While the vast majority of born-again Christians want to give generously, very few actually do. According to a recent study , only 10–25 % of Church members regularly give. Religious giving is down 50% since 1990 and Christians are giving around 2.5% of income. Compare this to 3.3% given during the Great Depression. One statistic was particularly revealing as it helps explain the decline in giving: 8 out of 10 people who do give regularly to churches have little to no credit card debt. Researchers are finding that, overall, giving is decreasing while debt is increasing. Why is giving decreasing? Many reasons are given but the primary reason is that many Christians have a worldly view of possessions instead of a biblical view.
What does it mean to have a biblical view of possessions? What does that look like on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? Art Rainer helpfully describes the biblical perspective in his book The Money Challenge. He wrote, “You are made for something more. Your money was made for something more. God’s formula for money is simple: Give Generously, Save Wisely, and Live Appropriately.” Over the next three weeks we will discuss this in more detail and today we will focus on generous giving. Art Rainer outlines four principles for generous giving:
Principle 1: Giving is to be a priority.
There is an old saying, “We always make time for what we consider to be important.” In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to give an offering of “firstfruits”. This was an important offering in which the people gave the first of their crops to God in recognition that He is the rightful owner and without His blessing there would be no crops. This principle is also true for Christians who must make giving a priority. When Christians make giving a priority, they demonstrate that God is the rightful owner and without His blessing there would be no money and possessions. Giving must not be an afterthought that is done with what is “left over” in the budget. Give to God’s mission and start with your local church. The First Baptist Church operates on the tithes and offerings of its members.
Principle 2: Giving is to be done proportionally.
You may be familiar with the term tithe. Tithe means “one tenth”. In the Old Testament, God commanded giving to be done proportionally. This means that those who have less are giving less, and those who have more are giving more. God wants us to give in proportion to what we have received. Christians of goodwill debate on whether or not we should give a strict tithe of 10%. Art Rainer’s suggestion (which I agree with) is that “if you do not give 10% of your gross income, your goal should be to get to that 10% mark as soon as possible. If you already give 10%, it is time to set a new, higher goal.” 10% is a helpful guide for our giving, but we must not make it a legalistic burden.
Principle 3: Giving is to be done sacrificially.
Usually when tithing and giving are mentioned, we focus on a certain percentage (10%), but in the New Covenant, God does not limit His followers to a certain percentage. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul mentioned that the churches of Macedonia “gave according to their means…and beyond their means.” In the early church “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (Acts 4:34). In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul speaks of Christians to give “as he may prosper.” The question should not be “Should I give 10%?” The prayer should be to God: “Lord, it is all yours, guide me to give cheerfully and sacrificially for your glory.”
Don’t give to God out of your leftovers, give sacrificially to God out of love and devotion. If it does not cost you anything, it is not a sacrifice. King David demonstrated this well when he wanted to build an altar. When the owner offered to give it to David, he answered, “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24). When faced with financial difficulties, give in obedience to God because He tells us to give. Remember, giving occurs first, not last. Your debt and your lifestyle should not have priority over your giving. Make giving a priority and adjust your other expenses to make generous giving possible (more on this later). Remember, God does not include an exemption clause to giving. Also, we must not let one bad decision cause us to make another bad decision. God delights in obedience that is not done out of convenience.
Principle 4: Giving is to be done cheerfully.
If you are currently nervous about increasing your giving, don’t be. Giving is not to be a legalistic burden, but a joy. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.” God not only wants us to give sacrificially, He wants us to give cheerfully. He wants our giving to be an act of joyful worship and praise. Love and compassion should motivate our giving. God cheerfully gave His Son Jesus to us because He loves us. Rainer said it well, “God didn’t just tell us how to give. He showed us.”
Maybe you are not convinced yet. Maybe you think that the primary purpose of your money is to indulge your own desires? If so, you need to remember that you are a manager and not an owner. You will give an account one day for how you used God’s blessings. Maybe you want to be more generous, but believe that you don’t have enough money to give generously? In Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.” Once again, you are a manager not an owner. God entrusted you with what you have; you can and must be faithful with what you are given. If you serve God, you will not give grudgingly but generously. Remember Jesus’ words, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:24). God wants you to demonstrate your faith and your trust by surrendering your finances and possessions to Him. You can trust Him.
Note: I highly recommend The Money Challenge by Art Rainer for more detailed information about generous giving. The principles used in this sermon are from his book.