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How much shall we give?
- Jacob Ninan
People give different answers to this, but is there a definite answer to this from God? Some are very simplistic when they say 10%, because even though that is a measure God gave to the people of Israel under the Old Covenant, it was not that it was all He asked from them. They had to give tithes for different purposes at different times. On the other hand, under the New Covenant the guideline is to give as each one has purposed in his heart, cheerfully (2Co.9:7), according as one prospers (1Co.16:2), richly, readily and generously (1Ti.6:18), etc. This brings us into a logical dilemma--how much is enough?
One stream of logic tells us that since there are so many other people suffering from much want, it would be unrighteous for us to live in any way that may be called as luxury in comparison. There is much truth here. Wanton spending in lavish ways is unjustified as a matter of principle. But who is to decide what is lavish or luxurious? If we look around we can always find people who do not have as much as we have, and then where do we draw the line where we can decide we have sacrificed enough? Forget now about the condemnation and guilt some people try to heap upon us by saying we are not giving enough. As we stand honestly before God, how much does He really want us to give?
There was one rich young man whom Jesus asked to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Lk.18:22). But the purpose Jesus had in this was not to set a standard for everyone, but to encourage this particular man to love God more than his money. On another occasion Jesus commended a poor widow for giving all she had (Lk.21:1-4). Again this was not to teach that everyone should give all that he has, because such an instruction would be very impractical as a general rule. What Jesus was trying to do was to challenge people who gave from their abundance without feeling any pinch and thought mighty good about themselves.
So how much shall we give? Let us not judge one another, compare ourselves with ourselves, compare others with ourselves, and try to impose some rule on others which we ourselves find comfortable with. Let us learn to leave this matter to God to decide and tell each one of us according to His plan for us.
"If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (Ga.5:18). This is such a glorious truth that liberates us from the letter of the law that will only kill us in the end (2Co.3:6). Since God has not made us all equal and He has put us in different circumstances of life, He has specifically different plans for each of us. We have a tendency to want to be like others, and also another tendency to want everyone else to be like us. But the right/best thing is to be led by His Spirit. Then we don't have to make a rule about how much to give, but give as He leads us every moment.
But there is a great challenge in being led by the Spirit. We need to be humble, honest and sincere, because we should not fool ourselves.