What does the Bible say about giving?
By Robert Krumrey
A couple of weeks ago Austin Kopack preached on a section of Deuteronomy that addressed tithing. Tithing is the giving of 10% of one's resources as an offering to God. It's a way to acknowledge that God is the source of everything one has and it's the way that God resources the ongoing ministry that facilitates the spiritual life of his people. In the Old Testament (OT), the money and food that was collected was used to support the Levites. Levites were the tribe that God assigned to work in temple ministry which included both teaching and the making of sacrifices. The Levites were allowed to live in cities and own homes but were not given any land to cultivate for food and clothing.
Is tithing commanded to the New Testament believer?
There is some debate as to whether New Testament believers should follow this command of giving 10% of their income to the church. There is only one place in the New Testament where tithing seems to get the nod. It's in some comments that Jesus makes to some of the religious leaders of his day who are ardent tithers. He says this:
Jesus is confronting the Pharisees about faithfully tithing yet neglecting things like justice and mercy. That said, he does say "These you ought to have done" which seems to support tithing. While this is a bit vague, there are many other New Testament commands in scripture to be generous. For example:
Jesus indicates that hoarding wealth on earth is not something that kingdom citizens are supposed to be doing. They instead are to be "laying up" treasures for themselves in heaven. What that means is that kingdom citizens leverage as much money as they are able for things that result in an eternal outcome. While homes and food and cars are all important for our daily lives, we won't be seeing these post mortem. They are a lousy investment when it comes to lasting, say, a hundred thousand years. Investments with that kind of return are dollars spent and possessions used on gospel ministry.
The OT framework of offerings given to support ministry is still in place. There is no special tribe of people who are assigned to these duties, but there are men and women that are called by God to serve in the church. These people provide the week in and week out ministry that facilitates the ongoing spiritual health of God's people. You see the Apostle Paul pointing to the continuity between the OT and NT model for supporting ministers of the gospel here:
Now that Jesus has come and died for our sin, there is no need for animal sacrifices to be made, but there is a need to pay some gospel proclaimers so they can commit concentrated time to the ministry of preaching and teaching. We, in our church structure, also pay some to do logistics needed to increase the effectiveness of the ministry of the word. Paul is encouraging the Corinthian congregation to allow their pastors to get their living “by the gospel”.
MERCYhouse and Money
If you've been keeping up with our financial updates, you know that we are currently in the red to the tune of about $31,000 7 months into our fiscal year which ends in April. This is a deficit almost equal to one month of expenses. While our "in house" giving goal is about $20,000 per month, we spend $35,000 per month. This means that we already expect to raise about $15,000 every month to cover expenses. This "extra" money comes from alumni, parents of students, and other friends of MERCYhouse.
This has been an 18 year miracle. God pouring this kind of money into our ministry is truly a blessing and a testimony to his divine power. We are grateful for this and in awe of his care for us as a church. We also want to strive to take more of the financial responsibility for our church. This is not going to happen if working people are giving a few hundred dollars every year. If you divide our budget by average attendance, each person requires about $1800 per year. A family of four, $7200 per year.
So should we all be tithing? YES! Whether we working people can find a verse in the Bible to back it up or not, we should all be working toward giving at least 10% of our income because it's the only way for us to pay the bills. The average giving in America by evangelical Christians is 2.43 percent. This kind of giving is not going to work for us. We are never going to meet our budget if we don't give at a much higher rate than average. If you are a working person and you are a member at MERCYhouse, you are called to give much more than the average American Christian. This is, in part, because we serve a population that does not have a lot of money to give.
There is something beautiful about this. Giving sacrificially to benefit people other than me and my family. Sounds a lot like Jesus. The call on our lives is to look like God in every area of our lives including giving. Paul draws this comparison in 2 Corinthians. Chapters 8 and 9 are all about generous giving. He ends the section on giving with this phrase:
It's obvious that Paul wants the reader to be motivated by God's generosity toward us in the gospel. This is the most powerful motivator of all! There is nothing that can free us more to give than the realization of what God has done for us in Christ. As Paul says, it’s “inexpressible”.
What if my finances are tight?
For many of us, the thought of giving generously to our church seems like a pipe dream. We are living in an age when most of us are living on 110% of our income and not 90%. What I suggest is that you take a “next step” in your giving. If you gave nothing in 2017, make a goal to give 2% of your income in 2018. If you gave less than 10% then increase by one or two percent in 2018. This will feel scary at first, but it can be a very concrete way to see God’s activity in your life. We can see God’s challenge to his OT people to trust him financially such that they see his care for them:
I’ve never known anyone who gave generously to God and regretted it. I’m serious. I’ve been in ministry for 26 years and I’ve pastored countless people. Not one person has ever said to me, “I wish I would have kept my money instead of giving it away generously.” Anyone who has tested God in giving has experienced the joy of seeing those dollars count for eternity and has entered into deeper intimacy with him because they experience God as their provider and protector. So let’s respond to his inexpressible gift by generously giving for the glory of God and the benefit of his ministry!