Thursday, January 10, 2008

Questions About Giving

This week my essay serves as an addendum to the message I am preaching on “The Grace of Giving” from II Corinthians 9:6-8, the second in a three-week series called “Faith and Finances: A Winning Combination!” I want to address nuts-and-bolts questions that many Christians have about financial giving. Let’s dive right in.

Given that the Bible teaches us to give God our first fruits (Proverbs 3:9-10), how much should I give?

The basic benchmark for financial giving to the Lord and his work is the tithe (10%). This was a requirement of God’s people in the Old Testament (Lev. 27:30-33, Deut. 14:22-29, Mal. 3:8-12, et al.). Indeed, is some evidence indicates there were two tithes and an offering to the poor (totaling about 23%) asked of Jewish people. Be that as it may, the New Testament does not specifically continue this commandment. This places tithing under the realm of Christian freedom. In most ways, Jesus calls his followers to consider the Old Testament Law a starting point rather than an ending one (see Matthew 5:21-48). For this reason, Christians should aspire to tithe, seeing our giving as a means of spiritual growth. Once we tithe, we should not consider ourselves to have “arrived” but rather to have reached a foundation upon which we can then give tithes and offerings, trusting in God’s promise that he blesses our efforts to give.

What portion of my giving should go to my local church?

This is an issue very much between the giver and God. I have chosen to always give my tithe to the local church and to give offerings to other ministries. I view the local church as God’s primary work in the world and certainly as the foundation of my own worship and service of God. Yet, there are many good ministries and causes for Christ worth giving to. Seek God’s leading on this. I would urge you, though, to make the local church the foundation (largest %) of your total giving, for the following reasons: 1) It is (or should be) your spiritual home and spiritual family, where you worship, serve, hear and learn the Word, commune at the Table, fellowship with and minister to others, and 2) It is (or should be) giving to some of the same causes you want to, such as missionaries, children’s homes, and ministries to the poor. In other words, your contribution isn’t used just for building and grounds, staff salaries, supplies, and events. Not that you don’t appreciate those too, I’m sure.

What if my church isn’t doing much to help the poor or do evangelism, and my contribution only helps maintain the status quo?

Talk to or write a note to the leaders and express your concerns. Most leaders are eager to know the hearts of their people. If you don’t see any change after repeated efforts, find another church. I don’t mean to be flip, but to just reduce or redirect one’s contribution while continuing to worship and fellowship with the very church with whose mission and values one so strongly disagrees seems to lack integrity. Let me say that most churches need to direct more of their resources and ministries to the poor and to evangelism. West Houston is making strides in this area.

The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that just as they excel in other spiritual gifts, so should they seek to excel in “this grace of giving” (II Cor. 8:7). Financial giving is a beautiful grace that God promises will enrich us and increase “the harvest of our righteousness” (II Cor. 9:10). Amen, Lord. Let it be so.


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