taxes for the Israelites ranges from 24-35%. That amount went higher when Israel set up kings over themselves.

      Christian tithing is advocated for a variety of reasons including an effort to increase giving through guilt and obligation (which contradicts the New Testament commands). Sadly, the national average of giving by church members was only about 2.5% in the 80’s and less in the 90’s, but that is not an excuse to try to increase giving fourfold by advocating tithing as the required standard.

      On the other extreme, some people like tithing because it is cheaper than sacrificial giving. They believe that God requires just 10% and that when they reach that level they have fulfilled their moral obligation. This reasoning is exposed whenever a discussion of tithing includes a question of whether it should be on the gross or the net. A tenth did not buy off God in then and it does not now.

      The Old Testament tithe does not transfer into New Testament Christianity any more than the sacrificial system does. The pattern for the New Testament principle of giving was seen in the Old Testament free-will and fellowship offerings and in the example of Abraham.

Abraham’s Example

      In Genesis 14 Abraham gets involved in a war and conquers the kings that had taken captive the people of Sodom and Gomorrah including Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family. As Abraham returns from battle, he passes by Salem and meets Melchizedek who was the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. Verse 21 records Melchizedek saying to Abraham, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abraham responded by giving Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils.

      There was no command for Abraham to give anything to Melchizedek and there is no record that Melchizekek asked for anything. There is indication of similar practices in the surrounding cultures of giving a percentage of either the spoils of war or of labor for political or religious reasons. The point here is that Abraham gave to the priest of God Most High simply because he wanted to do so. There is no record of Abraham doing anything similar again, but at that time there was not an organized priesthood or church. Abraham’s regular gifts to God were the sacrifices he offered.

Old Testament Free-Will Offerings

      Many of the offeri
ngs in the Old Testament were not required, but given freely as a response of worship of God. Leviticus 1-7 describes the five offerings that were to be brought to the Lord. The Sin and Guilt offerings were obligatory, but the Burnt, Grain and Peace offerings were all voluntary.

      When the Tabernacle was to be built, God told Moses to have the people “raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution “ (Exod. 25:2 – see also 35:5,21). The same occurred in the building of the Temple. David had freely provided for the Temple from his wealth, but the people also made free-will contributions toward it (1 Chron. 29:1-9, 14,17). The same was true when the Temple was repaired (2 Kings 12:5;) and in the building of the Second Temple under Ezra (Ezra 1:6; 2:68; 7:16).

New Testament Giving

      The most definitive passage on the principles of giving in the New Testament is 2 Cor. 9:6-15. The specific context of the passage is Paul’s collection of an offering for relief of the poor in Jerusalem. The principle is given in verses 6 & 7.   “Now this [I say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

      The agricultural analogy used in verse 6 is understood by anyone that has ever planted a garden. The first factor in determining the size of your harvest is the amount of seed you plant. Tragically this principle has been perverted by the so called, “faith,” movement as a means to entice greedy people to send them their money as “seed faith” with the idea that they will in turn become rich because of it. Certainly Paul wants the Corinthians to sow material seed, i.e. give money for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem, and Paul is stating that they will reap a harvest because of it. However, the harvest Paul describes in verse 8-14 is not material. The harvest Paul describes in this passage is that first, God will enable you to give even more. Second, thanksgiving will be made to God. Third, God will be glorified because of you, and fourth, people will pray for you.

      The idea of an abundant material harvest would be in direct contrast to the clear teaching of scriptures which is against our lusting after the things of this world. One principle of Scripture cannot be violated in order to fulfill another. God does not try to motivate us to do right in one area by doing wrong in another. That would be in violation of His very character. He does not entice us to give to Him by promising to satisfy our greed and lust for wealth. The quest of the Christian life is righteousness, not riches.

      The New Testament principle of giving in verse 7 arises from the fact that the Holy Spirit lives inside the believer. Giving, like everything else in the Christian’s life, takes place as you cooperate with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is to be lead by the Spirit of God, not compelled by His law. Why? Because God wants to give freely from our hearts and not of necessity because we are forced to do so. He wants us to be happy as we give. The word “cheerful” here is the word ilaron / hilaron from which we get our word, “hilarious.” It is being so happy you are nearly boisterous.

      The Christian is to give as he purposes in his own heart. There is no set amount or percentage. You give what you want. The most important thing we find in the New Testament is not how much you give but that you give for the right reason and with the correct attitude. Giving to the Lord’s work is to be part of your worship of Him. What you give of your time and finances is a direct reflection of your relationship with Him. The example Jesus gives in Luke 7:36-47 shows that those who love God much will give much and those who love God little will give little.

Additional New Testament Principles of Giving

1.   Giving is investing with God. We gain eternal dividends on what we give to God. As we freely give, God supplies all our needs and bountifully increases our spiritual rewards (Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6-11; Phil. 4:17-19).

2.   Giving is to be sacrificial. It is not the actual amount, but what it costs you to give it. Sacrifice is the essence of giving as Jesus pointed out in Mark 12:41-42 (see also Heb. 13:16). The example in 2 Cor. 9:5-6 is that they gave “bountifully.” There is a generosity that costs the giver.

3.   Giving is not a matter of what you have. Giving is for people in every economic class. (Luke 16:10; 2 Cor. 8:1-5).

4.   Giving affects spiritual riches. A person that cannot handle money will not be entrusted with God’s true riches (Luke 16:11). A person that is faithful in handling money righteously will be given greater responsibility (Luke 19:16-19).

5.   Giving is to be in response to need. There are several examples in the New Testament of collections being made to relieve the needs of the poor afflicted by famine (Acts 2,4,5, 11 etc.).

6.   Giving is planned. While giving responds to needs, it is also wise and plans ahead. Paul instructed the Corinthians to prepare for his coming to receive their contribution for the saints by collecting it in a systematic manner (on the first day of the week) as each one might prosper (1 Cor. 16:1,2

7.   Giving is to demonstrate love and not law. Paul’s instruction on giving in 2 Cor. 8:8-9 is “not speaking as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. “ Love gives freely

8.   Giving is done as each purposes in their own heart. Biblical examples range from Abraham who gave ten percent, to Zaccheus who gave fifty per cent, to the widow who gave all she had (Gen. 14:20; Luke 19:8; 21:2,3; 2 Cor. 9:7.

Needs in the Church

      There are many needs around the church that must be met in order to fulfill its various ministries. Examples of some of these expenses include:

* Purchase, maintenance of church facilities and equipment including both building and grounds.

* Other costs related to having property: Insurance, water & sewer levies, etc.

* Purchase of evangelism materials such as tracts, books, and newspaper distribution.

* Community outreach efforts such as Vacation Bible School, Harvest Dinner and Community Day

* Advertising costs

* Christian Education costs for Sunday School and Children’s Church

* Age group ministries: AWANA and Teen ministries.

* Music and sound equipment to enhance worship

* Charitable ministries to those in need

Guest Speakers – Honorarium and travel expenses

* Pastoral salary and support

* Missionary support

(Please note that the Scriptures are clear that those who labor in spiritual ministry of teaching and leading in the church should be compensated in material things for their labor (Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:9-14; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17,18). Financial compensation to pastors and missionaries enable them to devote all their time and energy to those endeavors instead of working in another capacity to earn a living).

Giving at Grace Bible Church

      In keeping with the Biblical Principles explained above, Grace Bible Church does not collect an offering by passing any type of collection device among the congregation. Instead, GBC maintains a “Faith Box” in the back of the church for individuals to place their offerings into as they desire. Our feeling is that passing a plate for an offering may make some give “grudgingly or under compulsion” in contradiction to 2 Cor. 9:7. We want to people to give cheerfully as they purpose in their own hearts. It is named the “Faith Box” as reminder that this church walks by faith for God to supply what is needed and never will coerce giving from people in any way or to raise funds in any un-Biblical method.

      For the benefit of those who may be new to the church, there is usually a reminder about the Faith Box during the Worship Service with a double emphasis that visitors are guests and have no obligation to put anything in the Faith Box except their Guest Registration Card, and that the Faith Box is for receiving the offerings of those that attend Grace Bible Church. We do not speak of tithing here.

      Our Treasurer will keep a giving record for those who give by check or marked envelope for tax purposes only. A Deacon will usually assist the treasurer in counting the weekly offerings, but only the Treasurer and his administrative assistant knows what anyone else gives (in keeping with the principle of Matt. 6:3). Tax receipts are generally available for the previous year by the end of January. Please see the Church Treasurer for additional information.