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posted by Kris Martens May 06, 2016
VOX POP // How should Christians approach financial stewardship?

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Reality Faith & Life article*


Q.  How should Christians approach financial giving?  Are we to ‘give until it hurts’, give out of our abundance, or give a certain percentage?

Jerry Maguire popularized the expression, “Show Me the Money” (1996).  To hear some Christians (and many skeptics) discuss money and the church, you might get the impression this quote was attributed to Jesus. 

While the scriptures do have much to teach about financial stewardship - few topics were as frequently addressed by Jesus himself -  it’s also an area of deep misunderstanding and can easily become a point of division with the church and within socio-demographic groups (rich vs poor, etc) 

As this question often comes up in our VoxPop series, below we’ll address our understanding of biblical tithing, generosity & giving.  

Tithing in the Old Testament

The word “tithe” is derived from the word “tenth,” and Israel’s forefathers had long practiced a tradition of giving 10% (Gen. 14:20, 28:22) before it was instituted at Sinai (Lev. 27:30-32; Num. 18:21-28; Deut. 12:5-19, 14:22-29, 26:1-19).

Old Testament giving was diverse. Israel was to give sacrifices, freewill offerings, redeem their firstborn people and animals and pay various taxes, among other things. The 10% tithe on harvest and flock was simply one aspect of the diverse gifts required under the Mosaic Covenant, and some estimate that as much as 25% of income was required when considering the various festivals and offerings present.

Malachi 3:8-10 challenges God’s people to bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and seems to suggest that we test God’s faithfulness in financial provision. But does that mean 10% is required and expected of New Testament Christians? Or has the revelation of the gospel clarified how we are to think about giving?

Tithing in the New Testament

Beyond a mention of tithing in a parable (Luke 18:12) and a description of Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:3-10), tithing is only mentioned in two parallel passages of the Gospels (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42). The New Testament never commands the tithe, but the parallel gospel accounts assume it.

What are we to make of this virtual silence in the New Testament?

As with each and every element of the Old Testament, we must read through gospel-informed lenses. We don’t live in ancient Israel and thus must not woodenly apply the prescriptions of the Old Covenant as if not living in the New. The life, death and resurrection of Christ has fundamentally transformed how believers are to relate to the Mosaic Law.

Jesus changes everything by exposing motivation and intent.

Why and how are we to give?

God is a giver. No truth is more readily apparent in Scripture than the generosity, grace and gifts of God. He delights in giving. He himself is the gift and he delights in offering Himself.

As those being conformed to the image of Christ, we should equally delight in giving. And it isn’t just giving in general that is expected; rather it is selfless and sacrificial giving that overflows from a heart responding to the generosity of the gospel.

Here are a few principles to consider:

Give generously.

Consider 2 Corinthians 8-9. If you want to grasp giving, read those chapters and read them again. Not just the “God loves the cheerful giver” section, but the whole thing. The Macedonians gave generously, “beyond their means,” and begged earnestly for “the favour” of doing so. This is radical giving, not just throwing some toonies in the giving jar after a particularly inspiring sermon.  

Give cheerfully.

There is a reward for giving, but it is dependent upon a heart free from a lust for the temporal rewards of this earth (Matthew 6:1-4).

Gospel giving is cheerful and voluntary because it trusts that every deposit into the kingdom will earn eternal interest.

If you can’t give cheerfully, give anyway (don’t compound your internal sin with external sin), but as you do, confess your struggle, seek clarity on the disconnect between your heart and the gospel, pray for joy, and walk in repentance.

Give sacrificially.

This is probably the most under-appreciated and under-applied principle for Christian giving today. It inconveniences us, and the flesh is quick to offer excuses and justification (our over-priced city, etc), but the gospel calls us to deep and radical sacrifice.

In 1 John 3:16-17, the apostle exhorts the Church to care for brothers in need as an overflow and implication of gospel love, the type of love that lays down one’s life for another. Do we actually give to the point that we feel it and the feeling stings? Does the call to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24-26) not also carry the charge to lay down our chequebooks?

Give spontaneously.

A heart freed by the gospel does not wait for opportunities to give. It intentionally seeks them out. Gospel giving looks for chances to bless others and listens to the needs of those near and far.

Gospel generosity gives to those in desperate need(Matthew 5:42), risking the gift might not be used properly (which is not to say that it is not righteous and wise to occasionally withhold support for some greater purpose). Those walking in the light of the gospel engage in good deeds and meet pressing needs anytime and anywhere they arise.

Give regularly.

Though we should give as need arises, we should also be consistent and disciplined in giving. Giving is linked with prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18), and both should contain some element of discipline and regularity.

In 1 Corinthians 16:2, the apostle Paul explicitly commends a disciplined and orderly form of giving in addition to whatever spontaneous offerings and gifts we might be compelled to give.

Give secretly.

I don’t think that Jesus necessarily intends for us to sign Christmas cards “Anonymous” but there is a general theme of secret giving for the sake of eternal reward. The flesh craves the praise of man, and thus we need to beware the hypocrisy and tendency to give in an effort to purchase the acclaim, attention and affection of others (Matthew 6:2-4).

Give thankfully.

Grace is the basis for gratitude. As those who have received grace, we should gratefully extend it to others.

To Whom Do Believers Give?

Knowing how we should give in principle, we see that Scripture calls us to give to:

  • Our local church
  • Our spiritual family
  • Our biological family
  • Our neighbours
  • Our enemies

Though the law of the tithe as understood in its Old Testament context is no longer mandatory for believers, I would argue strongly that giving a regular, set amount to your local church is a healthy and helpful principle. God commands the church members to support those who explicitly labour for the sake of the kingdom (1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:3-12), and the church leaders often have a greater picture of the church’s and the community’s needs.

Within the New Testament, we see the early church selling their possessions and laying the proceeds at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:32-37), trusting them to discern how to best steward the gifts. In the same way, you should entrust a major portion of your giving to your local church. 

If you are not currently covenanted with a church whose leadership you trust, you have a responsibility to honestly consider the motivations of your own heart and humbly dialogue through your concerns with your leaders. If, after taking these steps, your mistrust is found to be appropriate, go elsewhere. If you can’t trust your pastors and church with your giving, you probably shouldn’t trust them with your growth in Christ. If you find that your concerns are more rooted in your own heart, then repent and receive the gift of grace & forgiveness from the Lord as you covenant to steward His gifts for His glory.  

In addition to giving to a local church, there are many missionaries and ministries in need of funding (Inner Hope, Power2Change, etc), as well as countless family, friends, neighbours, enemies, widows, orphans, and the impoverished and oppressed. Such need requires attentive hearts. It is hard to be generous and compassionate without being observant and aware of the needs around us.

Informed by gospel lenses, we should not think of giving as a mere responsibility, but an opportunity and privilege. In view of this reality, 10% should not be the goal. We should continue to think through how we can afford to give more and more.

The gospel compels us to give, confronting our fleshly tendencies toward greed, control, comfort and convenience.

What if a raise or promotion provided an opportunity to further advance the gospel rather than rent a bigger suite or buy a bigger home?

What if where we ate and traveled and what we wore and drove were all filtered through kingdom lenses?

What if we sought to give not 10%, but 20% or more?

Forget the tithe. 

Ask yourself instead: ‘Am I giving generously, cheerfully, sacrificially, spontaneously, regularly, secretly and thankfully? If not, why not?  

Jesus didn’t say ‘Show me the money’ but charged us to ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him’.  He said, ‘Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21).  

To an often-uncomfortable degree, our financial stewardship reveals the condition of our heart.  May we count the cost of discipleship and find great joy in delighting in Christ our provision, redeemer & sustainer.

Realitiy does not have an explicit offering during the Sunday service due to the cultural challenges that money and the church have.  Also we desire that visitors and guests feel welcome without any obligation to give financially.  We want them to respond to Jesus, giving him Lordship over their hearts.  

Financial giving happens at the back of the Chapel by putting one's offering into the giving jars.  We emphasize that this should be done as an act of worship during communion time, before or after the service.  Regular giving is also made possible through automatic pre-authorized donations (EFT).  We'd encourage all covenant members to consider incorporating this discipline into their lives as they are able.  

Please consider setting up EFT giving as we head into the summer months.  Forms can be picked up at the Connect Corner or downloaded on our webpage.

Article adapted from The Village Church & Acts 29