What Does the Bible Say about Giving?
There is no question that generous giving is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, and that there is great joy in giving. We are all blessed by the giving of others, and we are all blessed to give. For example, I have been in drive-through lines where the person in front of me pays my bill, and I in turn decide to pay the bill of the person behind me. It then becomes a long line of giving and receiving, a display of kindness to others we don’t even know.
Even a simple cycle of giving such as this can unite a community and bring a smile to our faces.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have given generously and sacrificially for the cause of the Gospel. Christians have funded schools, charities, and hospitals. Christians have given time and treasure to rebuild cities after floods and fires. Christians have given faithfully to their local churches, to missionaries, to neighbors in need, and have given consistently in ways that others will never know. Following the lead of our Savior who gave all on our behalf, Christians are a giving people.
But how much does the Bible say we should give?
Is there a specific amount, or a set rule that we are required to follow? Does our salvation itself hinge on the amount of money we give, and where we give it? Does God really threaten to curse us if we don’t give a certain amount in a certain way? The good news for us is that the answer is extraordinarily simple: we are required to give nothing, yet it becomes our desire to give everything.
You Get What You Give
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” – 2 Corinthians 9:6
Giving benefits the one who gives the gift and the one who receives the gift. Some have misread this verse to mean that those who give much financially will in turn be rewarded with much financially. This is wrong thinking and sets up a kind of ‘giving in order to get more back’ scheme. God will certainly bless our giving beyond all we ask or imagine and simultaneously provide for our each and every need.
Yet our blessing comes not from a financial return, but by the act of giving itself which grows us and draws us closer to Christ. There are no records of the apostles, or Jesus himself for that matter, living lives of wealth and comfort because of their giving.
God is the Greatest Giver
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” – 2 Corinthians 9:10
God is the greatest giver. He gives us all things, and without Him we are and have nothing. Just like a seed that brings forth a larger harvest than expected, when we give generously we can expect to see a harvest of blessing come from it. God will grow us in righteousness as we give in faith, and will use any gift we give to do more than we could ever imagine. We should seek such a ‘harvest of righteousness’ above any material wealth.
We also don’t give to receive accolades for our generosity. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus tells us to give ‘so that your right hand does not know what your left hand is doing’. Our reward for giving comes from God, not from the accolades of others. There is nothing wrong at all with being thankful for one who gives generously, but that is not why we give. We give out of love of others and love of Christ.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
God loves a cheerful giver! This is a beautiful thought because of what Paul says (give cheerfully) and because of what he doesn’t say (give a certain amount). God doesn’t desire our giving to be done begrudgingly or under compulsion. Should you be pressured to give a certain amount (or else!) then there is something very wrong and very non-Scriptural happening. That giving has gone from being a joy to a burden.
Giving never, ever comes from guilt, obligation, or compulsion. Giving is not some religious tax that Christians are required to meet. Jesus came to push aside that kind of giving, and to fulfill it with something better. Matthew 11:30 tells us that “His burden is light”. Jesus is not the heavenly IRS. His desire is not to place a burden on us by demanding a certain amount of giving and punishing us if we don’t meet it. He gave freely to us on the cross, continues to give freely to us daily in all the blessings of life, and in response we give freely as well.
The Truth about Tithing
Any conversation about Christian giving will involve tithing. Tithing is beneficial, and is a method of giving that can provide structure and personal accountability. One verse that is regularly used when discussing tithing is Malachi 3:9-10, “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
The problem with this verse is that, taken out of context, it becomes legalistic and can cause unnecessary fear and pain in the lives of believers. God will indeed open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing on cheerful givers! But if God truly has plans to curse the God-fearing members of His Church because they are not tithing according to this verse in Malachi, why in the world do Paul and the other New Testament writers fail to mention it?
Giving is Good. Legalism is Bad.
The New Testament writers had many opportunities to teach and require percentage giving, yet they don't do it. They instead encouraged believers to give all they had to God and to others. The old law required giving 10% of the harvest to the theocratic government of Israel. It was used to care for the Levites who served in the temple and as a gift to God. The concept was one that said, tithe to the Temple and do what you will with the rest.
In Christ, we no longer live under a ‘90/10’ arrangement, but prayerfully give God 100% of all we are and all we have - all the time. Christ came to fulfill the Law, and everything, including each breath, is from Him and belongs to Him. From our perspective, sometimes our giving may look like a lot, sometimes it may look like a little. But when we give as God leads, we may never know the full extent of how our gifts are used for Him.
Giving is an Act of Worship
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1
Since we are not required to give a certain amount, what does that mean if we don’t give at all? The key to giving is to do so cheerfully as an act of sacrifice and an act of worship. We should give sacrificially as we feel led by God and allow Him to use our giving to bring about a great harvest in the lives of others and in His church. The pattern of Christian giving is not one of box-checking and obligations. It is a daily lifestyle of kindness and generosity flowing from the Spirit which dwells within us.
When we give to our church, it is because that is where God has led us and we want to be a part of the good work he is doing there. If we simply give an obligatory dollar amount on Sundays, but then walk out and live ungrateful lives Monday through Saturday because we have ‘met our obligation’, we have missed the point entirely. God deserves all we are, not just a dollar amount once a week.
The bottom line is that we are to give cheerfully and generously, ‘as we feel led in our heart to give.’ When we truly do this, it causes us to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit and focused on where God would have us use our offerings for his glory and not our own.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and any gift that we could give to Him in return is a mere token of thanks for the eternal gift He has given us. Just like those cars in the drive through line, in life we will find ourselves both giving and receiving. We give because everything we own and everything we are is a gift from God.
We give because there is a joy that we can only know when we give as God lead us to. We give because giving makes us more like Christ. And we give because sometimes we will know what it is like to be in dire need and receive graciously from others, and it is an unspeakable joy to give as has been so generously given to us.
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor at Calvary Longmont in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Hakase