Cheerful Giving

This morning I am going to do something that I have never done in 14 years of preaching here at GBFC. I am going to preach a message on giving, financial giving. I’ve certainly mentioned giving from time to time as we have come across passages on giving, as we have worked our way through books of the Bible, but I’ve never preached solely on the topic of giving.

There are reasons for this. First, I very rarely preach topically. Also, I have not preached on giving because there are so many out there that do preach on giving obsessively, and for the purpose of simply building up the treasuries of the church for personal gain. One qualification of an elder found in Titus 1 is that he must not be greedy for gain. I have wanted to be careful and not give the impression of a desire to gain greedily from the offerings of the church, and so we have not talked much about giving here.

However, giving is an important topic, and so I am repenting this morning for not having addressed it much, and we will hear about biblical giving this morning. Another reason for talking about giving this morning is that the deacons and elders have asked me to teach on this topic, so I am submitting to their request. I’ll get into why they have asked me to do this a little later on.

So, speaking of giving and more specifically money, here are some things you may not have been aware of: sixteen of Christ’s thirty-eight parables speak about stewardship, about how people should handle earthly treasures. Jesus taught more about stewardship than about heaven and hell combined – one out of every ten verses in the gospels! The Bible has more than 2,000 references to wealth and property, this is twice as many passages as there are about faith and prayer. We can see that how we handle money and property and wealth are very important matters to our Lord. And so with so many references to money in the Bible, we really have no excuse when it comes to handling our money rightly according to His will.

We are not to love money. We are warned in the Bible of the dangers of loving money. One of the clearest passages about the dangers of loving money is found in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” You will notice that Paul does not say that money is a root of all kinds of evil, rather that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Having money and loving money are two different things. One who has no money can be a lover of money as well as one who has a great deal of money. The former craves to have it and the latter craves more of what he already has. The poor and the rich, either can be lovers of money.

Just prior to this pointed verse concerning the loving of money, Paul describes the opposite, and he does so using the word contentment. Notice what he says in verses 6-9:

1 Timothy 6

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

The love of money can lead to things like temptation, entrapment, harmful desires, senseless desires, ruin, destruction, a wandering away from the faith, harmful cravings, and many pangs. But by contrast, contentment is of great gain. One ruins and tears down while the other builds up to godly gain. The love of money puts faith in things while godly contentment puts faith and trust in God.

Some may ask, “Well, I like nice things, there are things I wish I had, but I don’t know, I wouldn’t say that I love money…how can I know for sure?” In John MacArthur's book “Whose Money Is It, Anyway?”, he lists several things that can be generally indicative of one who loves money:

  1. When a person loves money, he is usually bent on obtaining it in any way possible. He may have little regard for honest hard work and be more interested in shortcuts to wealth. Maybe chasing after the next get rich quick scheme that comes along. He may be drawn to ads and testimonials that promise wealth with little effort. Rather than working hard for the glory of God with the goal of glorifying God, he may have his mind focused on the money itself with the hopes of personal and abundant wealth.

  2. A lover of money may also be one who seems to never have enough. It is a sort of enslavement to money. Always working but never having enough and yet thinking he deserves more. Rather than having an attitude of contentment he is always working for more, and the more he gets the more he concludes it is not enough.

  3. One who loves money will be tempted to flaunt what he has. Maybe it is subtle, maybe not, but he may find ways to let others know what his money can buy.

  4. Lovers of money tend to not want to give it away. When needs arise, when others are suffering due to financial loss, he will not easily give his money away.

It may not be an easy question to ponder for ourselves, but it is good one. Am I a lover of money? Am I always wanting more, needing more? Am I satisfied in Christ with what I have? Do I work for God’s glory or simply to gain riches? Do I give freely and regularly to the needs of others, to the work of Christ, or do I hold tightly to what I have?

One key to understanding money and giving biblically is to understand that all that we have belongs to God. All of what we have belongs to Him. God owns and controls everything. You own nothing, but are only a steward of His things!

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,

the world and those who dwell therein,

That passage does not include any exemptions. It does not say, “Most everything belongs to the Lord, everything except for what you own!” Like, “There is God’s stuff and then there is your stuff.” No, everything belongs to Him, what we have has been given to us for temporary use and so that we can be stewards for Him. When I say be a steward, we need to understand what that means. A steward is one who manages the property of another. He is not the owner of the property, but a manager of the property, and his aim is to manage it the way the owner wants it managed. And so for us, we have things – cars, houses, clothes, food, lawn mowers, kitchen appliances. We have things but they really are not ours, they belong to God. Our part is to use them for Him. That is what a steward is.

Colossians 1

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

So what things are for our Lord? All things, everything you have and everything I have. Your business is his, your assets, your money, it is all His. Your family is His, it is all His, it is for Him. The question then that we must all be asking is: what would the Lord have me do with what He has entrusted to me?

So a question then often comes up. If all that we have belongs to God, I know my resources should be used for His glory, but what does that mean practically? How much should I use for my own provision and how much should I give away? Well, the “how much” is not exactly defined in the Bible, but we do see some principles to follow.

I say that the how much is not given in the Bible, but I know that some might argue with that statement. Many believe and I grew up believing that the “how much” was defined, that is that the Bible says we should give 10% of our income to the church, to the Lord. There is nothing wrong with 10%, and many use that as a guide, but it is not a hard and fast command in the Bible. I want to show you this from the Scriptures. The Bible does speak of a tithe (a tithe both in Hebrew and Greek means 10%), but the question is, is that what is required of us today?

To answer that I want to take you through a quick survey of Old Testament giving, including the giving of a tithe, and then look at giving from a New Testament perspective. Looking at giving in the Old Testament, we see the first offerings given to God in the account of Cain and Abel. If you recall from Genesis 4, each brother gave an offering to the Lord. Cain gave fruit and vegetables and a grain offering while Abel gave an animal sacrifice. With these offerings given to the Lord there is no mention of a tithe or any other certain percentage. These were voluntary offerings given to the Lord. We do know that Abel’s offering was accepted by God while Cain’s was not, but this didn’t have anything to do with an amount given, but with the type of offering that God had required. So with this first offering no amount is mentioned.

The second recorded offering is from Genesis 8, an offering given by Noah once the flood waters had subsided. Noah gave an offering to the Lord from a heart of gratitude for surviving the worldwide flood. This was a voluntary offering and no certain amount or percentage is mentioned.

Now from the time of Abraham to Moses we see more giving of offerings. In Genesis 12, God mentions his promise to Abraham that he would be a leader of a great nation and out of gratitude Abraham built an altar and sacrificed to the Lord. Here, no mention of an amount is given, no percentage is given.

It is in Genesis 14 where we first see the reference to a tithe – again, a tithe meaning 10%. In this case, Abraham had just been given a great victory in battle and had obtained a great amount of spoils from the battle. On his way home from the battle he met Melchizedek who was a priest of God. Abraham was so thankful to the Lord that he gave Melchizedek a tenth of all he had gained from the battle. This was not a tenth of all he owned, but a tenth of what he had gained from the battle. This offering, this 10% was not representative of all that God had given him. There is no mention of this being required of Abraham, but it was instead a free will offering.

The only other mention of a tithe prior to the Mosaic law is from Genesis 28. There Jacob promised God 10% , but this was more of a bribe to God, not a required offering or even an offering of gratitude to God.

So what we see so far is voluntary giving, not required giving – some choosing to give 10% while others do not mention specific percentages or amounts.

Now it is in Numbers where we begin to see required giving in the form of a tithe under the Mosaic law. First we see a tithe that was to be given by God’s people for the care of the Levite priests. In Numbers 18:25-30 you can read of this. Basically, a tithe was given for the care of the priests, who were not given territory like the other tribes and whose livelihood depended on giving by the people. So a tithe was required for their care.

But there was a second tithe required. The second tithe was to be given to provide for the feasts and all the national religious festivals and celebrations like the Passover. This was required giving to support worship of the Lord by the Israelites. You can read of this in Deuteronomy 12.

Now there was a third tithe also that was to be taken every third year. This final required tithe was for the support of the poor among the Israelites. You can read of this tithe in Deuteronomy 14.

So what we have is two and one-third tithes per year. 23.3% that was required giving to support the nation of Israel. These were given in support of the theocracy, the government. You could say that these were taxes for the nation of Israel, rather than free will gifts. So if we were to follow the Old Testament tithe, we would be looking at not 10% but 23.3% or two and one-third tithes per year.

These were the tithes. But an important thing to remember is that there was still such a thing as voluntary giving, just as there had been prior to the Mosaic law. In Numbers 18 we see such opportunity to give voluntary gifts to the Lord. We see this as well in Proverbs 3:

9 Honor the Lord with your wealth

and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,

and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Even in Exodus 35 we see voluntary, extravagant giving, giving that was based on whatever amounts they desired and was purposed in their hearts!

So what do we take from all this, what sort of guidelines should we follow as New Testament believers when it comes to giving offerings to the Lord? Are we to follow the tithe of 10% or two and one-third tithes per year like the Israelites? What are we to give, what does the Bible say?

Let me give you an excellent summary of New Testament giving, an example that we are to follow:

2 Corinthians 9

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

There is no New Testament command to give 10%. The command is to give as you have decided in your heart, not reluctantly, not out of compulsion because you have to, but cheerfully…and God loves that!

We can give abundantly, richly, and cheerfully whether it is 5%, 10%, 20%, or 50%. Our offerings are given in gratitude of our gracious God who provides everything we need for life. It is wide open, and so we must always consider what God would have us give. We must always seek Him with that question and then give generously for His name’s sake.

Now, I mentioned earlier that the deacons and elders had asked me to address giving and I agreed that we should. It seems this is a good time to do so. Let me pass on some information to you that may be helpful for you to know. Here at GBFC we want to be good stewards of the money that is given as offerings to the Lord. We have an annual budget which is available for your review. We report monthly spending and receipts as well, which again you are welcome to look at.

Most of the money received is used for salaries. Salaries are the biggest item in our budget, this is money used to provide support for ministers of the Word and support staff. This is a biblical expenditure. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 says this: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.””

We also spend money to support mission efforts around the world and locally for the spread of the gospel. Money is regularly used to provide for the needs of families in our congregation who may be struggling financially from time to time. And money is needed for the upkeep and occasional improvements to our building.

We want you to know that for this year, we are down about forty thousand dollars year to date from our budget. We tell you this because it is important that you know so that you can respond to that in any way that God leads you to respond. As elders and deacons, you need to know that this is not something we are worried over, we are not fearful about being down forty thousand, we are not wringing our hands, nor is our trust in God affected in the least. We know that God will provide all our needs as a church, but we also know that He does that financially most often through all of us who attend here. And so we pass this on to you.

Giving to the work of the Lord is an awesome privilege, it is an act of worship, and it is pleasing to the Lord when it is done with a cheerful heart. So think about what God would have you to do. Think and pray about how you can help financially. Pray about how we can, as a church, continue to spread the gospel message at home and away, how we can help people in need, how we can be a light to our neighbors, how we can minister the Word of truth. What should your role be, how might God be directing you to give?

2 Corinthians 9

6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.