Welcome to another session in our Essential Disciplines series. In this session, we continue our discussion of Stewardship and Giving. In the last session, we established some foundational principles of Biblical stewardship, and here, in this session we will build on that foundation by discussing some practical recommendations for giving.
As we learned in our last session, we are called to be faithful stewards of God’s creation. He owns everything, and He entrusts a portion of His possessions to us to manage on His behalf. We exercise this stewardship as we give faithfully to God’s work and to those in need, expressing both our worship and our love. This tells us why we should give. Now, in this session, we ask some more practical questions:
- What should we give?
- How much should we give?
- How often should we give?
- To whom should we give?
- How should we feel about giving?
1. What should we give?
As we search the scriptures, we find that God calls His people to give their time, talent, and treasure to His work. We will examine each of these gifts more deeply in our Essential Engagement series, but, for now, let’s describe each of them briefly.
Regarding time, the Apostle Paul says:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6, ESV
A wise use of our time requires us to engage actively in God’s work.
Regarding talent, the Apostle Peter says:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:10-11
And the Apostle Paul says:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
God has designed His community so that it takes all of us, using our Spirit-given gifts and talents together, to accomplish His will.
Regarding treasure, Jesus says:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
How we handle our treasure reveals what we truly value. Are we always using it to indulge ourselves in this life? Or are we using it to invest in God’s heavenly, eternal work?
2. How much should we give?
When it comes to giving our treasure, we must also ask another question. How much should we give? In the previous session, we saw that the Law of Moses required the people bring a tithe, or 10%, of their income to the place of God’s presence on at least an annual basis. Some scholars believe that a second or a third tithe was also required on certain years. In addition, the people often brought gifts and offerings over and above these tithes. Some scholars therefore argue that 30% or more of a person’s income in the Old Testament went to God’s work. For these and other reasons, debate continues in Christian circles as to whether we ought to continue the Old Testament practice of tithing, however it is defined.
2.1. Much Given, Much Required
The New Testament, however, seems to suggest a more progressive and less-specific guide for giving. While the 10% rule might be a good place to start, we cannot end there. Jesus sets forth a broader principle. He says:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48
In the context, Jesus says that He will hold stewards accountable for the trust that they have been given. Those entrusted with much will be expected to use and invest that trust wisely.
2.2. Maximum, not Minimum
So, Jesus does not give us a minimum. In fact, He indicates that we ought to do the most, the maximum, that we can do with what He has given us. This truth becomes even more apparent in this story about a poor woman:
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4
Jesus values the level of our sacrifice more than the amount of our gift. He is not impressed with the size of our wallet. He is looking for the intent of our heart, and the faithfulness of our actions, regardless of how much we may or may not have.
2.3. Getting Started
We should add one more point about the amount of our gift. We understand that many people have a difficult time making ends meet, and, like it or not, many have incurred some of level of debt in the process. For those in this position, we strongly urge you to take a Biblical stewardship course, like Financial Peace University®, to learn how to get this debt under control.
In the meantime, however, we suggest that you start to give something on a regular basis, even if it’s just a small, token amount at first. Give a dollar, if you can, but bring it every week. Then, as God enables you to break free from your debt, increase that amount until you feel that you are wisely managing the blessing that God is providing.
3. How often should we give?
3.1. On a Regular Basis
The Law of Moses required God’s people to give on a regular basis. These offerings and gifts supported the Levites who, in turn, maintained the people’s common place of worship. The Levites depended upon these regular gifts for their daily needs.
In the same way, the work of the gospel also requires regular giving from God’s people. As we saw in the last session, the Apostle Paul compares the work of the Levites to the work of ministers in the New Testament church. If we believe that supporting God’s work is an important expression of our worship, then we must commit ourselves by giving regularly to this work.
Whether we give weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, the important thing is that we give regularly. Our regular support of God’s work demonstrates in a concrete way our willing engagement in His work of the Gospel.
3.2. In Times of Blessing
In addition to our regular giving, we are also called to give in times of blessing. The Law of Moses made a provision for “freewill” or “thanksgiving” offerings. Note, for example, this command:
“…[T]o that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” Deuteronomy 12:5-7
Clearly, in this passage we see an emphasis on giving above and beyond the regular “tithes”. The people are instructed to share their blessing in God’s presence, in celebration of His goodness.
3.3. In Times of Need
Finally, we must be prepared to give in times of need. The early church in Acts provides perhaps the best example of this principle:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Acts 2:44-45
Obviously, we are talking here about legitimate need. Paul gives this instruction to Timothy:
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
Paul will not condone laziness. At the same time, however, our broken world too often deprives people of basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter. As disciples of Jesus, we cannot simply ignore this great need. As we observed in the last session, our Lord will hold us accountable for how we respond to the “least of these brothers and sisters” who are desperately in need.
4. To Whom Should We Give?
As we consider giving our time, talent, and treasure in support God’s work, then we need to ask to whom we should give. Where we should invest these gifts? Here we offer two practical recommendations.
4.1. Start with the Local Church
God establishes local church communities as His base of operations. In these local communities, His people pool their time, talent, and treasure to make a spiritual dent on the region around them. In these communities, they do the messy work of becoming a loving, restoring, intergenerational family. Here they learn how to laugh and cry together through each stage of life. They step on each other’s toes, learn to forgive one another, and then work together for the good of the kingdom. They model God’s grace, mercy, and healing power to the community around them. As they do the work of becoming and making disciples of Jesus, they become countless sources of light that pierce the spiritual darkness around them. Our commitment to doing God’s work together therefore begins with supporting the local church.
4.2. Consider Other Faithful Stewards
After supporting our local church, then, we should consider giving to other individuals or organizations that will faithfully use our gifts to advance God’s Kingdom. Just as individuals must become faithful stewards of God’s provision, we must insist that organizations likewise manage their resources well.
4.3. Help Someone
We are constantly surrounded by need. Many people are struggling to survive. We cannot help everyone, but we can help someone. Find someone who can use your help and find a way to assist them. If we all help someone, perhaps everyone can get the help that they need.
5. How should we feel about giving?
Paul is perfectly clear on this point. He says:
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
If we truly care about the advancement of God’s work, then we should be filled with joy when we are able to give to it. And, our giving comes with this promise, that God will honor our gifts by pouring out His blessing on our work, so that it produces abundant, everlasting fruit in His kingdom.
These are just a few practical recommendations for giving. We pray that God will enrich you spiritually as you learn this Essential Discipline of Stewardship & Giving. And we pray that God will lead you even deeper in your relationship with Jesus.
- How have you done with the decision you made after our last session, to improve your level of stewardship?
- Continue down this path of improvement and share your journey with someone you trust.