What The Bible Says About Giving
Pastor Terry Inman
It’s that special time of the year again. Thanksgiving followed by Christmas! Gratitude followed by generosity. First we set aside time with family and friends to be thankful. That is if we really think about it between turkey, football and black Friday.
Then comes the Christmas season. Some stores were already into it before Halloween. The Chiolero’s had their tree up a week ago! Giving is a centerpiece of our celebrations. Somebody said, “Don’t come to Jesus birthday party without presents”.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever given. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16 (NIV)
We will be celebrating all month. Our series beginning next Sunday will be the Characters of Christmas. There will be special music and dramatic sketches each week. There are invite cards in your worship folders to share with friends. Many people say they would come if only invited.
Now if you are a bit jaded about all the Christmas buying (like I am sometimes) I encourage you to step back and try to become joyful about your giving. One of my sons called me last week to ask me what I wanted for Christmas. I don’t know. He can’t afford what I really want. I sent him an email and told him I wanted a new F150 4/4 Ford pick-up!
Actually I just want someone to give some thought to what might be meaningful. I don’t want to have to hand out a shopping list. So if I get a battery operated glow in the dark nose hair trimmer don’t complain right?
I don’t know if we can totally get away from feeling a bit obligated about Christmas giving but we can choose to give gifts joyfully. I think this was what the Apostle Paul was getting at when he said, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor.9:7 (NIV)
Today we are going to talk some UNCOMMON CENTS about GIVING. The attitude behind giving really matters. There is a huge difference between giving out of obligation and giving joyfully. Tithing wasn’t optional for God’s people in the Old Testament. They were to give the first tenth of their crops or animals.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. Tithing included livestock. “Every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” Lev. 27.30, 32 (NIV)
In the early seventies we pastored a church in Western Nebraska. A couple farmers kept our freezer full of pork and beef as part of their tithe.
The tithe for ancient Israel was not even considered a gift it was like paying interest or taxes. It was something that belonged to God. He expected to be reimbursed at least ten percent for all he had given. It was like his share of the crop. God wanted his people to know and honor the source of their blessings.
That’s why when they withheld the tithe He withheld his blessings. They complained that he wasn’t answering their prayers so he told them why.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house."
Tithing can reverse the curse! God will pour out a blessing.
"'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 you will not have room enough for it.'” Mal. 3.8-12 (NIV)
In the New Testament Jesus reinforced the practice of tithing but added that the motivation should be out of love and not obligation. Apparently the religious leaders were dutifully tithing but not very loving and giving.
Jesus admonished them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matt. 23.23 (NIV)
The verse I mentioned earlier, “God loves a cheerful giver” comes in the middle of a longer discussion of the principles and practices of giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9. The Apostle Paul was raising funds to assist the impoverished church in Jerusalem. So he wrote ahead of his arrival in Corinth so they would be prepared to give.
First he motivates them to match the extravagant generosity of the churches of Macedonia. He calls their remarkable charity “the grace of giving”. Grace is what distinguishes giving under God’s new covenant from the old system of obligation. We now give out of grace not out of law.
“Giving is the beginning of grace”. Let me read Paul’s words… "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 2 Cor. 8.1-5 (NIV)
Let me break this down. Here’s what gracious giving looks like. They gave even when they were suffering. They gave out of need. They didn’t give out of an abundance of resources they gave out of an abundance of joy.
Here’s how it reads in the Message translation. "Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts." 2 Cor. 8.2 (Message)
They were living under economic pressure but they weren’t giving under pressure. It was a pleasure to give. Sometimes people with very little find it easier to give than people with much. God isn’t as impressed with the amount we give as he is with the amount we keep. He blesses the quality of our generosity not just the quantity.
“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” Prov. 11.24 (NIV)
Jesus illustrated a generous heart with a story about a poor widow. “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21.1-4 (NIV)
Don’t wait to tithe until you think you can afford it. My father used to say we couldn’t afford not to tithe. Billy Graham says, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.”
Now back to Paul’s Macedonian model of giving with rich generosity and overflowing joy in the face of extreme poverty. He continues with some clarifying detail:
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 2 Cor. 8.1-5 (NIV)
This is a further definition of joyful giving. They gave what they had. That’s tithing. They also gave beyond their resources. That’s sacrificial offerings. That is giving out of incredible faith. When we give like that we are definitely depending on God to be our source.
They didn’t have to be asked to give. They actually requested the opportunity to give. Paul says they “urgently pleaded”. They were poor but they weren’t begging to receive, they were begging to give!
Wow wouldn’t that be a fun church to Pastor. I wouldn’t even need to preach on giving. I would never feel apologetic about offerings. I would never feel like I’m begging you to give, you would be begging me! I would be happy, happy, happy!
Now here’s one more thing about these extravagant givers. They gave beyond Paul’s expectations. They gave more than money. They gave themselves fully to the Lord and then to Paul to carry out God’s will.
They were not only joyful folks they were obedient folks. They were excited about doing God’s will! There is nothing more gratifying in life than knowing we are in the center of God’s will. Is it God’s will that we give joyfully! When our will catches up with His will we give joyfully!
David modeled giving willingly and generously for the building of God’s Temple. His leaders followed his example. Then the people did the same. David was overwhelmed with the enormous offerings. So he gave thanks.
“Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand… I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.” 1 Chr. 29.14, 17 (NIV)
Willingness is eagerness, enthusiasm, motivation and preparation. Willingness precedes joyfulness. So now let me skip over to the next chapter where Paul instructs the Corinthians to match the willingness of the Macedonians. They had already committed themselves to participate.
Now he is reminding them to have their offerings ready for his arrival. “I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” 2 Cor. 9.5 (NIV)
He throws this little prompting in that includes the verse we started with, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Giving is like planting. Seed a little--reap a little…seed a lot--reap a lot!
"Jesus said, Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6.38 (NIV)
John Wesley The great revivalist of the seventeen hundreds said, “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”
Paul tells the Corinthians what they can expect from their generous and joyful giving. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9.6-8 (NIV)
“All” mentioned four times in this verse is a quantitative word. It means God gives us the whole thing. He’s not stingy. He does not hold anything back. He gives us “all the grace we need” all the things we need, and he gives all the time, not just when he feels like it. He is “all” in, are we?
In verse ten Paul adds, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Cor. 9.10-11 (NIV)
It so easy to materialize everything, but real wealth goes beyond financial prosperity. We are made rich in every way. 3 John 2 says, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
Let me ask you what is peace with God worth to you? How about physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness, what’s it worth. Like the Macedonians we may feel financially pinched but we can have opulent grace and joy in giving!
Rolland Baker our missionary friend from Mozambique put this on his Facebook page, “How to have a good day when you don’t have much!”
Paul ends the chapter with Thanksgiving. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” James 1.17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
We will never be able to out give God but He invites us to give with him because God loves a cheerful giver!
That makes uncommon cents!