Through practicing the art of giving, we can flex our spiritual muscles. We can learn what it means to surrender ourselves completely and wholly. Through giving, we can build our faith.
Principle #1 – My money is not my money
The Bible makes some very clear statements about material possessions. Essentially, it all boils down to one simple fact: God created the universe, and everything in it is His—including your house, your car, and your bank account.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).*
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11, emphasis added).
Principle #2 – God requests a portion back
Once we have decided that everything we own belongs to God, it is a natural progression to want to give something back. Through tithing, we can begin to act upon the gratitude and thanksgiving that we feel.
Tithe is giving back to the Lord one-tenth of our income. In Biblical times, when income was derived primarily from crops, tithe was paid in produce. In today’s equivalent, tithe is one-tenth of the money that we earn. The Bible makes it abundantly clear.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops” (Proverbs 3:9).
Principle #3 – Attitude vs amount
Scripture records the poignant story of the widow and her mites (Mark 12:42). Jesus, seated in the temple courts, was obviously touched by the woman’s gift. Clearly it had nothing to do with the amount she gave. She gave two copper coins—a small, insignificant amount that would have been surpassed by hundreds of others that day. She would not get a special mention in the temple bulletin thanking her for her generosity. And really, what difference did her pennies make? Apparently, a lot. Centuries on, we are still learning from this faithful woman’s act. The amount is irrelevant. The attitude is everything.
Principle #4 – Offerings: Using money for good
While tithing is important and a right attitude is essential, it is not the sum total of what God expects a Christian to give. All through the Bible, people brought offerings to God. Some of the offerings were atonement offerings in the sacrificial system; however, others were offerings of joy and thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon the giver. Indeed, the widow we discussed above was in all likelihood bringing what could be called a “free will” offering to the temple. It is the practice of churches today to collect offerings as part of their worship services to assist them in their work. This Biblical principle continues to be significant.
“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Principle #5 – How much?
Getting down to the nitty gritty is the underlying question of “How much?” How much should a believer give to the church? Perhaps the best principle can once again be found in the Bible.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
It is clear that the decision of how much to give is one that is made in each person’s heart and that their heart posture is what counts. Once again, the amount is secondary to the attitude.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Where have you stored your treasure?
*All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.