Once a year, every year, we have a “Planned Giving Sunday” at our church and we teach about giving and challenge our church to make a monthly financial pledge so that we can budget for the next year. The giving is not policed or tracked; we leave it to the individual’s conscience before the Lord.
Our church, as I’m sure yours, is a non-profit organisation and our aim is not to make money but disciples of Jesus. Our aim is to see people transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light and transformed to be more and more like Jesus. As a church we will work hard to that end by praying and by teaching the gospel. Yet we need money to do this. We need to pay the rent, pay salaries, pay insurance, pay the bills, support missionaries, sponsor mission trips and help those who struggle financially.
God’s work done God’s way
I know that when we speak about money at church it can create the wrong impression because so often we read about churches spending ludicrous amounts of money on frivolous things. We don’t speak about money often because we are not in it for the money! We believe that God’s work done God’s way will always enjoy God’s provision. But we do also believe that the way God provides is by the faithful giving of his people. The church’s main fundraising strategy is the faithful giving of God’s people.
1 Corinthians16:1-4 gives us five practical guidelines to giving. The passage does speak to a particular situation of mostly Greek Christians helping the predominately Jewish-background church in Jerusalem. Besides the principle of helping fellow Christians in need, we see a few timeless principles for giving.
“1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.”
1. Giving should be consistent and systematic. A planned activity.
(v2) On the first day of every week
Paul says to the Corinthian Christians to give once a week of what they have. In those days most people were paid daily, not monthly. Christians also used to meet on the “first day” of the week which is Sunday. Jews traditionally met on the seventh day, Saturday. It seems that because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday – that’s when Christians chose to meet.
Giving doesn’t have to be weekly – the principle is that our giving should be consistent and systematic. Some Christians may say, “I give as the Spirit leads!” Of course the Holy Spirit may prompt you to give to a specific need, but here the Spirit (who inspired the Bible) says to give consistently and systematically, not haphazardly or just when you feel “led” to give.
2. Everyone should give
(v2) each of you
Whether you’re poor or rich, whether have little or much, the Bible says we ought to give. Here a true principle: If you don’t give when you have a little, you won’t give when you have a lot. Sometimes we say, “I don’t earn enough to give, but I’ll give when I earn more”. More often than not if you don’t give when you earn a little you won’t give when you earn a lot. This is why we should teach our children from a young age to give generously of their pocket-money so that giving is simply something we do, a non-negotiable – not a foreign or bizarre concept.
3. Giving should be budgeted for
(v2) each of you is to put something aside
Giving should be an essential part of our monthly and yearly budget. We ought to put an amount aside each month, trusting God to provide. It’s not good enough coming to the end of every month and giving of what’s left. God wants our first fruits, not our rotten, leftover fruit. We need to honour God in our giving. We are to cheerfully give of what belongs to the Lord anyway. The real question is not how much should I give, but how much should I keep. We should give what is right, not what is left.
4. Giving should be proportional
(v2) each of you is to put something aside and store it as he may prosper
V4 has this sense: “each person should give in accordance with whatever success has come their way.” The New Testament does not command a 10% tithe. Lean Morris writes, “Paul does not indicate a definite amount or a definite proportion of one’s income that is to be contributed; he leaves it to the conscience of each.” Yet, it must be said, a 10% tithe has been a helpful guideline and benchmark for faithful Christians over the last 2000 years. The added benefit of giving a percentage is that it enables us to give in proportion to “our success”.
My view is that a 10% tithe is a very helpful guideline and it should be the starting point for Christian giving, not the end point. Maybe you are earning much more than you need and you can give more than 10%? Maybe you could give 25% or 40%? Maybe you are having a tough time and can’t give 10% and decide you have to give less. Whatever you give is between you and the Lord. Remember that the question is not how much to give, but how much we should keep – because all we have belongs to God and we are called to be stewards of God’s money. God has given us all we have and has given us the ability to produce wealth. I have seen time and time again that God honours those who honour him. Here is another challenging thought: Every time your salary increases do you have to increase your standard of living or could you increase your standard of giving?
Why should we give?
The Apostle Paul answers this question in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Jesus gave generously so that we can become spiritually rich. We are to imitate Jesus’ generosity. By you giving generously to the gospel ministry at your church you can be used by God to make people spiritually rich. Through your giving spiritually dead people may hear the gospel and, we pray, be made spiritually alive. We ought to give generously like Jesus and the first budgeted giving each month should be to our local church.
5. Lastly, Our giving must be entrusted to good stewards
(v3-4) And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
After all the money was collected there would be a large amount that needed to be taken to Jerusalem. Remember there was no debit orders or money transfers. The church had to send “approved”, godly, faithful people with the money. Members who wouldn’t lose the money, steal the money, or “misplace” the money. By implication, contemporary church’s should have good financial governance; an experienced finance committee of faithful Christians; and elders or a church council who will faithfully oversee the wise allocation and spending of the Lord’s money. Our giving should be well stewarded.
My church wastes money!
As Christians, God expects us to give generously and cheerfully. God will hold us accountable for the way we spend his money. You may argue that you don’t agree with the way your church allocates the Lord’s money. Remember that God will also hold each church and church council accountable for how they spent his money. Meet with the church council and voice your concerns because you should giving faithfully. God only holds you accountable for giving, but he will hold the church council accountable for how they spent the money. If you can’t in good conscience give generously to your church, you should (after re-examining your reasons for not giving) leave the church and join a church where you can and will give.
Randy Alcorn in his book, The Treasure Principle, says we should each ask ourselves this question, “Five minutes after I die, what will I wish I would have given away while I still had the chance?”
Jesus Christ said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.”
How much do you give to your church? Remember that God always honours those who honour him.
(Here is my earlier post on why we should give.)