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:
a) God Owns Everything.
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:
• Genesis 1:1 NIV
• Psalm 50:7-12 NIV
• Psalm 102:25-27 NIV
• Acts 17:24-28 NIV
b) Sacrificial Giving
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:
• Mark 12:41-44 NIV
• 2 Samuel 24:1-25 NIV (note vs. 24)
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:
• Abel brought God fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.
(Genesis 4:1-7 NIV )
• God required that the Israelites give him the best part.
(Exodus 23:19 NIV ; Exodus 34:26 NIV ; Numbers 18:29-30 NIV )
c) Cheerful Giving
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:
• God evaluates our giving based on what we have – not on what we don’t have.
(2 Corinthians 8:8-15 NIV )
• God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV )
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 down payment 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:
• We pay our mortgage or rent before we buy a television.
• We finish homework before we watch television.
• We spend time with our family before we go out to play basketball.
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?
• After defeating Kederlaomer, Abram gave Melchizedek, the king of Salem, a tenth of all the plunder before doing anything else with the wealth.
(Genesis 14:1-24 NIV )
• Jacob vowed to give back to God a tenth of everything that God gave him.
(Genesis 28:10-22 NIV )
• God commanded the Levites to give the priests a tenth of everything they received from the rest of the Israelites.
(Numbers 18:25-32 NIV )
• God commanded the Israelites to give him a tenth of everything they received.
(Levicitus 27:30-33 NIV )
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.