By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed October 31, 1982)
John makes it very clear those who declare the gospel unto the lost of mankind do not receive financial gain from them (3 John 7). The Lord’s work moved forward by the congregation giving, and by the goodness of Christian individuals in time of special needs (Acts 4:34-37). Therefore, the pages of inspiration indicate the church did not solicit funds from the world nor engage in any financial endeavors to broaden their financial base. Unfortunately, little or no respect is being shown by man for these Bible truths. There are very few voices crying out about the shame and reproach being heaped on the Lord’s body due to disregard of the Lord’s teaching on giving. But it is still a shame.
We have already noticed in our previous study the basic instructions about giving. We are to give regularly, as prospered by God and according to our ability. This is never to be done as a public display or done through public comparison of giving. The New Testament is full of interesting, important, and lovely principles that magnify the giving of the saints. We firmly believe more of these principles should be shared with the congregation at the time of giving on the first day of the week. Let us share a few of these while we consider our giving.
We realize that children of God should be like their Father just as we see among earthly parenthood. Our Father is rich, but is best known for his liberality. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).” God has given and has done it abundantly (James 1:5; Romans 8:32). We cannot be his children, if we do not do as he does (Matthew 5:45).
Giving involves an understanding of our position in life as a steward of God. A steward is entrusted with goods of another and receives from his excellent care of his master’s goods. We are to manage and care for the goods entrusted to us by our Master for his glory. See Luke 16:1-14. It is somewhat amazing how silent our pulpits are regarding the concept of stewardship. But this agrees with the fact many, many Christians are leading compartmentalized lives. They do not permit Christ to have first influence over all aspects of their life. The parable of Matthew 20:1-16 touches on the attitude of labor under a grace system and has tremendous ramifications regarding our view of giving and our responsibility to give. Furthermore, a steward must be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2) and we cannot squander or mismanage part of what God has given unto us by saying that he received his portion on Sunday.
Giving involves first and foremost the giving of our self. Until then, we shall not be able to come to grasp the scriptures on giving. 2 Corinthians 8:5 reads, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” These brethren were not in the best of condition themselves, but this did not stop them from putting their whole heart and goods into this effort to support and minister unto the Lord’s people. They did not say, “who is going to help us or consider what we have done for others in the past?” No. They gave because they had fully placed themselves into the hands of the Lord. Paul was amazed and thrilled that these brethren gave so much under dire conditions, that he bears record that they gave beyond their power and did it willingly.
This example of giving under distressing conditions leads us to one of the great principles of giving. We are to give of our want. Mark 12:41 reads, “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Jesus commended the lady because she gave of her want. This is why the principles of giving in the New Testament reach beyond the known boundaries of giving as viewed in the Old Testament. It also reveals why a straight percentage of one’s income does not always mean we have done everything we could do for the Lord’s kingdom.
The key is not always how much has been given, but how much has been kept. When one gives of his abundance he is still as well off as before. Hence, there is no reason to boast of the amount given. Let us shy away from comparisons of amounts given, because the Lord looks at achievement. The word ‘want’ is translated ‘penury’ in Luke 21:4, translated ‘lacking’ in 1 Corinthians 16:17, and ‘behind’ in Colossians. 1:24. The woman gave of her needed funds. We shall not capture the spirit of giving until we learn to give of our want. This is the only way to keep our regular giving from becoming a thoughtless endeavor.
Let us contrast this giving of her want with the giving of others. Jesus said they gave of their abundance. Let us look at the word ‘abundance’ in other verses. It is translated ‘shall exceed’ in Matthew 5:20 and ‘to spare’ in Luke 15:17. Luke 9:17 reads, “And they did eat, and were filled and there was taken up fragments that remainedto them twelve baskets.” People who give to the lord of what remains after they have met what they have budgeted for themselves are giving of their abundance. God is telling us here to take of what we received from him and give the first fruits. Once this is done, let the rest be cared for. Here is one of God’s great aids and lessons to protect his people from overcharging themselves in an age of things. Christians that overextend themselves financially today often look back and see where more attention to the Lord’s word and less to the glitter of things would have helped them.
God’s people can remain flexible and strong by permitting the Lord to have first place in their budget. We dare not base our needs on the standard of society about us, because they have no true standard of distinguishing between selfish want and true need. Let us pray to God to have wisdom and strength to face this problem realistically each day for our self and to teach our children. We shudder to think that we could become like Israel of old. “Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.”
We give on the first day of the week, not to the last day of the week. We give with the week before us and not behind us. Why? Because we are to give the firstfruits and the firstfruits demand faith in the Lord to provide the finished harvest. We desire not to read in to the word of God more than is there, but surely it is not an accident the giving comes on the first day of the week. Leftovers are not enough to glorify God or to help us control our spirituality in relation to things. “Honour the Lord with they substance, and with thee firstfruits of all thine increase.”(Proverbs 3:9)
The principles of want, firstfruits, and faith lead us to another guideline regarding proper giving. We are to purpose, realizing the bountiful sower has the bountiful harvest. Yes, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7). One is to decide in his heart and the idea is to choose before hand. It is rather strange and rather startling to almost find a clatter of surprise in the assembly when the saints are about to lay by in store. You would not expect this sort of thing when people have purposed before hand about their giving.
Our giving manifests our disposition of heart concerning the Lord’s kingdom. We shall not fool God, so it is well for us to examine our attitudes in all things. This is as true in our giving as any other aspect of life. “Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath and not according to that he hath not.” (2 Corinthians 8:11,12). Paul knew what an eagerness of mind there was to help among the brethren. (2 Corinthians 9:2). How much easier the Lord’s work goes forth when there is an atmosphere of willingness to do for the kingdom and how much drudgery when there is not.
David experienced this great willingness when he helped prepare for the house he would not build. “O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee and house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee (1Chronicles 29:16,17).”
The key is readiness and forwardness. Many people never do for the Lord not because of what they say, but simply because they do not have the readiness or forwardness of mind to order self, time, and money to serve the Lord. Note the meaning of the word readiness in Acts 17:11. See 2 Corinthians 8:19. This willingness or readiness to give unto the Lord eliminates two wrong dispositions in giving. We are not to give grudgingly or of necessity. (2 Corinthians 9:7). Grudgingly is literally of sorrow. When we give not preferring to give and are grieved over what we have done we know not the nature of the kingdom. The word grudgingly is translated sorrow in John 16:21,22. The state of heart is captured in the words of Romans 9:2. Read 2 Corinthians 7:10 where we have the word sorrow. See also Hebrews 12:11, and 1 Peter 2:19 for the word translated grief for grievous.
Paul states not of necessity. How we have listened to the unwilling and unloving use this verse brings to their destruction. They attempt to use this verse to teach the very opposite of why Paul wrote it. Shame. The contrast is between the willing and those who do because of the external circumstances. People who give out of public pressure and not the heart are found here. Paul does not say feel no necessity to give, but consider why the responsibility to give arises within you. Love always presses the need to do. Yes, the Bible says much about giving and Thank God that it does.