By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed November 30, 1982)
We would like to add a few remaining thoughts to the principles of giving and make a few general comments on related matters. We observed from the scriptures that our Father has been liberal indeed and we would expect the same of his children. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him, also freely give us all things.” The desire to give bountifully should be further prompted by the attitude of the Son. Let us give like the Lord himself gave.
Jesus gave on the basis of what needed to be done for the will of heaven and man’s spiritual welfare. He was willing to give whatever was necessary to make the will of heaven a reality upon the face of the earth. Realistically, this led him to do what he did not have to do for our sakes and we are forever grateful. His willingness to become a man and give himself should influence our thoughts on giving. Paul surely thought this was right thinking and approached the Corinthian brethren to give for this very reason. “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)
Love is known by the action which it prompts, in spite of modern definitions to the contrary. Paul urged the brethren to give and complete their contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:26) by recalling the Lord’s example. He was rich, but for us he became poor. His poverty was the door to our spiritual wealth. Oh, what the Lord laid aside! “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5) Again, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) Now, go and read verse 8. It is so easy to rationalize away giving and helping more, but we should not permit this to happen to us. Let us add the ease to rationalize sometimes becomes more dominant as we grow older in life, even though we have more. God doesn’t owe us anything for years of service.
Paul’s appeal to give by considering the Lord’s example should receive due weight when we face the Bible principles of giving. It is a great aid to taking us beyond the mere coldness of human reasoning and rules. Giving that is of a pure heart and a complete faith can never be fully legislated. Possibly this reflects what Paul says when he spoke not by commandment, but by occasion. The reasoning here is parallel to John’s statement, “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Our giving on a regular basis and the meeting of our responsibilities needs to be refreshed by the words of Paul, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:33-35) We need to remember we surely abound in all things and therefore should also abound in giving as Paul suggested to the church at Corinth. When we see times of special need in the Lord’s kingdom regarding it expansion we need to consider the words of Jesus. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) We are in the kingdom of heaven to do the will of him that saved us.
Let us not forget that our giving upon the first day of the week should not keep us from seeing opportunities to help as individuals in our daily living. It is not good to permit our regular giving to remove the sensitivity of helping others in our daily walks. Let us not reason away our need to give more in times of special need, by saying look at what we have done in the past. Giving should never become a mechanical ritual to us. Furthermore, it will not when we reason the more specific principles of giving with giving as the Lord gave.
Every expression of reverence and worship in the Lord’s kingdom is wed to a specific disposition. Giving is no different. That love must be the driving force behind our giving is clear from Jesus’ own example. We recall 1 Corinthians 13:3 saying, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
It is impossible to think of anyone being a cheerful giver, unless he giveth from love. The Bible speaks of God’s love for the cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). The disposition of our giving is well revealed with the word cheerful. The word ‘cheerful’ is translated ‘favour’ in the Septuagint in Proverbs 19:12.
The word simplicity reveals more regarding the attitude or disposition behind our giving. It is found in Romans 12:8 and is translated ‘liberality’ in 2 Corinthians 8:2. Although the context of Romans 12 is spiritual gifts it teaches regarding our distributing today. The basic meaning of the word is generous. The tremendous generosity of the early church had a great impact on the observers of it. The word is translated ‘bountifulness’ in 2 Corinthians 9:11 and ‘liberal’ in verse 13. Proverbs 22:9 reads, “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” The words of 2 Corinthians 9:6 quickly come to mind. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
The word is translated ‘singleness’ in Ephesians 6:5 regarding the heart of the servant to his master. This means to be honest and sincere in ones’ endeavor, to be with pure motive in action. There is seemingly no generosity which is worse than that which is found upon duplicity of heart. Let us not be found among those that practice such guile or be deceived by those who would attempt to manipulate the mind of God’s people with such deceit.
Giving is a Bible subject and there is more said about giving than many seem to realize.
We would do well in our gatherings upon the first day of the week to give more full instruction on the subject from the Bible than is normally done these days. We have no interest in soliciting funds or trying to move people through motivation appeals, but surely there is much room for the instructions on the subject to be more fully shared than is now being done. We believe it is an expression of worship and calls for the same understanding that other worship expressions call for. Neglect can only bring physical and spiritual poverty among the saints.
The Old Testament can also add to our learning regarding our giving. The tithing, the giving of sacrifices, the presentation of the first fruits, and the robbing of God are all impressive lessons regarding giving in the Old Testament. The book of Proverbs has a number of interesting statements regarding giving. It doesn’t take very long for the careful reader of the Bible to see proportionally speaking giving has received it fair share of attention.
Let us briefly summarize some of the instruction we have found in the New Testament
on giving. The early saints gave regularly on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). Every one of them, was to give to prepare to meet the needs of the kingdom (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to give as they prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2). They gave according to the ability of each (Acts 11:29). Jesus declared we should give of our want (Mark 12:41). This in application leaves us to believe we should give the first fruits by immediately laying back when we receive at home and then take them to the assembly on the Lord’s day. The Lord’s portion should surely come from, the top of our receiving. Our giving should be regular and stable like income, but we believe in times of special need we should reach beyond our regular decision. This seems to fit well with the teachings of the early needs of the church, such as Acts 4:34-37. Our love moves us to a greater sacrifice than our regular purposing when a great need crosses the threshold of the kingdom. We are to give as we have purposed (2 Corinthians 9:7) and means preparation for giving before the time of giving in the assembly. We should give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), and generously (2 Corinthians 8:7; 9:6). There should be a desire to give freely without reasoning away our prosperity in the Lord. Foremost behind all of this is the need to give ourselves (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Our giving should not be from comparison of others or to equal the performance of others (2 Corinthians 9:5) and this relates to giving not because of the eye of another (Mt. 6:3), i.e.; unobtrusively. Our giving is not to be from an attitude or disposition that bespeaks of grudgingly or of necessity (2 Corinthians 9:7). Indeed, the word of God has not left us ignorant about giving.
The subject of giving can further be expanded by reflecting upon passages that are more individual and daily in our Christian life. We will not attempt to present fully on that subject, but will share a thought or two fitting with our discussion on giving. The individual saints shared freely their homes as stewards of the Lord’s kingdom. Their homes, their food, their beds were shared in seeing the gospel carried forth in the name of the Lord. The words of 2 John10 and 3 John 5-8 are to be understood in this context. 2 John 10 reads, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” This isn’t talking about an individual knocking on your door and you inviting him in to discuss the word of God. This is talking about bed and board to help them on their way in declaring their false message. 3 John looks at the positive side where brethren received bed and board and help on their journey to declare the name of the Lord. The Lord has given us our homes and we should permit them to play a role in the furthering of the kingdom. Yes, let each of us give giving another look, so that we nay give more of what we have been given.