The early church was liberal in their giving (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). They gave not only money, but themselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
The Jews of old were instructed to give: (1) They were to leave a portion of their harvest to the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-20). (2) They were to offer their first-fruits unto God (Exodus 13:12; 22:29 cf. Numbers 3:46-48). (3) They were to make freewill offerings and pay vows (Deuteronomy 16:10-11; 23:21-23). (4) They were to make three distinct tithes: (a) There was a tithe to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30-33 cf. Numbers 18:21-24). (b) There was a tithe of the increase of the land (Deuteronomy 14:22-24). (c) There was a tithe taken each third year (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Josephus mentions these three tithes saying, “Beside those two tithes which I have already said you are to pay every year, the one of the Levites, the other for the festivals, you are to bring every third year a tithe to be distributed to this in want; to women also that are widows, and to children that are orphans (Antiquities book 4). (5) Fruit production the fourth year after the planting of a fruit tree (Leviticus 19:23-24). V.P. Black had calculated, “a devout Jew gave at least 1/3 of his total earnings to God” (My God and My Money, p. 13).
Giving did not originate with Mosaic law. Man was evidently taught to give under Patriarchal times. Abel (Genesis 4) and Noah (Genesis 8:20) made offerings before the Lord. Abram tithed (Genesis 14:18-20 cf. Hebrews 7:1-4). The righteous have always practiced giving, it seems.
Everything ultimately belongs to God (Psalms 24:1; 50:10-11; Ezekiel 18:4). God is the one who makes it possible for man to live and move and prosper upon this earth (Acts 17:28). While it is true that those able should provide for themselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) and their families (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8, 16; 2 Corinthians 12:14), It is only through God such is even possible (Matthew 5:45b). God has made our ability to work and amass wealth possible.
However, He has asked that we give back to finance the work of the church. He has left the most important work of earth to be financed by our weekly contributions! A friend of mine insists that the church is hindering herself by not being more liberal in her giving, and by selfishly spending what is gathered. He may be correct.
We live in a material world. It takes money to accomplish nearly everything in life. Giving supports the work of the church. The church has three areas of work: (1) Evangelism. The early church financially supported the preaching of the Gospel [Philippians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Galatians 6:6; Romans 15:24 (cf. 3 John 7-8; Titus 3:13; Acts 21:5)]. Sound local preaching and broader preaching (missionary efforts) need financial support. This includes necessary and expedient things (paid preacher, travel expenses, meeting hall, P.A. system, etc.). Caution: not all preaching should be supported (2 John 10-11 cf. 2 John 5-8). (2) Edification. The church needs to be built up and strengthened (Acts 14:22; 15:36; 16:4-5; 20:32; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40). Things necessary and expedient to this needs financial support (paid preacher, paid elders, meeting hall, printed material, etc.). (3) Benevolence. The church is to (according to her ability) help those in need. She especially has this duty toward those of the household of faith (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:3-4, 16), but also unto others [(2 Corinthians 9:13; cf. Galatians 6:10). Note: for a study of the ‘saints only’ position see bulletin from Jan. 23, 2005]. Caution: This does not mean the church should circumvent family responsibilities (1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8, 16).
The church’s ultimate purpose is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21; 1 Peter 4:11). Through these three areas, we glorify God on this earth. This takes money. The more given the more can be accomplished.
“Every one of you” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) is to give. These words are addressed to church members (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). All church members have a responsibility to support the work of the church. All have a duty to give. New converts need to be taught this. Our children need to be taught this.
Our giving is to be “on the first day of every week…” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NASB). This is the literal reading. This giving is to be a regular practice each first day.
There may be daily situations arise to which we personally choose to show benevolence (Luke 10:30-37); Jam. 2:15-18; 1 John 3:17); However, we should not let such benevolence replace this weekly system giving.
When early Christians gave, the money was placed “at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). Roy Lanier Sr. has written, “This wording is figurative, meaning the possession of and control of the apostles” (Article: Give to a Treasury?). Later, elders were appointed and contribution was delivered unto them (Acts 11:30). Money comes under their control and stewardship once it is given (cf. Acts 5:4; Acts 4:35).
J.W. McGarvey commented on 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. “The word ‘thesaurizeon’, translated ‘in store’, means literally ‘put into the treasury’; the phrase ‘por heauto,’ translated ‘by him’ maybe taken as the neuter reflexive pronoun, and may be rendered with equal correctness ‘by itself.’ MacKnight thus renders these two words, and this rendering is to be preferred. If each man had laid by himself in his own house, all the scattered collections would have to be gathered after Paul’s arrival, which is the very thing that he forbade… it was put in the public treasury of the church, but kept by itself as a separate fund” (Commentary on 1st Corinthians, p. 161).
What should I give? I should give money. It seems significant that brethren did not give land to the church for the church to sell; They sold land and brought the price of it and gave that (Acts 4:34-35; 4:36-37; 5:1-2). This prevented the church from looking like it was in the real estate business.
How much should I give? God specified how much was to be given under the Old Testament system of tithes. God has not specified the amount to be given under the New Testament. I am to give as I have prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2) and as I have purposed (1 Corinthians 9:7). God has left it up to us. But who can believe that He expects less of us today than he did of the Jews of old? Mac Layton, “A tragic fact is that to bind on the Christian may cast a stumbling block in the way of his eternal salvation. God may require of him 20%, 50%, or even more! Our giving must be based on ability… rather than a fixed amount for life… surely no one could think that the early Christians gave less under Christ than they had formerly given as Jews. Such cannot be the case for those brethren sold their lands, houses, possessions, and goods for the care of their brethren, and the advancement of the gospel” (1980 Harding University Lectures, p. 313-314). Robert Dodson has written, “Our giving is not based upon a percentage, but is to be calculated by gratitude and love (cf. Mark 12:41-44)” (Article: God’s Plan For Giving). We should keep in mind how much was given for us. Paul brought up the sacrifice of Jesus in context of his motivating the brethren to give saying “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
Think of it this way – Does a parent ask how much support they have to give in support of their child? Or, do they give based upon the need of the child, and their ability to give? Our giving is based upon needs and ability. I am not sure who I heard this illustration from, but it is a good one.
But I don’t have much? God measures our giving by our ability (2 Corinthians 8:12; Mark 12:41-44; Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:48b). God does not expect the same from one living below the poverty line as He does from a millionaire. Sometimes those with little will say, “When I earn more, then I’ll start giving.” Be careful with this thinking “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). If one doesn’t give while he has little, likely he’ll not give should he ever have much. Someone has written, “It’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’re be your lot; But what you’re doing with quarters and dimes you’ve got.” Yes, the poor can and should give (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
We’re to give liberally (Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 9:6; 9:13). Romans 12:8, “he that giveth, let him do it with liberality” (ASV). Someone has written:
“Give as you would if an angel
awaited your gift at the door,
Give as you would if tomorrow
Found you giving here all o’er
Give as you would to the Master
If you met His loving look,
Give as you would of your substance
If His hand the offering took.”
May we be like David who said, “Neither will I offer… unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). C.R. Nichol said that it was a far greater privilege to be a member of the eternal kingdom of Christ than any earthly kingdom. For that reason we never allowed the amount of his taxes to exceed his giving to the church (1980 Harding University Lectures, p. 315).
Caution: Giving to God does not eliminate one’s duty to care for his family (Mark 7:9-13).
V.P. Black indicated there are at least four classes of givers: “(1) The covetous man who gives but regrets it. (2) The unteachable – these resent all teaching on the subject of giving. (3) The ignorant – these can be taught the truth, but they need instruction. (4) The liberal – these are the ones that believe what the Bible teaches on the subject and do accordingly” (My God and My Money, p. 38). The Bible says that our giving is to be “not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
I should not give in order to receive the attention and praise of men (Matthew 6:1-4). The trumpet, “refers to the hole in the public alms chest… such holes, because they were wide at one end and grew gradually narrow towards the other, were actually termed… trumpets. An ostentatious man, who wished to attract the notice of those around him, would throw his money with some force into these trumpet – resembling holes, and thus he might be said to sound the trumpet” (A. Clark). Matthew 6:3-4 does not teach that it is wrong for others to know what we give (Consider: (1) Widow – Mark 12:41; (2) Woman anointing Jesus – Mark 14:3-9 cf. John 12:3-6; (3) Barnabas – Acts 4:36-37; (4) Ananias and Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11; (5) Macedonians – 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). The warning is that we should not go around boasting of what we’ve given. Some make a show, doing their deeds out of the motive of being seen of men (Matthew 5:20 cf. 23:5a). A Christian is a giver whether anyone sees or not. A true Christian is not trying to exalt self, but God.