Giving, Tithing and Other Church Money Matters
I hear complaints and questions like these from Christians frequently:
“Churches today only care about money.”
“There is too much abuse and misuse of church funds. Why should I give?”
“How do I know the money will go to a good cause?”
Bill N., a site reader wrote:
“The church’s concern is one’s income. I have been to several and they always ask about income. I tell them I will give what I can and their response is, ‘You have to give at least ten percent of your income.’ I understand that the church needs funds to operate, but to tell someone that they need to give ten percent is not right … In my area alone there are what I call ‘Super Dome Churches’ where the pastor drives a Bentley and has a home three times the size of mine. Is this what is preached in the Bible? I don’t think so!”
Several research groups, including The Barna Group, have reported a decreasing trend in church giving and tithing. In a 2005 update on “Why People Do Not Give More,” The Barna Group’s director, George Barna, said this trend is influenced by the following factors:
“Some people lack the motivation to give away their hard-earned money because the church has failed to provide a compelling vision for how the money will make a difference in the world.”
“[Some] see their giving as leverage on the future. They withhold money from the church because they do not see a sufficient return on their investment.”
“[Some] people … do not realize the church needs their money to be effective. Their church has done an inadequate job of asking for money, so people remain oblivious to the church’s expectations and potential.”
“[Others] are ignorant of what the Bible teaches about our responsibility to apply God’s resources in ways that affect lives.”
“The final category contains those who are just selfish. They figure they worked hard for their money and it’s theirs to use as they please. Their priorities revolve around their personal needs and desires.”
For the sake of this study, I’d like to focus on the fourth group of people, those who’ve never looked at what the Bible says about giving.
What Does the Bible Say About Giving?
When my husband and I were looking for a good church, we observed that some churches seemed to always be asking for money. This concerned us. When we found our current church home, we were truly impressed to learn that the church did not receive a formal offering during the service.
The church does have offering boxes in the building, but members are never pressured to give. Money, tithing, and giving are only mentioned when our pastor happens to be teaching through a section of Scripture dealing with these issues.
But please don’t misunderstand! We love to give. That’s because we’ve learned something. When we give to God, we get blessed. And although most of our giving goes to the church, we don’t give to a church. We don’t give to the pastor. We give our offerings to God alone. In fact, the Bible teaches us to give, for our own good and for our own blessing, from a cheerful heart.
But don’t just take my word as proof that God wants us to give. Let’s look at what the Bible says about giving.
First and foremost, God wants us to give because it shows that we recognize he is truly the Lord of our lives.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)
Everything we own and everything we have comes from God. So, when we give, we simply offer him a very small portion of all the abundance he has already given to us. Giving is an expression of our thankfulness and praise to God. It comes from a heart of worship that recognizes that everything we give already belongs to him.
God instructed Old Testament believers to give a tithe, or a tenth, because this 10% represented the first, or most important portion of all that they had. The New Testament does not suggest a certain percentage for giving, but simply says for each to give “in keeping with his income.”
Believers should give according to their income.
1 Corinthians 16:2
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (NIV)
Note that the offering was set aside on the first day of the week. When we are willing to offer the first portion of our wealth back to him, then God knows he has our hearts. He knows—and we also know—that we are submitted completely in trust and obedience to our Lord and Savior.
We are blessed when we give.
… remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (NIV)
God wants us to give because he knows how blessed we will be as we give generously to him and to others. Giving is a kingdom principle—it brings more blessing to the giver than to the recipient.
When we give freely to God, we receive freely from God.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (NIV)
God promises that we will be blessed over and above what we give and also according to the measure that we use to give. But, if we hold back from giving with a stingy heart, we hinder God from blessing our lives.
Believers should seek God and not a legalistic rule about how much to give.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)
Giving is meant to be a joyful expression of thanks to God from the heart, not a legalistic obligation.
The value of our offering is not determined by how much we give, but how we give.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (NIV)
The Widow’s Offering
I see at least three important things about giving in this story of the widow’s offering:
1. God values our offerings differently than men do.
In God’s eyes, the value of the offering is not determined by the amount of the offering. The text says that the wealthy gave large amounts, but the widow’s offering was of much higher value because she gave all that she had. It was a costly sacrifice. Note that Jesus did not say she put in more than any of the others; he said she put in more than all the others.
2. Our attitude in giving is important to God.
The text says Jesus “watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.” Jesus observed the people as they gave their offerings, and he watches us today as we give. If we give to be seen by men or with a stingy heart toward God, our offering loses its value. Jesus is more interested and impressed by how we give than what we give.
We see this same principle in the story of Cain and Abel. God evaluated Cain and Abel’s offerings. Abel’s offering was pleasing in God’s eyes, but he rejected Cain’s. Rather than giving to God out of thankfulness and worship, Cain may have presented his offering with evil or selfish intent. Maybe he had hoped to receive special recognition. Regardless, Cain knew the right thing to do, but he didn’t do it. God even gave Cain an opportunity to make things right, but he chose not to.
This illustrates again that God watches what and how we give. God not only cares about the quality of our gifts to him, but also the attitude in our hearts as we offer them.
3. God doesn’t want us to be overly concerned with how our offering is spent.
At the time Jesus observed this widow’s offering, the temple treasury was managed by the corrupt religious leaders of that day. But Jesus did not mention anywhere in this story that the widow should not have given to the temple.
Although we should do what we can to ensure that the ministries we give to are good stewards of God’s money, we can’t always know for certain that the money we give will be spent correctly. We should not be overly burdened with this concern, nor should we use this as an excuse not to give.
It’s important for us to find a good church that is wisely managing its financial resources for God’s glory and for the growth of God’s kingdom. But once we give to God, we don’t need to worry about what happens to the money. This is God’s problem to resolve. If a church leader or a ministry misuses its funds, God knows how to deal with them.
We rob God when we fail to give offerings to him.
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. (NIV)
This verse speaks for itself, don’t you think?
The picture of our financial giving simply reveals a reflection of our lives surrendered to God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)
When we truly recognize all that Christ has done for us, we will want to offer ourselves wholly to God as a living sacrifice of worship to him. Our offerings will flow freely from a heart of gratitude.
In conclusion, I’d like to explain my personal convictions and offer a challenge to my readers. As I’ve already stated, I believe tithing is no longer the law. As New Testament believers, we are under no legal obligation to give a tenth of our income. However, my husband and I feel strongly that the tithe ought to be the starting point of our giving. We see it as the minimum to give, a demonstration that everything we have belongs to God.
We also believe most of our giving should go to the local church (the storehouse) where we are fed God’s Word and nurtured spiritually. Malachi 3:10 says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'”
If you’re not currently giving to the Lord, I challenge you to start by making a commitment. Give something faithfully and regularly. I’m certain God will honor and bless your commitment. If a tenth seems too overwhelming, consider making it a goal. Giving may feel like a huge sacrifice at first, but I’m confident you’ll eventually discover its rewards.
God wants believers to be free from the love of money, which the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10 is “a root of all kinds of evil.” Giving honors the Lord and allows his work to go forward. It also helps build our faith. We may experience times of financial hardship when we can’t give as much, but the Lord still wants us to trust Him in times of lack. He, not our paycheck, is our provider. He will meet our daily needs.
A friend of my pastor once told him that financial giving is not God’s way of raising money–it’s his way of raising children.
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