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Giving is an important subject in the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, due to inadequate teaching, it is also a controversial subject. At Life Church we want your understanding of giving to be based on God's Word.
God gives! He created us and gave us life. He gave our fore-parents Adam and Eve everything they needed for a happy and fulfilling life. When they disobeyed him and tried to cover themselves with leaves, he was merciful and gave them more adequate clothing. The Bible teaches us that . . .
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:17-18 NIV )
The Bible contains many more examples of God's giving nature – here are a few more:
God wants us to share in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV ) and this means that we also need to give.
Many pastors begin their discussion of giving with Old Testament references to tithing. We will examine these scriptures also, but we will begin our examination of giving-related scriptures in the New Testament. Consider the following passage:
But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-9)
God wants us to excel in giving! Most of us understand what it means to excel in something. We achieve excellence by following these steps:
We can use these same steps to excel in giving!
If we want to excel at giving we need to set the right goal. There are four principles that will help us in this area: (Click on a principle for more details.)
The Bible declares that . . .
The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1-2)
If we don't begin with this perspective, we will fall short of our objective. We and everything we own already belong to God. All we have is temporary custody of our lives and our possessions. Our giving is not a matter of handing over to God some new "property"; it's a matter of us acknowledging the fact that what we give him he already owns! Here are some more scriptures that reinforce this important truth:
God sacrifices his own "comfort" by loving us, providing for us,and putting up with our many failures. We see this demonstrated supremely in God's sacrifice of his only Son to provide us with salvation and to restore us to himself. God expects us to give sacrificially and he commends such giving when it happens. Here are some examples:
One of the most important ways that we give to God sacrificially is by giving him our best and by giving it to him first! We see this principle illustrated in the following passages:
Our attitude towards giving is important to God. If we find that we are giving reluctantly then we are not giving excellently. Consider the following scriptures:
It is important to start by giving the largest portion of our resources that we can give cheerfully. Then, if we find that our level of giving falls short of excellence, we should ask God to transform our attitude so that we can be cheerful about giving an even larger portion.
We also need to understand that giving cheerfully and giving sacrificially are not mutually exclusive. Every time we use our resources for one purpose we are sacrificing some other purpose for which we might have used the same resources. The money we use to go out to dinner and a movie could be saved towards a downpayment on a house. The time we spend watching a television program could be spent studying for an exam.
If we are wise, we prioritize our use of our resources by using them to take care of things in decreasing order of importance:
If we are very wise, we prioritize God above everything else. Naturally this should be reflected in our giving!
Most discussions of Christian giving start with the concept of "tithing" or giving a tenth of your resources. We have chosen to deal with the tithe last. One reason for this is that we believe the New Testament admonition to excel at giving represents a more fundamental principle
(2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV ). Our other reason for dealing with tithing last is that historically there has been no small amount of controversy over whether tithing is part of the old covenant and therefore no longer applicable to Christians.
We believe that the relationship of the tithe to the old covenant is actually a secondary issue. Remember that as we seek to excel at giving we need to begin by setting both long-term and short-term goals. How do we determine what those goals should be? The Holy Spirit's instruction through Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV make it clear that whatever goals we set should not be imposed legalistically. Nevertheless, we need to look to some source as we "determine in our heart" what to give.
We believe that the best starting point is God's Word.
The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 NIV (note vs. 11) that what happened to the people of God during Old Testament times was intended to serve as examples for us. It is reasonable therefore to look to Old Testament accounts of giving not as a matter of law, but rather as examples for goal setting.
What then do we find when we turn to the Old Testament?
Armed with these examples we believe that Christians should normally set a goal of giving a tenth of their income to the work of God's Kingdom. Because the amounts deducted from our paychecks represent either benefits we receive (e.g. medical or dental coverage) or taxes that God expects us to pay (Matthew 22:15-22 NIV ; Romans 13:1-8 NIV ), it is best to base your giving on the "gross" amount (i.e. your income before payroll deductions) rather than the "net" amount (i.e. your actual paycheck after all of the payroll deductions have been taken out).
We also believe that you should first make sure that you adequately support the congregation in which God has placed you with your "tithes" and then give additional "offerings" to the ministries that God has placed on your heart.
So far we've learned that God is a giver and that he expects us to reflect his giving nature by excelling at giving. It's now time to look at this in a practical way (Click on a topic for more details.):
The path to excellence in giving is fairly straightforward. We recommend that you set as your long-term goal giving a tenth to your congregation and an additional offering to other organizations that support the work of God's Kingdom.
One very important way that we can achieve excellence in giving is to embrace Kingdom economics. God has called believers to cooperate economically both for their own benefit and to advance his Kingdom. We can see examples of this in the following passages:
Here are only a few of the ways that this can become a reality:
At Life Church we believe that it's not enough for us to tell you to do these things. We actually want to do whatever we can to support cooperative economic efforts among members of the congregation. We are committed to helping our members pursue Kingdom economics by supplying information, training, and networking.
No explanation of biblical giving would be complete without covering the benefits of giving. We began this presentation by establishing that giving was a fundamental part of God's nature. We now return to that theme by considering this great biblical truth:
God wants to bless you!
It is amazing to realize that the God who created the entire universe wants to personally bless you. The biblical evidence of this is overwhelming, so we will only need to examine a few key passages:
In addition to these general examples of God's blessing, we observe that God also blesses us specifically in response to our giving. Let's look at a few examples:
As you pursue excellence in giving, make it your goal to give:
Never doubt however your heavenly Father's commitment to provide for you out of his divine riches!
We hope that you've found this teaching helpful. God bless you as you reach for excellence in this important area!