Post Resurrection Giving
This blog is the third in a series on generosity. This one will make more sense if you have read 'Tithing' and 'Generosity'.
It might surprise you to learn that church attenders are not as generous as might be expected. Based on Australian data (National Church Life Survey, 2006), the generosity of church attenders increases with income up to about the average income, at which point nearly half of attenders give 10 per cent or more. The proportion then falls away as incomes rise. It also turns out that the way in which the church talks about and handles money is a major negative influence on what Australians think about Christians and Christianity (McCrindle Research, 2017).
Perhaps a healthy approach to giving might encourage Christians to be more generous and change perceptions that Australians have about the church. The New Testament provides some principles that might guide us in our decisions about giving by way of tithes and offerings.
First, it is plainly obvious that Jesus ‘upped the ante’ on much of the Old Testament law in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7). In order of reference in these chapters, the following examples illustrate the point:
- Even if we obey the law, we are not spiritually self-sufficient – ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’
- We, not the priests, are salt and light: we represent God on earth – ‘You are the salt of the earth’.
- Murder is a heart issue – ‘Anyone who is angry with his brother…’
- Adultery is a heart issue – ‘Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully…’
- Do not make oaths as in Old Testament times – ‘Let your yes be yes’
- No more babble prayers – ‘Our Father in heaven…’
Jesus upped the ante on tithing and offering too. In taking his leave of the Ephesian elders, Paul quoted Jesus as saying, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35b). Poet William Wordsworth put it this way:
Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely calculated less or more.
The apostle Paul wrote a significant treatise on giving in 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. There are six principles for giving in his treatise:
- The Macedonian Christians ‘gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability’
- ‘Finish the work’ – act on the desire to give, but according to your means
- Apply the principle of equity (noting that ‘equality’ in 2 Corinthians 8:14 should almost certainly be translated ‘equity’ based on the original Greek in this verse and the general biblical context)
- Sow generously and you will reap bountifully (see below)
- Decide on your giving in your heart, not from compulsion
- Remember that God loves a cheerful giver
What does it mean to reap bountifully? Here are five examples from 2 Corinthians 9:8-10:
- You will abound in every good work
- Your store of seed (for more sowing) will increase
- Your harvest of righteousness will increase
- You will be made rich so you can be generous
- Your generosity will cause others to give thanks to God
The ‘take home’ messages in these scriptures are
- We are free to decide how much to give, but it really should be enough for us to notice in our own budget, perhaps enough to hurt us a little.
- Whatever we sow will produce a bountiful harvest, but the harvest is by no means confined to money (the ‘store of seed’).
My wife, Jeanette, and I have always found it useful to adopt 10 per cent of everything that comes into our bank account as the baseline for our giving. We then give beyond that as we feel led by the Holy Spirit. We cannot give away $400m as Andrew and Nicola Forrest did today, but it is quite possible that they and we give 'equitably'. We will never know this side of heaven of course. I did try to identify our total giving a few years ago and it was about 20 per cent of everything that came into our bank account. I know another couple who are giving about 30 per cent. Jeanette and I can attest to the truth in Jesus' words because we see the evidence of being 'more blessed' every day.
Questions for discussion
1. Why do you think Jesus 'upped the ante' on Old Testament law in the Sermon on the Mount?
2. What did Jesus mean when he said that it was 'more blessed to give than to receive'?
3. How might the principle of equity be applied when it comes to giving at church?
4. In what ways, other than monetary, will a sower reap?