April 20, 2017

Giving is an expression of faith

Today’s devotional repeats something from yesterday that I wondered about. It says, “Tithing and all systems like it are things altogether foreign to the New Testament.” 

I’m not certain of this. Jesus did say, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42)

It seems to me that Jesus is telling them not to neglect the tithe. This could be admonition related to the old covenant and not the new, but many interpret it otherwise saying tithing is a guideline. That is, ten percent is a ballpark number. Yet many other ‘systems’ did change when Jesus arrived. As for giving, the New Testament makes it an issue of the heart rather than a rule or a fixed amount:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

The reason that believers can be generous is because God is both owner and source of all we have. Whatever I give, He supplied in the first place, so if that offering is something I need or will need, He will make sure that I have it:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:8–11)

In other words, I don’t need to worry about impoverishing myself for He will take care of my needs. This is a testimony or demonstration of faith. God is able to take care of me, therefore I can take care of others.

Giving is not willy-nilly though. It requires planning ahead as well as total willingness . . .

“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” (2 Corinthians 9:5)

“Exaction” is an interesting word. It can be a ‘covetous practice, greed, extortion — or giving in order to get,’ but also ‘compulsion or giving out of a sense of duty.’ Either interpretation presents problems that can slip into our hearts when the collection plate comes by. The first one is tied to the false but popular teaching that links generous giving with the size of your bank account. That is, ‘the more you give, the more you get’ — which hovers close to a greedy heart.

The second meaning of exaction links to using a guilt trip to urge people to give. It might be an emotional presentation of a need, or pointing fingers at how much I have compared to how little others have, tactics that produce guilt and promote giving to relieve that feeling.  

The Bible shoves both problems aside with: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

These and other verses, along with examples of ‘givers’ in the Body of Christ, put giving on a much higher plane. It is a heart matter; my giving must come from love and willingness. God isn’t looking at how much I give, only my motivation for giving it.

Giving is never about impressing people either. The offering envelope ought to go into the plate turned upside down, ignoring any temptation to show off. Giving is about pleasing the Lord.

Jesus, I’ve been told that a person’s spiritual life can be measured by who controls their wallet. In other words, a light hand on my money could indicate You have a strong grip on my heart. I cannot judge myself except to say that I trust that You know all my needs — and You are always willing and able to take care of those needs.

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