Why Give? What does the Bible say?
(written by Craig Tucker Dec 2004, revised Nov 2008)
While the Old Testament spoke of a tithe (a tenth), stipulating that people give a tenth of all they earn to the temple, this fixed amount was replaced in the NT with a principle of giving generously. We give, because God has given richly to us. We should be thankful for all his gifts, but especially for the priceless gift of his Son (Psalm 103:1-5, 2 Cor 8:9).
The model for our giving is God’s giving of his Son who although he was rich for our sake became poor. Giving is to be done out of love (2 Cor 8:8), a concern for the lost (John 3:16) and is to be sacrificial (2 Cor 8:9). The invitation to share in God’s work means that giving is a great privilege (2 Cor 8:2-5)!
Giving generously and sacrificially is an opportunity to trust God when he promises that a life of love and generosity is richer than a life filled with material things. While our giving (esp. with the funds entrusted to us by others) should be shrewd and responsible we are called to not anxiously hoard all that we have fearful of the future, but to have an attitude of trust that God will provide all that we need in the days to come.
The Bible speaks of a number of areas of Christian giving.
Paying What We Owe
In a sense this is not “giving” but meeting our obligations in paying for things we benefit from. Christians should seek to provide for their own needs themselves and not presume upon the support of others (2 Thess 3:10). It would seem that congregations too, seek to meet their own needs themselves where they can. We should pay what we owe including to the government (Rom 13:1-7) as a witness to the world (1 Thess 4:11-12). Providing for those who serve us in our own church context (1 Cor 9:7-15). In a sense this is paying for a service that we ourselves benefit from, either directly or indirectly. Paul’s analogy is of a farmer making sure his ox is fed so it is able to keep working. It is not something does out of generosity for oxen, but in order to get the most work out of them. It should also be noted that those paid to do gospel work should not presume that their support is a right to be demanded (2 Thess 3:8-9, 1 Cor 9:7-15).
Giving beyond ourselves
Giving byond oursleves, with no sense of what we might receive in return. (However God does promise great blessings for those who give generously). Caring for the poor (1 Ti 5:3-8). This might be our own poor, or giving to others in need far away (1 Cor 16:1-4). Giving beyond ourselves for the work of God’s kingdom (Phil 4:14-19). There is a bias in NT giving toward fellow Christians in need or to gospel work (Gal 6:10).
On the following matters, the Bible has little to say, it will be a matter of Christian wisdom how we choose.
Collective or Individual?
There are a spectrum of models:
- We can leave giving beyond our own work as a decision to be made by individuals, they might give directly to missionary organizations.
- Or, as we do with the TEAR Fund, encourage individuals to give in envelopes and send the money off together.
- Or we might identify a worthwhile cause and decide as a church to give a certain amount, or percentage from our general income. As we will be doing with Deb Chen in 2008.
The more individual style giving gives people a chance to choose how they will give, and to “own” their giving – giving from the church budget might feel more remote. The more corporate giving makes a statement as a church family about our commitment to mission. Choosing one or two projects can unite us together in the fellowship of giving – prayer spots and returning missionaries could be focussed – when there are many different causes supported by different individuals it is difficult to pray and show interest in them all at church.
GMP/Mission Society/Individual Missions
Presbyterian congregations can give to the General Mission Program (GMP) or give directly to projects or mission societies. The GMP goes to fund various denominational departments including the Archives Department and general head office expenses, very little goes directly to gospel work and none to overseas mission. If we decide to select one or two missionaries as a congregation, there is much more opportunity to focus and maintain interest.
Australia or Beyond?
I think there are great gospel needs both here and beyond. More importantly, I think especially as a first project, we should choose a missionary or project that people will find it easy to be enthusiastic about. A missionary who communicates well in prayer letters and videos and is able to do helpful home visitations would be important. Ideally we should find a project to focus on that a number of people in the congregation are already passionate about and are willing to enthusiastically promote and enthuse us about.
Gary Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, Chaps 20 & 22, Lancer 1980.
Michael Griffiths Take My Life, Chap 4, IVP, 1991.
Cash Values, Bible Study, St Mattias Press.