Call it what you will [1. Alms and offerings (Acts 24:17); 2. The collection for the saints (1 Corinthians 16:1); 3. Liberality KJV/ gift NKJV, NASB (1 Corinthians 16:3); 4. Grace (2 Corinthians 8:1, 6, 7, 9, 19; 2 Corinthians 9:8,14). 5. Gift (1 Corinthians 16:3 NKJV; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:15); 6. Fellowship (2 Corinthians 8:4 cf. Acts 2:42); 7. Service (2 Corinthians 9:12-13); 8. Bounty (2 Corinthians 9:5)]. God’s people are to be givers. They gave under Patriarchal times; They gave in Mosaic times and certainly we are to give today.
God provides motivation for us to give. Consider the following: (1) The example of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). Stop and think what He gave for us. “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 Corinthians 8:9). (2) The generosity of others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). The example, dedication and generosity of others should spur us on to liberal giving. Johnny Ramsey once told the story of a man who thought he was giving well until he was asked to help count the contribution one Sunday. He saw how some with far less than he were out-giving him. His giving instantly improved. (3) The performance of a pledge is a motivation to give (2 Corinthians 8:10-11 cf. Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Psalm 22:25; 50:14; 66:13; 76:11; 116:14, 18; Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). If one promises God or an eldership that he’ll give a certain amount he should keep his word if it is at all possible. (4) Love of God and Jesus is a tremendous motivation to give liberally (2 Corinthians 8:8, 24 cf. Luke 7:41-47). (5) Giving is one way of sowing the seed of goodwill (2 Corinthians 9:6) which brings about thanksgiving unto God (2 Corinthians 9:11-13). (6) God has promised to providentially supply our physical needs if we put Him first (Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 9:8, 10). (7) One is laying up treasures in heaven ( Proverbs 19:17 cf. Luke 14:13-14; Matthew 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:9 Philippians 4:17; Heb. 6:10). Buster Dobbs has written, “The shortsighted think giving is losing, and keeping is gaining. The opposite is true. Those who give with an open hand will draw down on their generosity through all eternity. Those who keep their material wealth will lose it all at death. All you can hold in your cold hand is what you have given away” (Studies in 2 Corinthians, 8th Annual Denton Lectures, p. 218). “Someone inquired of his (John D. Rockefeller’s) accountant ‘How much money did John D. leave?’
The reply was simple, ‘He left… all of it.’ How much did Andrew Carnegie, Howard Hughes and William Randolph Hurst leave? How much will Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and you and I leave? All of it” (Jim Palmer, Faith and Finance, p. 63-64). We’ll leave it all, but are we laying up treasures in heaven? “Colonel Sanders got it right when he said, “There’s no need being the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do any business there” (ibid, p. 65). But are we rich with God? (cf. Luke 12:15-21).
Giving to Get
A popular teaching is that if one does not have material wealth in this life, it must be that he hasn’t been giving enough. “The prosperity gospel… fosters a mindset where its followers begin to think of God as their own personal investment account (complete with ATM privileges!)” says Jim Palmer (ibid, p. 27).
It doesn’t add up. Skim through the Bible. Clearly there have been those righteous who were not materially wealthy (Proverbs 19:1, 22; 28:6). Job went through a period where he lost everything financially (Job 1-2). His condition lasted for months on end (Job 7:3; 29:2). Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-ff). Neither Jesus nor His apostles seem to have been financially wealthy in this life. Paul, multiple times, is pictured as laboring with his hands (Acts 18:3; 20:33-35; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thes. 3:7-8). Faithful brethren and poverty are not mutually exclusive (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Revelation 2:9).
Let’s consider some proof texts: (1) Luke 6:38. Read the context of Luke 6:36-38(KJV). All that is being stated is the general principle of reciprocity. That is, in general how one treat others is how others will treat him (cf. Eccl. 11:1-2). This is a general principle, a proverbial truth, not an iron clad rule (much like Prov. 16:7). Who is it that does the giving here? Is it God or men? It is men. This is a general principle. However, we should give whether or not we are ever repaid in this life (cf. Luke 14:13-14).
(2) 2 Corinthians 9:6-14. The overall point here does not concern the material reward. Jim Palmer says, “The ‘more’ we reap (2 Corinthians 9:6 B.H.) may not be material” (Think, Jan. 2008, p. 10). Terry Hightower remarked, “Paul went on to show (2 Corinthians 9:11-14) that God’s return is not always material gain” (Studies in 2 Corinthians, 8th Annual Denton Lectures, p. 375). Their giving would help heal the relationship between Jewish Christians and Gentile. Christians (see article Cooperation Dec. 28, 2003 bulletin). Their giving would (a) awake gratitude in others; (b) cause the Jewish Christians to want to pray for these Gentile Christians; and (c) cause God to be glorified. Passages like 2 Corinthians 9:8, 10 may well teach that God’s special providence is upon the righteous. I think that it does. However, it in no way teaches that material wealth awaits every liberal giver. The totality of the scriptures will not allow such an interpretation.
(3) John 10:10. Jesus gives man not only a better life to come. He gives us a better life here and now (Mark 10:30; John 10:10; 1 Timothy 4:8). He gives us a peace which the world doesn’t know (John 14:27; 16:33). He gives us a rich love and fellowship (Mark 10:30; John 13:34-35). I find nothing in this passage which promises material wealth.
(4) Malachi 3:10. This passage is encouraging Israel to give as they had been instructed. If they did, God promised to physically bless them. The blessings promised Israel are often physical (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 28:1-7, 11-12; 30:8-10). To argue that this passage should be applied to us as a promise today would seem to also demand that barrenness and miscarriages would cease if we only gave as we should (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 7:14; 28:4)!
This prosperity Gospel is a scam. Terry Hightower writes, “Most of us have received letters which told us ‘You can not out give God… if everyone else who hears our plea sends $89 to us, we will have all the money we need and the Lord will give back to you five or ten times over!’ write them back and say, ‘I believe you cannot out give God… You give me the $89 and God will give it back to you five or ten times over. This way you get the bigger amount.” Very likely you will be taken off the pulpit predator’s mailing list” (Studies in 2 Corinthians, p. 374).
Caution: Giving to get is giving for the wrong motives. We should not be of the number who use godliness as a way of gain (1 Timothy 6:5).
Here are some things to remember: (1) God is not impressed with those who give, but don’t obey what He says, “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22-23). He still wants obedience (Hebrews 5:9). (2) God is not impressed with those who profit in ill-gotten gain and the give to Him without repentance (Hosea 6:6-8; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog (male prostitute – B.H.), into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God (Leviticus 23:18). He wants more than our money; He wants all of us (Rom. 12:1-2). (3) God is not impressed with those who give to be praised of men (Matthew 6:1-2). (4) I have heard some preacher and preacher-students who say they are not required to give since they are supported by the church. The Levites of old were required to give (Numbers 18:25-ff). All today should practice giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
Some have argued that the collection spoken of in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, and Romans 15 refers to a special collection. There is no command, it is said, to give today. My response: (1) Giving did not start with this special collection (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35; 11:27-30). (2) Giving was not done just for special occasions, but for the ongoing work of the church (Acts 6:1-ff; 1 Corinthians 9:4-12; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:15-16; 1 Timothy 5:3, 16, 17-18). (3) The church still has the same need for financial resources as it did then. (4) The special collection provides us with a pattern of how it’s to be done. (5) I find it amazing that the preachers who argue against the command of giving do not mind taking a salary out of what is given.
Some have turned to 2 Corinthians 8:8 as proof that giving isn’t commanded. However listen to Carl Garner, “He did not use ‘commandment’ in this context, so much as motivation and encouragement. They had already been commanded to give in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, but here he emphasized the efforts of others and the need to prove their love… giving that is motivated only by demand or by prescription will never be as abundant as that motivated by generosity and love” (Studies in 2nd Corinthians, p. 191).
It is common place among denominations and increasing among some in the Lord’s church to have bake sales, fish frys, pancake breakfasts or supper, car washes and other such things to raise money churches, mission work, youth group activities for the youth of the church, benevolent cases. There are a couple of problems with this: (1) It is not authorized anywhere in the New Testament. There is no command to do such. There is not direct statement authorizing such. There is no implication that such can be done. There is not example of the early church doing such. (2) C.R. Nichol and R.L. Whiteside spoke of the appearance of such practices. “Who can object if we run a legitimate business and put the proceeds into the church treasury? If this was carried on as an individual business, none could offer a valid objection; but these things are put before the community as church affairs, and the people are expected to patronize them on that account. Such things do not fill any real need in the business affairs of the community any more than does the cripple who occasionally appears on the street selling pencils or shoe strings. You are expected to buy from the handicapped because he is handicapped, and you are expected to buy from the church because it is a church. Such things put the church before the community as a helpless cripple begging for patronage. It cheapens the church. More it cultivates the church to look to some other way of raising the needed money beside the God-ordained way of giving.” (Sound Doctrine, vol. 3. p. 134). Folks, it is up to church members to support the work of the church from their generosity, not the community.
Church contributions need to be handled in such a way that there is accountability, and no question of honesty (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:16-21). Paul traveled with not only Silas, and Luke with this great collection. He also had with him seven men (Acts 20:4; 21:29; 27:2). These men seem to have been chosen by the churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Paul’s aim was to prevent suspicions, “Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:20-21). He wished to seal the fruit (Romans 15:28); “This metaphor is a commercial idiom which was used of sealing up sacks of produce guaranteeing the full complement of the contents (Vine’s). In other words, Paul intended to safeguard the contribution from any loss until it was deposited in the hands of the recipients” (Studies in Romans, 15th Annual Denton Lectures, p. 290).