Giving money to the Lord, whether for local needs or for missionary work, should be an integral part of our Christian experience. Yet often, opportunities for service are not able to be grasped, and new initiatives cannot be taken through lack of finances. Why should this be? If we examine the Scriptures we find at least six reasons why Christians fall short of what God expects of them. 1. Unconsecrated Lives If we have not first given our lives to the Lord, it is unlikely that our money will be offered to Him either. It was this very point which aroused the apostle Paul to place on record such a warm commendation of a group of Christians in Macedonia. Although barely above the breadline themselves, they had given beyond their means to assist another group of poverty-stricken believers in faraway Jerusalem, “but they first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5 NKJV). The natural outcome of this act of surrender was a gesture of generosity to people of another race and culture, whom they had never seen, and barely even heard of. The liberality of their giving simply reflected their genuine consecration to the Lord. So it should be with us.
It is no accident that in various voluntary organizations, both secular and religious, the committee members who give largely of their time also give largely of their money. Fringe members give little of either. In the same way, commitment of oneself to the Lord’s work, on the homefront or overseas, naturally brings a commitment for financial support, along with a commitment of time, energy and fervent prayer.
2. Unconcerned Stewardship
A matter closely related to consecration is stewardship. When we give ourselves to the Lord He wants us to be good stewards, so that what we have is held in trust for Him. Our money then is not our own, to dispose of how we will. It belongs to Him. David expressed this sentiment perfectly in the memorable words of his prayer at the dedication of the temple. He said, “For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chr. 29:14).
A proper appreciation of this principle has widespread implications for Christian giving. It should mean that the Lord’s work has priority in our giving, that we allocate what we give to Him first from our wages, and then consider what we should reserve for our own use. The amount we give to Him should in no way depend on what we choose to spend for ourselves. It should be a prior allocation. If we live within our budget and accumulate a surplus, there is always provision for a “freewill” offering. David did exactly this when he gave from his own goods, over and above all that he had prepared for the temple, because, he said, “I have set my affection on the house of my God” (1 Chr. 29:3).
So our affections for the Master’s interests will control our activities as stewards, in disbursing wisely the money He has entrusted to us.
3. Insufficient Forethought
Our giving should never be haphazard or irregular. “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside” (1 Cor. 16:2). Money given to the Lord should be prayerfully accumulated during the week, and given regularly. Paul did not want to obtain the proceeds from a hastily organized collection after he had arrived in Corinth, but from an offering which reflected a thoughtful concern for those who would receive it.
This does not outlaw spontaneous, unplanned giving. The glowing praise, given by the Lord to the poor widow who generously dropped her last two coins into the temple collection box, is sufficient testimony to this (Lk. 21:1-4). The widow of Zarephath was blessed for her selfless giving as she surrendered her last meal in response to the needs of the prophet Elijah (1 Ki. 17:8-16). And freewill, even sacrificial, giving is just as appropriate now as it was then, and just as honored by God.
But the basic principle remains unchanged. We should allocate systematically before the need arises, and then by prayer let the Lord show us where He wants His money to go.
4. Unspiritual Attitude
There are some who consider giving money to sustain a Christian work as a lesser form of service for the Master. There is no scriptural basis for such a view. On the contrary, giving money is spoken of as both a “grace” and a “sacrifice” – something on a high spiritual plane. The Macedonian Christians, as they pressed their contribution into Titus’ hand, counted it a real blessing to be able to share in this gracious work of the Spirit (2 Cor. 8:6-7). We often think that the favor lies in receiving the gift, not in giving it! Not only is giving money a joyful privilege, it also is a form of worship. The writer to the Hebrews links the sacrifice of praise to God very closely with the sacrifice of giving to others, sharing what we have, and enjoins us not to forget it. Furthermore, he says that God is not simply gratified when we do so; He is overjoyed. “With such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16).
Thus the offering received in church is not to be thought of as a necessary chore. We should give it reverently, as part of our total act of worship, and not as some sort of intrusion. There ought to be no hiatus in the flow of worship because the collection boxes have been passed. When seen from the side of the recipient the gift may well be the result of a collection; but as viewed from the side of the giver it is an offering, something given to the Lord Himself, and springing from an overflowing heart.
5. Unrealized Inflation
One of the major hindrances to the expansion of the Lord’s work is static giving in a time when inflation is rampant in so many countries. Currency devaluations, too, exert their own damaging effects on the flow of money from country to country. Part of the solution lies in the principle of proportional giving (1 Cor. 16:2). The Christians in Corinth were urged to give in proportion to their income – a basic scriptural principle. Even if our income rises solely through cost of living adjustments, so should our giving!
Nowhere in the New Testament is a particular proportion specified. It is left to the generosity of the individual. But if the Israelites were required by the Law to give a minimum of one tenth of their income (the tithe), we do well to ask ourselves, should we, under grace, give less? It would seem that we should give more. Linked with the giving of the tithe in the Old Testament was the pouring out of God’s blessing (Mal. 3:7-10). Only after the tithes had been collected were the windows of heaven opened. In a similar way, we cannot expect God’s blessing on our activities if we withhold from Him what is His rightful due.
6. Inhibited Attitude
One of the outstanding features in the account of the dedication of Solomon’s temple was uninhibited giving. There was no restraint, no counting the cost. The needs of the Lord’s house captured the imaginations of all present, from King David down to the lowliest commoner, and all gave with unrestrained joy. This attitude is still appropriate today.
When we read that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7), we might note that the word translated “cheerful” in many versions has somewhat lost its force. It really means “hilarious.” God loves when we give with joyful abandon.
God loves the world, and the measure of that love is the gift of His Son (Jn. 3:16). Furthermore, “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25), in an act of supreme love. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). But when we read that God loves the cheerful giver we are introduced to a further dimension of His love. Those who give unsparingly and joyfully become special objects of God’s love, capable of enjoying a richer personal relationship with Him. Those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully.
In whole-hearted commitment to the Lord, let’s overcome these hindrances and become “hilarious” givers for Him.
By Ian Livingstone
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org