God gave the life of his own Son, Jesus when he died on the cross for our sins opening the way for us to go to heaven. That incredible offering of love suggests that we should respond in kind and Isaac Watts the eighteenth century hymn writer says that
Way back in the Old Testament God taught his people, the Israelites that they should give a tenth of all they had to God. In 2 Chronicles we learn that the Israelites "brought a great amount, a tithe of everything" and this included "their grain, new wine, oil, honey and all that the fields produced"2 . Moses had warned Israel about the danger of forgetting God and imagining they could do everything for themselves. Pride and arrogance would follow and lead on to destruction. The old adage that pride comes before a fall has its roots way back in the earliest teachings of the Bible.
Years later the Israelites were still reluctant to give a tenth of their income to God and he again challenged them to "'bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me is this', says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it'"3.
In our wealthy western culture we are reluctant to trust God enough to grasp the truth of that promise but there are many Christians who do take him at his word and give a tenth or more of what they have to support the work of God's church around the world. All who do this in faith will assure you that God does honour his promise. God is no man’s debtor and he will give us back far more than we can ever give to him.
Christian giving does not just mean providing funds to maintain the church tower, patch the roof or pay the vicar. It can and should mean helping the poor and the needy; developing youth work or supporting mission and outreach both overseas and in our own communities. There are many channels through which we can give to God's work.
In Romans chapter 124 Paul lists giving as a gift from God although it is one that people seldom seem to pray for! In the second letter to the Corinthians the poor people of Macedonia were given this gift and found that "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity"5 . We rightly want to help the poor but we should never deny them the privilege, the dignity and the joy of giving to others but neither should we deny ourselves the privilege of giving either!
Sadly many Christians very often fail to realise that there is joy in being generous and a privilege too. We are very good at thinking of reasons why we should not give but far less creative when it comes to thinking why we should give of our time, our gifts and our resources to help build up God's kingdom. Paul tells the Corinthians "This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God"6.
Part of the problem is that our old churches consume resources of every kind on a large scale – they are hungry beasts to maintain! However we are not called as Christians to hide in our old buildings but to get out into our communities and to transform them – to be Christ to those around us and that means being generous with all we have.
Sadly we lack the commitment of the early church and indeed many churches overseas. Without commitment there are bound to be financial problems and we end up needing to fund raise from those who are not part of the church when in fact, all our regular costs should be met from our own giving. It is as we learn to give and enjoy the privilege of doing so that we can begin to encourage one another in the use of this God-given gift of giving.
1 Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748): When I survey the wondrous cross
2 Chronicles chapter 31 verses 5 – 6
3 Malachi chapter 3 verse 10
4 Romans chapter 12 verse 8
5 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 2
6 2 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 12
For some that is clearly impossible their commitments will not permit it. For others giving a tenth of their income is too little, they can afford to give much more. All of us need prayerfully to ask God to show us how much it is right for us to give away and then give accordingly. What others may give is none of our business. What we give should be between us and God but as we grow in the use of this gift we can expect God to bless us and give us real joy. That joy should then overflow into the life of our churches.
All of us need prayerfully to ask God to show us how much it is right for us to give away and then give accordingly. What others may give is none of our business. What we give should be between us and God