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For some Christians, giving is synonymous with tithing! Some give grudgingly, some give as a matter of duty, and some think that once they have given their tithe, they have fulfilled their entire obligation to God! But it is not about tithing that we want to discuss, but about giving per se.
It is in the nature of God to give. When He loved us so much and hated to see any of us perish, He was willing to give His Son to die in our place in order to save us (Jn.3:16). When we become His children and His love begins to get poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, one of the changes that takes place is a growing desire to serve God and other people, and a willingness even to make sacrifices in order to be able to do that. We become willing to give not just money, but also our time, energy and other resources. This is one reason why Christians all over the world have become known for their service to humanity in various forms.
Tithing was a requirement under the law of the old covenant, but giving is a matter of the new heart under the new covenant. Once we have this heart, we don’t need instructions about how much we ought to give, but more about how to give. For a really godly man, sometimes it is practical considerations that limit his giving, and it is not motivational talks that he needs to push him into giving. If people need to be pushed and pushed in order to make them reluctantly do something for the Lord, the chances are that their knowledge of God is not real or strong.
Jesus and the apostles have told us much about how to give. Jesus said that our giving must not be with the aim of impressing people or making a name for ourselves for our kindness or generosity, but, so to speak, in secret (Matt.6:1-4). This is not a special instruction only concerning giving money but everything in our life that is to be lived out before the face of our Father who looks at the motives and intentions of the heart, rather than before people.
Paul illustrated the right way of giving by pointing to the churches in Macedonia who demonstrated their heart of God by giving even beyond their ability (2Cor.8:1-3). This became possible for them because they had actually given themselves to the Lord and to His people first (v.5). It is such a heart that should motivate us to give – whether we give of our money, time or energy. It is sad to see leaders and organisations trying to motivate people to give with a view to receiving back many times over what they have given. Jesus tells us to give, expecting nothing in return (Lk.6:35).
God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor.9:7). When we are compelled by a ‘law’ to give a certain percentage, what is lacking may be cheerfulness or eagerness to give! There is nothing wrong with deciding in our own mind to give a certain percentage every month for the Lord, His work or His people, depending on how the Lord has prospered us (1Cor.16:1,2), even if it is ten percent! The point is that we should not give because we think we have to give – either to receive a blessing from the Lord or to avoid His displeasure. If we want to be led by the Spirit, then this percentage should not be rigid also, since God can direct our paths in different ways each time and we must be flexible enough to adjust. We must not also forget that God has every right to ask us even to sell off all that we have and to give it away (Matt.19:21)!
When a law is imposed on our giving, it can even become callous. It is true that Jesus highly appreciated the widow who gave two mites, which was all she had. He appreciates sacrificial giving – in whatever form of service we may carry out. But this is not to make a law which demands that one must give the tithe to the Lord or sow the seed in order to get a response from God even when one has nothing to survive with! That is cruelty, and one wonders how much people who insist on it know the heart of God.
To whom shall we give? Of course, we have a primary obligation to the local church we are a part of, to provide for its sustenance and for its ministries. We have a responsibility too to support the leaders who serve us. But our responsibility is not limited by this narrow outlook. Brothers and sisters who are in ‘other folds’ in the universal church also come under our purview. Beyond that, remember that every human being on the earth is a creation of our Father and we should also share in His concerns for them. The main point in the parable of the Good Samaritan was to say that even those whom people wrongly consider as outcasts are our neighbours who may need our help.
Sad to say, many people seem to consider ‘ministries’ as sources of employment or means for promoting themselves. But whatever we do – and there are more types of ministries that the Lord may call us to than the ones listed in the Bible – we must do it in order to serve our Lord and His people. That is the spirit of giving.
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