“And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” 2 Corinthians 8:5
How much do you give to the cause of the Gospel? Ten percent of your income? Twenty percent or more? What Biblical principles guide your offering to the Church or other Christian organizations?
For starters, I presume that you agree with the author that our primary pursuit in this life as a Christian is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33). To pursue this objective, we need first to understand what the Kingdom of God constitutes. The first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9) give us a holistic answer to this question. Firstly, God’s Kingdom means where God’s name is hallowed. This only happens when His Kingdom comes. When will this happen? It will happen when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. His will is done only when His words are known far and wide. This would only happen when the word of God is published and believed in. This does not however mean that all Christians would have to become pastors, missionaries or some kind of church worker! It does, however, mean that we are most zealous and occupied in the work of making disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19,20), individually at the work place and within the family as well as working together as committed local church members to support her gospel endeavours (Phil 1:27) locally or in overseas missions.
If this does not characterize the tenor of your life, then I would say that something is seriously wrong because our Lord Jesus warns us in the parables of the pounds (Luke 19:16) and the talents (Matt 25:15) (the former speaks of using the word of God to achieve higher returns for His Kingdom, while the latter parable speaks of using the riches God has given us in life to achieve higher returns for His Kingdom) that the one who fails to do anything with what he is given is considered wicked and to be cast into outer darkness! So this is no laughing matter. We need to examine ourselves and I trust that you are not among those who fail to do anything with what they have been given. But we must come back to our original question, how much do you give for the cause of the gospel, having now been convinced that our primary goal in life is to support gospel work?
For a start, giving a lot to gospel work would not be an issue since it is our primary goal in life to support the work of the gospel. Perhaps, you look to the Old Testament to give you a guiding principle on the amount to give. Let us say this is the correct approach. You would tell me that it is 10% of your income? But is the percentage correct? I submit to you that this is NOT so. Because the OT tithe requirements were made up of a few elements. The first 10% was for the Levites, known as the Lord’s tithe (Numbers 18:21-29), the second 10% was the festival tithe (Deut 12:10,11,17,18) which added up to a mandatory 20%. This was not all because there was the Poor tithe (Deut 14:28,29) to aid the poor, which increased the total to 23%, and including other small mandatory requirements would result in a minimum percentage of 25%! But you see, looking to OT tithe requirements would not be exactly correct because it was a different spiritual economy given that the Church and the State was one at that time. So the 20% percent was to support the state operations and to aid the poor just like we do today albeit with a smaller income taxation percentage for most people, at least in Singapore where I live.
In the New Testament, no percentage of your income is cited to be given to God as the principle of giving. For the Lord’s people in the New Testament, giving stems from the individual’s gratitude to God, for God loves a cheerful giver as we see in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. Such is the principle of Grace Giving as we see in the life of the Macedonian Churches in response to the Apostle Paul’s collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. This is seen in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. In verse 1, the Apostle reminded the Corinthians of how the Grace of God enabled the Macedonians to plead with the Apostle to be part of the ministry to the poor and to give more than they were able to (v3) even though they were suffering from affliction as well as abject poverty (v2)! The question that you need to ask is “What was the basis of the Macedonians’ Grace Giving?” We do not have to go far to find the answer. The answer is found in verse 5. Their ability to give, to aid the poor saints, stemmed from their first giving of themselves to the Lord Jesus! So when we give ourselves completely to the Lord Jesus, what we have then belongs to Him and therefore it becomes a natural reflex of the soul to give unto others for the Lord Jesus’s sake!
So today, as you ponder about the biblical principle of giving, what is stopping you from giving more? Is it the bondage to the materials things of the world or the bondage of finding a secure future when the Lord Jesus has already promised one (Matt 6:33,34)? Or perhaps your current giving belies your confession? You are holding the things of this world that God has provided you close to your heart and your only concern is to grow more of it just like the foolish rich man (Luke 12:16). The New Testament is replete with warnings about the dangers of riches and how it is a spiritual handicap if one is not done with it. As such, the way forward to spiritual maturity is Grace Giving as someone said, “God can have our money and not our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without having our money”.
Let us dispense with and divest ourselves of fancy golden dreams of more expensive watches, bigger cars and bigger mansions and an absolutely secure future, but instead spend and be spent for God’s kingdom just like the Apostle Paul did. The “Givers for God” will negatively disarm the power of money and positively allow the grace of God to flow through our life as we give. This is the only thing we should desire in this life because when this is done God will provide all the necessary things of this life for us such that we will find satisfaction in Him alone! Amen.
This article was first published on 17 May 2015. A version of the article may be found online here.
About the author: Wilson Oon is an engineer by training and has served as an Elder in First Evangelical Reformed Church (Singapore), leading the follow-up ministry and the Church contact committee. He occasionally preaches and previously contributed this article to the the weekly church bulletin.