This post is adapted from a sermon I preached from Proverbs 3:9-10. If you’re interested in hearing more, feel free to follow my sermon podcast on Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, PocketCasts, RadioRepublic, or other podcast apps.
Posted by Morningview Baptist Church on Sunday, January 5, 2020
A 1st principle for Christian giving: Everything Belongs to God. Everything belongs to God.
This is what the psalmist says in Psalm 24.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.”
And this knowledge of who really owns what is significant. If God really owns everything, then me giving to him is really just me giving back to him what is already His. I’m not enriching him. I’m not adding to him what he lacked. I’m merely returning to him a portion of what he has generously giving to me for the time being.
That principle kinda puts us on our place a little bit. I might think I am hot stuff because of how much money I gave last year. But God doesn’t need my giving. God is not impressed with how much stuff I have or how much money I have in the bank. God is concerned with my heart. And that leads to my second principle for giving:
If we give our whole being to God, then our money will follow. If we give our whole being to God, then our money will follow. If you are a Christian, then you are saying that you have devoted your whole life to God. Paul uses the language of us using ourselves as “living sacrifices” and of us being “slaves to Christ.” We are not our own, but belong, body and soul to another, namely Jesus Christ. And if we submit ourselves completely to God, if we give him priority over every area of our lives, including our finances, then the money will naturally flow to where it needs to go.
If a husband loves his wife completely and whole heartedly, then he will freely give all of himself to her. He will hold nothing back, and he will do whatever it takes to see her cared for and honored. How much more should we hold nothing back, no area of our life from God, who has saved our body and soul from hell? If we give ourselves completely to God, then our money will naturally follow.
3rd principle to guide New Testament giving: Christian giving is a spiritual gift. Christian giving is a spiritual gift. In Romans 12, right after Paul tells the Romans to present their bodies as living sacrifices of worship to God, he lists giving among the spiritual gifts. Some people are supernaturally gifted by the Holy Spirit to be naturally inclined to generosity and faithfulness in the area of giving to the Lord.
Now, just because it is a spiritual gift doesn’t mean it excuses everyone else from Giving. You might say, “I haven’t been given that gift, so I don’t really apply myself toward growing in that area.” That’s nonsense. Each of us are called to press on in the Christian life and grow in these areas.
But, what we need to understand is that some people have been given an extra measure of gifting in this area. Just like some people are better teachers, and some are better encouragers, and some are better at acts of mercy, some are better givers. So if you find yourself struggling in this area, if you rarely give, or you give inconsistently, or you find your heart begrudgingly giving, then I would encourage you to first, seek the Lord about this, but also to seek out those in the congregation that seem to have this gift. Look around and find someone that seems to be consistently generous. Seek them out and talk to them. Ask them how they think about it. How did you start giving? What method do you use? What ways have you seen the Lord blessing you in these areas?
And I don’t mean seek out someone richer than you and pester them. Rich people can sinfully love money just as much as poor people. I mean look for people that seem to have the generous spirit of Christ himself, and learn from them. Christian giving is a spiritual gift.
Next, fourth principle of New Testament giving, and this should be evident by this sermon, but I will say it anyway: Christian giving is important. Christian giving is important. I will make this point by reminding you of what Paul does at the end of 1st Corinthians. You can turn there if you’d like because we will be there for a little bit. Paul takes the Corinthians at the end of chapter 15 up to the mountain peaks of theology. He is talking about the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers, and what our resurrected bodies will be like, and he ends the chapter on such high notes as: “O death where is your victory and oh death where is your sting.” Really glorious stuff. And then, two verses later, he moves straight into a talk about money. He moves straight to talking about the collection of money that will take place on the first day of every week and used for things like helping the believers in Jerusalem where there was a famine.
What we do with our money is not a carnal, unrelated topic from our high-level theology related to the resurrection and Jesus Christ. One flows from the other, and therefore, what we do with our money is important to God. Christian giving is important.
Next, staying in 1 Corinthians 16, we can see the 5th principle that should guide our giving: Christian giving should be regular. Christian giving should be regular. Paul says to the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week,” they are to take up a collection. By this time in the New Testament church’s short history, Christians had a regular pattern of meeting on the Lord’s day, that is Sunday, for worship and fellowship. It was the expected and natural time that a collection would take place, when they met together.
And this collection needed to be regular because the needs were regular. The poor and the widows and the orphans needed to be feed daily, and so the collection needed to be regular so that he regular needs could be met.
The same is true for us today. Local churches in every part of the world and in every culture have regular needs that need to be met. It could be the poor that needs to be fed, or the light bill that needs to be taken care of, or even salaries that need to be paid. Paul talks about that in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:
“ Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.””
The men that labor in preaching and teaching have often in the history of the church been financially supported by the local congregation, and their needs and their families’ needs are regular, and so should our giving be regular.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that you must give something every week. Some people aren’t paid regularly, and they have to give when they can. Some farmers may only get paid once or twice a year when they take crops to the market, so they give when they can. But by in large, most of us are paid regularly, and when we’re able, we should also give regularly.
Next, 6th principle for guiding our giving: Christian Giving should be proportionate. Christian Giving should be proportionate. Please flip over a few pages to 2nd Corinthians 8. 2nd Corinthians 8. In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, he gives extended attention in chapters 8 and 9 to the topic of giving and generosity. And in chapter 8 he holds up the church in Macedonia, which was much less wealthy than the church at Corinth, and makes mention in chapter 8 verse 3 that they “gave according to their means.” That is a significant statement for us, and in it I think we see a glimpse of the wisdom of God in not explicitly commanding a tithe in the New Covenant.
If we were still bound to give 10%, then we might just be able to stroke that check and move on with life as if nothing happened. Some might not even feel the loss of it. But when we are called to give according to our means, that changes things for those with more money, and it liberates those with less, and it enables God to get to the heart of the matter.
Let me put it another way. Some Christians would be in sin if they only gave 10%, while others would be in sin if they went up to 10%. This is important, so I will say it again: Some Christians would be in sin if they only gave 10%, while others would be in sin if they went up to 10%. I say some might be in sin if they only gave 10% because they make enough that giving 10% wouldn’t change their life in any way. Our giving is supposed to be sacrificial, as I will explain in a moment, and for some, merely giving 10% is not a sacrifice. They could comfortably live off of the 90% and not even miss the 10. Conversely, some people are not at a position financially to give 10%, and if they did so, they might be neglecting weightier matters of the law, like managing their household and caring for their children.
Thus, we can see the wisdom of God in not explicitly retaining the tithe principle. He is more concerned with the heart behind your giving, and by exhorting the Corinthian believers to give according to their means, he is at the same time increasing the obligation upon those with more resources, and liberating those who have fewer financial resources from a burden of which they could not bear. Our giving should be proportionate to our income. The more we have, the more we ought to be able to give.
Next. Principle #7: Christian Giving should sacrificial. Christian giving should be sacrificial. Right after Paul explains that the giving should be proportionate in 8:3, he says that the Macedonians gave beyond their means. They gave above their means. Now there is a lot of opinion out there on what this means, and a lot of those opinions are not worth listening to.
People out there try to use this verse to get people to do stupid things. They will say, you need to obey Paul and give above your means, so you need to take out your credit card and sow a seed of $8,000 into my ministry, and God will bless you. That is just stupid. I don’t think this verse means these people gave more than they could reasonably cover.
I think Paul is simply saying that they gave until it hurt. They gave until it stung, until they felt the squeeze. They loved their neighbors enough to sacrifice until they could feel the sting, so that their neighbors would be alleviated of the sting of their suffering.
We should be able to look at our finances and picture the things that we couldn’t buy, things we couldn’t do, places we couldn’t go, because we instead chose to give back to the Lord. And this is a huge discipleship tool when we are teaching our children about giving. Imagine the impact of this conversation:
I know son, I know you’d like to go to Disney world this year, but your mother and I feel led to give to the Lord instead. I know we could use a new car, but we’ve decided to fix this one and run it for a couple more years so that we can be more generous in our giving.
What a vivid way for parents to show to their children the value of Christian sacrifice for the sake of others. We’re training our children, and ourselves, in the art of sacrificing a short-term pleasure for the sake of a long term goal when we strive to make our giving sacrificial.
Principle #8: Christian Giving should be administered properly. Christian Giving should be administered properly. Paul says at the end of chapter 8 that the brothers ought to be sent ahead to arrange for the gift to be handled properly, and we should similarly make sure the giving is handled properly. That’s why our church has counters, and deacons, and a finance team to make sure that the money you give actually ends up at its intended destination. Redundancy, transparency, and accountability.
And this also highlights the primacy of the Local church in the redemptive plan of God. Ordinarily, our place of giving to God should first and foremost be to our church. In Galatians 6:6, Paul writes to the churches of Galatia saying, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” The principle is clear: where you are first fed, is where you should first give. It is perfectly lawful to give above and outside of that. There are numerous para-church organizations and charities to which we are free to give, but we ought to first give to the local body where we have covenanted together and where we are first fed. I won’t linger on this point, because it leads to our next principle.
Principle #9: Giving is a personal. Christian giving should be personal. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We must each decide in our heart how much to give, which is important. Christian giving is not a tax on church member; Christian giving is not forced wealth redistribution. The church should not be out twisting people’s arms or manipulating them into giving.
We’ve all seen the depressing puppy commercials on late at night that have that super sad Sarah McLachlan song playing in the background. The reason that commercial still plays after all these years is because it works. It is easy to emotionally manipulate people into opening their pocketbooks, and the church should have nothing to do with that. We must each decided in our hearts how much we will give, and should do that without compulsion.
I’m tempted to say something here that Augustine said, even though it can be dangerous if it is misinterpreted, but I believe he is right on the money. Augustine said: “love God, and do what you want.” That’s the doctrine of Christian liberty, which I won’t dive into tonight. Another night perhaps. But the principle is biblical and sound. If you love God, truly love God, then you will seek to avoid anything that he prohibits, and you will endeavor to pursue all that he commands. Within the bounds of that framework, you have freedom to do according to your conscience. If you want to give to this lawful charity, you have freedom. If you want to give anonymously, you have freedom. If you want to give an extra amount this month, great. If, providentially, you can’t give as much this month, that’s fine. Love God, and do what you want, because our giving should be personal, not coerced by someone else.
Next, Principle # 10: Christian Giving should be cheerful. Christian giving should be cheerful. Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This is really the tough one. Most of us know that God expects us to give, and to give regularly, and to give sacrificially. But cheerfully, that’s the hard one. Because of the sin remaining in our hearts, it can be difficult to give eagerly, with joy. We might even know that this is good for us, but it still is unpleasant, like the spiritual equivalent of eating our broccoli. I know I ought to do it, but I still don’t like it.
We’re called instead to be overflowing with joy at the opportunities we have to give to others. Praising God that he has given us the means to be able to meet the needs that others have. He’s brought us into the mechanism of blessing that he uses to dispense his gracious gifts to others. We become the vehicle of his material blessings being passed along to others.
But what if we don’t feel this way? What if I am not as cheerful as I ought to be, in fact, I’m not cheerful at all? I find it hard to give regularly, to write that check, or to handover that money? I don’t like to forgo something I want so that others might be comforted. I like spending money on stuff for me. I worked hard for it, and I like to taste of the fruit of my hard work. Well that leads to my final principle:
Principle # 11: Christian Giving starts with grace and ends with thanksgiving. Christian Giving starts with grace and ends with thanksgiving. There is a chain in Paul’s arguments that I want you to see.
Paul sets the clear foundation for our giving in 2 Corinthians 8:9, when he says,
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus knows that we are greedy and stingy people, who do not give cheerfully and don’t want to be sacrificial in any way. We cling to our money and our comfort and our security, and we can’t stand it when somebody points any of that out. But Christ didn’t cling to his riches. In fact, he willingly came down and gave them up. He didn’t have a big house, in fact he didn’t have a house at all. He was dependent upon others for a place to lay his head. He didn’t have a huge bank account or portfolio. In fact he worked as a lowly carpenter and was content with very little. And he didn’t have the security of great wealth, but instead gave it up, willingly sacrificed himself in the place of sinners like me and you, showing his poverty in the eyes of world.
But it is through his poverty that we can become rich. We have, by faith in Christ, access to every spiritual blessing that we need for life and godliness. Even more, we have security knowing that all things work together for our good. No rough patch, no hard time, no downsize, no layoffs can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is grace that is foundational to Paul’s arguments. And when we understand this grace, it produces within us a heart of gratitude. A heart overflowing with gratitude to God for his gracious gifts and provision in Jesus.
And it is from that position of gratitude, that we then can begin to give. Our heart of gratitude overflows into all the areas of our lives, including our finances. We’re not stingy with our money, because we know that Christ hasn’t been stingy with us. We’re not over-protective of our wealth, because Christ has not been over protective with his. We’re generous to others because Christ has first been generous to us. Grace leads to gratitude leads to giving.
But the chain doesn’t stop there. Christ’s graces, leads to our gratitude, which motivates our giving, and results in Thanksgiving to God.
Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 9:10-12,
“ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
It all starts with God and it all returns to God. God shows us grace, fills our heart with gratitude, motivates our giving, which results in the thanksgiving of others to God for his gracious provision.
Grace- Gratitude- Giving- Thanksgiving.