Special Note: This article is included in Jim’s book “Christian Devotions & Quick Studies” along with 33 other articles and is available for purchase in Hardback, Paperback and eBook formats at this link: Jim’s Books
Several years ago I was perplexed by a study on giving patterns at the local church. The study showed that approximately 20% of those who regularly attend church do not financially support the church at all … zero, nil, nada … and that another approximately 30% of the church membership give what amounts to less than 5% of total offerings averaging less than a $1 per family per week. The next 30% of givers account for approximately 15% of total giving. The study thus concluded that 20% of the membership provides 80% of the financial giving. This giving scenario coincides with the modern world giving pattern perfectly (what is known as the Pareto Principle, the law of the vital few, the principle of factor scarcity, and the “80-20 rule”) and I will expound on that in another article later.
Why do so many fail to give generously to their church? You won’t be shocked by my overly simplistic conclusion. Basically, it can be wrapped up in one simple three-letter word … SIN. By definition, man is sinful, self-willed and rebellious. Unfortunately, it appears that worldly thinking and practice has so invaded the church that many have put aside God’s teaching in favor of serving themselves. Yes, I know that many are without jobs and even many more are under-employed. Many are discouraged and many are down-trodden. Nevertheless, God’s principles for giving have not changed. They are timeless.
Even before the time of Moses, God required that all were to give back to Him, and that giving starts with the “tithe.” In simplistic terms, in Old Testament times the tithe was defined as 10% of all increase (income), including the harvest, the livestock, the land, and all payments received. The tithe was to be given from the “first fruits”, the best, not what was left over. Jesus spoke specifically in Matthew 23:23 to the practice of tithing when He said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Some theologians and modern-day Christians argue that tithing is no longer required in New Testament times. But Jesus himself confirmed the principle of generous giving through tithes and offerings is absolutely still in effect today for all Christians along with justice, mercy and faithfulness. I realize that I have oversimplified the explanation for tithing, but more detailed information is unnecessary for the purpose of this article.
The Bible has much to say about the free will giving of tithes and offerings. Consider the following principles and scriptures on giving:
1. Everything belongs to God and He is Lord of all.
James 1:17 (NKJV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Everything, yes everything, belongs to God. He has entrusted us to be stewards of His resources. They are not ours. They are God’s. It is that simple. Everything that we have comes from God. He provides every “gift” that we have. He owns it all. When we give back to Him as He commands, then we are showing that God is truly the Lord of our life. Our giving is an expression of thankfulness for all He has given to us.
2. We are blessed when we give.
Acts 20:35 (NIV)
… remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
I don’t know how many people have told me about the blessings they have received as a result of their giving. I can’t explain it in any other way other than to say that you can’t out-give God. The blessings will likely not come to you in a monetary form. As a result of your giving you may experience exceeding joy, peace that passes understanding and unexplained satisfaction with the accomplishments of others. Jesus himself said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
3. Give freely to God and you will receive freely from God.
Luke 6:38 (NIV)
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Proverbs 11:24 (NIV)
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
The Bible teaches hat God grants abundant resources to those who manage them in accordance with His principles. Solomon understood these principles and under the leadership of God explained to his son Rehoboam that withholding of our gifts to God leads to poverty. Give freely, receive freely!
4. Pray and ask God what He would have you give and then give cheerfully.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Clearly what you give is between you and God. God does not expect us to give in a legalistic fashion or because someone or something is twisting our arm to do so. Giving grudgingly is worse than not giving at all. If your heart is right, then giving will be done cheerfully.
5. It’s not “how much” you give, but “how” you give.
Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
God does not look at the amount we are giving. Unlike man, He is not impressed with large amounts per se. He has a different perspective than we do. He is looking at our heart. We are not to give out of our abundance. The amount is not what is important. It is our attitude that counts.
6. When we fail to give to God, we are robbers!
Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV)
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 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.
Failing to give our tithes and offerings is a serious offense to God. When we withhold our offerings or hold back a portion of our giving we are robbing God. Some try to justify their lack of monetary giving by substituting something else such as volunteering their time or overseeing a needed function. While these are worthy actions and certainly part of Godly stewardship, they do not replace our tithes and offerings. The Bible teaches that our tithes and offerings are to be given through the “storehouse” which in modern times is the local church. Sadly, many Christians have ignored this Biblical teaching and miss out on the joy of giving to the Lord and His work.
Some continue to overspend their God provided resources as though everything belongs to them and not God. Some justify their selfishness in not giving generously to their local church using humanly twisted reasoning and excuses such as “I don’t make enough to tithe;” “If I tithe I won’t be able to pay my bills;” “I don’t agree with the way that my church spends its funds;” or “Tithing is an Old Testament principle and the New Testament does not require it.” Perhaps this is why the floodgates remain closed to God’s blessings for so many.
In this tough economy few churches have all of the resources needed to accomplish God’s work … particularly financial resources. Giving has been shrinking. To combat the financial decline almost every church has cut spending. Some have had to abandon ministries and go into what is basically a survival mode. Others have no choice but to abandon their ministry as they are no longer able to financially support it. Some churches have stepped up their promotion for giving through special offerings, sermons on giving, and conducting giving/pledge campaigns. Others have had to turn to other means to raise revenues such as renting unused facilities to other churches. Sadly, most members are not moved to provide realistic and/or meaningful Biblical financial support to their local church.
The truth is that God expects no less of Christians than full support of His work through our free-will giving to our local church through tithes and offerings. That is God’s plan. Are you doing your part? If not, then I encourage you to turn to the Lord, pray for forgiveness and consider what He would have you to do. Your church needs your financial support.