Biblical Principles for Giving
Biblically, the concept of giving was introduced in the Pentateuch – or the first 5 books of the Bible. Baseline giving should be 10% of our gross productive output. Our offering is to be our first act with our resources, not the one we do at the end of the month if there are enough resources left.
Tithes and offerings are different things. Tithes are the baseline expectation in giving, and offerings are over-and-above the tithe and can be directed in special ways: supporting the church, other Christian work, or good social work in the world. Tithes should go to the Temple (church in modern day) to support the witness and work of the covenant community in the world.
Some may argue that the New Testament nullifies the Old Testament teaching on giving. Jesus said very clearly, “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” He fulfills it by adding crucial elements like: giving is to be voluntary, not under compulsion (2 Cor. 8:8) and giving is to be cheerful, not reluctant (2 Cor. 9:7). Jesus was always concerned about the condition of our hearts – not our legalistic obedience to a code. Jesus invites us to be a biblical giver because we want to not because we have to, because we want to acknowledge God’s goodness to us, to combat the impact of secular values in our hearts, because we are delighted to release things of worldly value understanding that we are connected with things of infinitely greater value! Be a biblical giver and experience the joy, the cheer, the blessing of doing something active in life to take up your full identity in Jesus Christ.
This is a 201 level conversation and not the place to begin in exploring the claims of Jesus. You need to focus all of your attention on one question – Did the resurrection of Christ really happen? Dig in. Figure it out. Read books on it. Debate the issue with Christians. Talk to a pastor. Drill down on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Don’t worry about the money thing right now.
However, for those who have accepted the claims of Jesus, the link between giving and spiritual growth has been well documented by the recent REVEAL research study. This study of over 1000 churches in North America found tithing a key spiritual catalyst to make the move from Growing in Christ to Close to Christ. Not quite as potent a catalyst as prayer and reflecting on scripture, but it’s next in line. The research simply proves what Jesus said: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
There was also an interesting finding among the Christ-centered group (most spiritually mature) in the study. There was a wider “stewardship gap”, that is a disconnect between spiritual belief and actual behavior. This gap reveals the true battle of values that we face as followers of Christ in this world. We are surrounded by secular values that seek to define our personal identity and all that leads to happiness, security and success. Many of the values Jesus espoused run 180 degrees to these secular values, and we’re caught in the crossfire.
Taking a look at the giving numbers at Fifth for 2011, it can be seen that with regard to financial giving, the secular values appear to be winning the battle. If what Jesus said is true and our hearts follow our treasure, these stats say that most of our hearts are not fully committed to Christ. The numbers reveal an internal war going on inside of us. It’s a struggle over who or what we will serve and in whom or what we will trust. (see "Giving at Fifth in 2011")
The reason we are emphasizing 100 % participation in the current capital campaign is because it is not about dollars, it’s about growing as disciples of Jesus by making a decision to trust Christ, by giving as the Bible instructs. To declare all-out war on the voice of the evil one who is constantly lying to us about what success, happiness and wealth really are.
People have devised all sorts of plans to ease into tithing. They rarely work. This change happens best by decision. As your pastor, I call you to that decision. I challenge you to make a baseline commitment to giving by committing to give one tenth of your gross income to Fifth Reformed Church (or to your home church if you’re a guest and think of another church as home). I challenge you to use the current capital campaign as a way to get to the tithe. Take what you’re giving now and calculate the difference between your current giving and a tithe. Give that amount to the Foundation for the Future campaign this year and next. If you’re already tithing, I challenge to dig deep and to give generously through gifts over-and-above your tithe. Take it another step forward and sacrifice self for the sake of others.
If we all did that, imagine what we might do! We would absolutely blow out our financial goal for the campaign. We would be able to plant a church every year for years to come. We would be able to build a Habitat house every year for years to come. We would be able to make a significant difference in our community through acts of generosity and selflessness that would make the evening news. And more than that… imagine what would happen spiritually in our little congregation here. There would be a stark change in our life together. That kind of generosity is spiritually contagious. It catches and burns like wildfire. I’m certain God would bless that decision we made together.
A recently article said it well: “the paradox of discipleship is that the source of true fulfillment is found in giving our lives away.” If money has a hold of your heart, the invitation to give away your treasure so as to redirect your heart stands open right now. And it’s an invitation to deeper life. Disciples of Jesus find life in giving.