<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> The Truth About Giving
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The Truth About Giving

By Pastor William Cunningham
For Sunday September 24, 2006

 

Introduction

Some of the things that we commonly hear about giving in our church organizations, seminars, conferences, and the like can be summarized as follows.

  1. Giving is a way to be blessed
  2. Giving is a way to become prosperous
  3. giving to your church is a high priority
  4. giving is associated with the church organization and not the people

There are many schemes used by ministers, pastors, bishops and the like that entice you to give to them or their kingdom.  I say kingdom because there are some cases where the objective is not to support a particular ministry or ministry endeavor, but rather to support a particular person.  In other words, we are encouraged many times to give to a person as in paying their salary and the like.

I’m sure you have been victim of or have heard of the above teachings on giving and probably many more.  One of the most prominent teachings in churches today is that of tithing.  However, we are not going to focus on tithing in this study.  Instead we are going to focus on the basics on giving as they come from the scriptures and we are going to test the four teachings listed previously to see if they truly stand up to the scriptures.

This sermon will deal with the truth about giving.  What does the Bible say about giving?  Why did the people written about in the Bible give?  What caused them to give and what did they give to?  We will uncover the basic truth about giving from a biblical perspective.  I warn you to take your religious cap off because some of the things I will present to you are probably things that you have never heard before and yet they are things that you will recognize as “common sense” from a scriptural or biblical perspective.  You are going to have to avoid thinking like a religious person and think more like a family member or a member of a community and in this case that family or community is the true Church of Jesus Christ, namely the fellowship of all believers.  So let’s get started.

Preparation and Validation

We at Pursuing the Truth Ministries encourage you to read and study the Bible.  We are going to present information in this study that is probably new to you or perhaps something that you don’t hear very much.  You may have been bombarded with so much contrary teachings that your first reaction may be that we have erred.  Well that’s OK if you think we have erred and if so then please feel free to contact us and tell us where you think we have erred and we will be happy to discuss it with you.  However, I encourage you to do the following.

  1. Read and study your Bible regarding the topic of giving.  See our study on “Developing a Personal Bible Study” for more information on how to do this (http://www.pursuingthetruth.org/studies/files/developbiblestudy.htm).
  2. Go over the things that I discuss in this sermon and weigh them against the biblical teachings from an objective approach (an inductive as opposed to a deductive approach).

The bottom line is that you should study this topic for yourself.  You should always weigh things that you hear to what you understand the Bible says.  Your understanding should not be based on what someone told you, but rather on what you have received through your own studies.

Biblical Perspective

I have found through my own studies over the last twenty-plus years that the Bible reveals to us something very different about giving than what the common teachings are as described above.  Here are the points that I’ve learned about giving from the Bible.

  1. Giving is associated with people (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35; Leviticus 25:35-37)
  2. Giving is associated with a specific project (Ex: Exodus 25:1-9)
  3. Giving is associated with ministry support (Ex: 2 Corinthians 9:6-9)
  4. Giving is associated with worship (Proverbs 3:9; Genesis 4:2-5)

Let’s talk about these in a little more detail.

 

The People Connection

Consider the following scripture.

Psalm 24:1 (NKJV) -- {1} The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

The first thing we need to realize is that God owns everything.  With that said it is important that you realize that God does not need your money.  You should also note that the local church and God are different.  Giving to your church does not mean that you are giving to God or giving on behalf of God.  It all depends on what is in your heart.

You will find that giving presented to us in the Bible is associated more with people than it is to an organization.  Consider the following scriptures.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NKJV) -- {7} “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, {8} but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. {9} Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you. {10} You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. {11} For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’


Here we see God instructing/commanding the people on what to do about fellow Israelites that were poor.  They were commanded to help them and not harden their hearts towards their poor brethren.  This was people-centric and not organization-centric as we tend to believe.  God is concerned about the wellbeing of the people.

Acts 2:44-45 (NKJV) -- {44} Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, {45} and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Acts 4:32-35 (NKJV) -- {32} Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. {33} And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. {34} Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, {35} and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Here we see a wonderful example of the true spirit of the Christian faith.  What did the new Christians do?  They didn’t go out and establish church buildings, have conferences, and services, but instead they began to help one another.  They became one family together in Christ and each helped meet the needs of those that lacked.  What if we truly did this today in our own communities?

It is also important to note that there were no commandments for them to give the way that they did to distribute for the needs of others.  It was in their hearts as a result of the Christian faith that they had just received.  The Holy Spirit manifested Himself as a spirit of giving or more precisely as a spirit of love and compassion.

Leviticus 25:35-37 (NKJV) -- {35} ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. {36} Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. {37} You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.

Here again we see God instructing the Israelites on what to do about the poor and we note again God’s concern for the poor that were among them.  God still cares about the poor today.

One thing that I would like to point out is that God worked through the people.  You might wonder why God didn’t simply provide for the needs of the poor directly.  Why didn’t God miraculously give everyone what they needed so that no one would be poor?  We don’t know the absolute answer to that, but we do know that God just doesn’t operate that way as we see in the Bible.  We see consistently throughout the Bible that God works through people to accomplish His will.  God works through people to bless others.

God works through people to help people

 

Projects

James 4:2-3 (NKJV) -- {2} You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. {3} You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Pursuing the Truth Ministries get questions from people that deal with convincing one person to give to another based on some biblical precept.  Also, I’m sure you have heard many pastors and ministry heads tell you that you should give to the church to be blessed by God when all along they just want support for a particular project or the like.  Our answer to this is to simply ask God for what you want and tell the people what you want.

Sometimes giving in the Bible is associated with a particular project.  For example we find in Exodus 25:1-9 that God asked the people that were willing to give to provide the various materials that would be used for the construction and furnishing of the sanctuary.  God could have commanded them to give, but instead He simply asked them to give.

Exodus 25:1-9 (NKJV) -- {1} Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: {2} “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering. {3} And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; {4} blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; {5} ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; {6} oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; {7} onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. {8} And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. {9} According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

I’ve seen too many ministry and church leaders beg for money and use various types of schemes to get you to give them your money.  They tell you that if you don’t tithe then you will be cursed.  They tell you that in order to be blessed by God that you have to give to the man of God.  They tell you all kinds of such lies in order to make you feel guilty to give for a project or a particular need of the ministry or church.

I believe that it is better to simply ask for what you want.  The ministry leaders and pastors should just tell the people what the needs are and allow God to work through them as we described previously.  God will provide what we need in ministry and if He doesn’t then there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.  However, if God doesn’t provide for a particular need then many ministers resort to false teachings to compel you to give.

I recall once I was talking to a pastor and I told him that Pursuing the Truth Ministries was looking to find another location to meet for services, seminars, and other activities.  He asked me how much I could afford and I told him not much as there were only a few of us.  He said that the reason that we can’t afford much is because I don’t teach tithing.  Imagine that.  The premise was that I should teach tithing so that the people would give more to the ministry.  However, what is the typical tithe teaching in churches today. It is a teaching of guilt, control, and oppression so that the leader could build his or her kingdom.  No. Pursuing the Truth Ministries will have no part in that.

God simply asked the people to give for the materials to be used for building and furnishing the sanctuary.  See also 1 Chronicles 29:1-9, Ezra 8:24-28.

 

Supporting Ministry

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NKJV) -- {6} But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. {7} So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. {8} And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. {9} As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”

Here Paul was encouraging the Corinthian church to continue with the original zeal that they had to support the ministry.  There were false teachers that were telling people that all Paul wanted was their money.  This was not the case.  Paul was collecting money to give to meet the needs of the church at Jerusalem.

The bottom line here is that we give to support the work of the ministry, which is also the work of God.  However, not all that claim to be ministries are indeed ministering.  Some pastors and ministers are only in it for the money or for a career.  I’ve even had some admit this to me.  They preach because it is an occupation and therefore ministry isn’t an issue.  You will always have that situation.

However, there are many men and women who are vehement about ministering to the people for the Lord.  These ministries need financial support.  They need to purchase supplies, transportation, lodging, and other things directly related to the ministry.  A full-time minister (including pastors, bishops, evangelists, etc.) needs financial support just so that they would have the normal things in life like a place to live, food, clothes, etc.

Ministries need your support so that they could continue to function as a ministry.  Sure we could do things individually, but we could never accomplish as much individually as a group of us could accomplish working together. 

Giving to a particular ministry including your church is a way of supporting the work of the ministry of God.  You provide some of the things that are necessary so that ministry could continue to function and bless others in the same way that perhaps it blessed you.

 

Worship

Proverbs 3:9 (NKJV) -- {9} Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase;

Genesis 4:2-5 (NKJV) -- {2} Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. {3} And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. {4} Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, {5} but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The word “worship” means reverent honor and homage paid to God or an adoring reverence or regard for God.  Worship is our response to the presence of God.  One way we can express our adoration and high esteem for God is to give.  Here we may give to a church in a particular ceremony or we may give to help someone in the name of Jesus Christ.  In any case, our giving here is our way of honoring God.  Also note that where you give to is not important as long as you follow the guidance of God.

It is important to understand that this is something that comes from the heart.  Remember that worship is our response to the awareness of God’s presence.  We worship God because of who He is and what He is to us personally.  We give to help others because we love others as God loves us.  We give to a church because we love God such that we want the Gospel message to be spread through that church.  This type of worship cannot be commanded by men.  No one can tell you to give to worship God if it isn’t in your heart.  Worship is a personal response and personal awareness of God.

So giving can be done as a means of worshiping God.

 

Giving Guidelines

We have discussed four truths pertaining to giving that come from the Bible.  Please read the study, “Tithing, Giving, Sowing and Reaping” for much more information on this topic (http://www.pursuingthetruth.org/studies/files/tithing.htm).  In any case let me recap what we have said so far.

  1. Giving is associated with the needs of the people
  2. Giving is associated with a particular project
  3. Giving is associated with supporting a ministry
  4. Giving is associated with worship

Keep in mind that giving was primarily a voluntary thing.  God commanded people to be thoughtful of the poor and to meet the needs of the poor.  However, we could see those as instructions for sinful people to live by because we tend to think of ourselves at the expense of others.  We know from the scriptures that God truly cares about the poor and yet even God said that the poor would always be with us.  We also saw that God works through people to carry out His will on earth and therefore it is up to us to give in order to meet the needs of people, ministries, and to accommodate projects.

One other thing that I’d like to share with you about giving is this.  Give according to your resources.  Consider the following scripture.

  • Deuteronomy 16:16-17 (NKJV) -- {16} “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. {17} Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.
  • Leviticus 14:30 (NKJV) -- {30} And he shall offer one of the turtledoves or young pigeons, such as he can afford—
  • Ezra 2:69 (NKJV) -- {69} According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly garments.
  • Acts 11:29 (NKJV) -- {29} Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NKJV) -- {12} For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

One of the things that many ministers preach is to give out of your lack.  In other words they tell you that if you lack then you should give even though you can’t afford to give.  For example a typical scenario is that if you owe $1000 and you only have $100 in the bank then you should give that $100 to the church as seed money and then God will bless you with the money you need to pay your $1000 debt.

That is false teachings.  Sure someone may decide to do that, but such an act comes from the heart.  That person may say to himself, “I can’t afford to pay my bill so the $100 is meaningless.  However, I do want to give to God because I want to and I want to show him that I trust him and depend on him.”  That person may give the $100 to a church, a charity, or someone in need as an expression of worship, which we described earlier.  This doesn’t mean that everyone should do it and it doesn’t mean that if you don’t do it that you somehow do not trust or love God.  There are still other occasions where God may instruct you to give the money to the church, an organization, or someone in need.

What we see as a general rule in the Bible however is to give according to what you can afford.  Remember that God owns everything and that God is the provider of seed to the sower.  Therefore, what you have to give comes from God anyway.  So if God wants you to give more than He will provide more for you to give.  The scriptures shown above indicate that God only expects us to give based on what we have to give.  If you have $1.00 to give then give the dollar.  If you have $100 to give then give the $100.  It would be inappropriate or even sin if you have $100 to give to help and you keep it for yourself.

Proverbs 3:27 (NKJV) -- {27} Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so.

Give according to what you can afford

 

Conclusion

Giving in the Bible is associated with people, projects, ministry support, and worship.  Giving is not a means to obtain blessings from God though God will bless you.  Giving is not an obligation that you have to a particular local church though you are expected to give to your local church in order for it to continue in its ministry objectives (and you should give if you are a part of that ministry and it has blessed you).  Giving is not some magic formula that we can use to become prosperous as so many preachers tell you.

Why can’t it be that God blesses you because he loves you and that he expects you to live the same way?  Bless someone else because you love others as God loves you. Why can’t it be that God provides a new home, new care, or whatever simply because you asked him and he loves you and want to provide for you?  Why must there be some secret formula to blessings.  Why must there be five steps to prosperity or seven steps to abundance.  There is only one step to prosperity and one step to abundance and that step is Jesus Christ.

God has blessed you with something.  Even if you don’t have a job and don’t have much money you are still blessed.  God has blessed you with abilities, influence, talents, and the potential to work.  He has blessed you with faith as well.  Why don’t we stop believing all of the lies that are only designed to take your money so that it could be used to build someone else’s kingdom besides God’s?  Why don’t you live your life according to how God is directing you and do with your money according to how God influences you or even commands you.  You know when you should do something or not.  You don’t need anyone else to command you to give.  Unless you have a stingy or hording heart you will give to help others, help ministries (including your church), help to support church and ministry projects, and to worship God.

So give to bless others.  Give to support ministries. Give to fund and provide for various ministry projects.  Give as a way of worshiping God.  Amen.

 

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