The early church of Jesus followers was isolated, persecuted and by no means in-sync with the values of either the predominant religions of the day or the values of the society they lived in. Their covenant bond with God and therefore the covenant community they were a part of, produced a supernatural generosity and unity.
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2: 44–45, 47b (NIV)
The power of this covenant community transformed selfish hearts and generated a love and compassion between people that was so intense that no one could hold on to anything extra when someone else appeared in personal need.
That sounds like a church I want to be a part of. A church where the regenerate work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, moves us with genuine love and compassion to the needs of others and undoes our tight-fisted ‘me first culture’ approach to life, to one that reflects the generous nature of a generous God. We want the community around us to know that we are an incredibly generous people and that this would point towards our generous God, because we know that generosity is counter cultural.
Why Do You Give or Not Give to The Church?
We can be generous people in all sorts of ways, and to all sorts of good causes but we also need to address if our giving to the church is in a generous manner. Of course, our time and talent are things we can be generous in giving, however our money is the thing that probably is the real litmus test of our generosity. Do we trust God enough to supply all our needs when we become generous with our finances?
The idea of giving back to God in an act of faith, recognising that He has provided, and this is a part of our worship, has a long and rich biblical narrative. We see the idea of giving a tithe (the first 10%) and offering and gifts in the covenant with Abraham (e.g. Genesis 14:18-20), and again in the Law to Moses (e.g. Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21-32) and in Malachi 3:5-12. We also see instances of freewill giving where people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing (Exodus 25:1-9; 35:21-29; 36:2-7). The New Testament insists that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27).
If then giving to God is an act of worship, an act of thanksgiving and faith that both the Old and New Covenants encourage us to participate in, what becomes your motivation for giving? Believing that God has purposed the church to be the vehicle to reach the world is good reason to generously support the work of the church. But I think that the overwhelming motivation should be to honour God. Our faith pleases God and so too does our cheerful giving (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
The kind of giver that God wants us to be is a generous giver, a person who is cheerful in giving. As Christ followers we are to delight in giving, it really should be something that from our heart springs forth the delight in being both able and willing to give. This counts out giving from habit, or reluctantly just trying to be obedient, because that becomes unsustainable. If every time you give, you grieve, it won’t be long until that wears thin and you stop giving. It’s when we give with a wrong motivation, or out of compulsion that we will give sparingly rather than abundantly. If you give under compulsion, like giving because you are trying to avoid punishment or giving to get something, then you’re not giving from a place of delight.
Plan to Do, Not Just Hear
Jesus said that we are to be doers and not merely hearers of the word and James backs this up (Matthew 7:24–27; James 1:22–25). Giving generously is not something that is haphazard. Giving generously should be something we plan. Ultimately our action is both a sign of obedience and trust. Do we trust God with our lives like we should if we do not trust Him with our finances? Inevitably this then leads to a question of how much then should I give?
Ultimately this comes down to you and God. Paul says that you should give what you have decided in your heart, remembering that he is talking about a heart that is giving in abundance not stingily. Throughout the Old Testament the idea of giving the first 10% or a tithe was a common practice and is a great starting point I believe for us today. However, if this then becomes our limit rather than our guide, we start to give out of compulsion which will stop us being cheerful or generous. Bottom line, you can’t out give God!
More Than Enough
Can you imagine the day when our church has more than enough to fulfil every vision and dream God gives us to reach the lost and the least? I believe it’s possible when God touches our hearts and we plan to give generously.
There’s a great story found in Exodus 35 -36 where Moses asks the people of God for free will offerings to build the Tabernacle as God had asked. Day after day they brought their gifts with such generosity that Moses had to tell them to stop (Exodus 36:6-7). Where did a group of wandering refugees get that kind of wealth? God had supplied it from their previous captors, the Egyptians. They realised that what they had was supplied by God and gave generously to the need for God’s community.
We have the same opportunity today of being a people who recognise that what we have is from God’s provision, and by faith trust Him and we give generously to His community so there is more than enough!