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Like most other organizations, churches need financial income to accomplish their work. Knowing this, God has authorized churches to raise funds by taking up collections from the members (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Acts 4:32-5:11; 11:27-30; 2:44,45).
The purpose of this study is to examine what the Bible says about the Christian's responsibility to support the work of the local church financially. Giving to finance the church is not the only kind of giving Christians should do, but it is the kind of giving we will focus on in this particular study.
Please consider several Bible principles to help us determine if our giving harmonizes with God's will. Some churches teach tithing or raise money by raffles, bingo, and bake sales. Other churches just expect members to donate to a collection on the first day of the week (Sunday). What does the Bible teach about a Christian's church donations and contributions?
Genesis 14:20; 28:20-22 - Abraham and Jacob gave tithes prior to the giving of the law at Sinai.
Leviticus 27:30-33 - Moses' law required Israelites to give a tithe (tenth) of their increase to support the Levites (Num. 18:21-32; Mal. 3:7-10). Israelites also gave free-will offerings, taxes, and other gifts to support the religious service and civil government (Ex. 35:29; 1 Chron. 29:1-19; Deut. 12:5-19; 14:22-29; Neh. 10:34-39).
Hebrews 10:9,10 - The old law, however, is no longer binding since Jesus replaced it. This means churches today have no right to require Christians to tithe. (See also Rom. 7:1-7; Col. 2:14,16; Gal. 3:24,25.)
However, the Old Testament does teach us useful lessons (1 Cor. 10:6,11; Rom. 15:4). Among other things we learn that most people had the ability to give at least 1/10 of their income to support religious work. Why wouldn't this also be true today? Remember this as we study the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 - On the first day of the week, each one should give as prospered. Some people are comparatively prosperous and should give more; others are comparatively poor and should give less.
"Prosperity" usually includes more than a "take-home" paycheck. Many people have "fringe benefits" worth 20-25% of their dollar pay. Taxes and other items are deducted from the paycheck. Also, many people have other prosperity: investments, rental properties, family-operated business, bonuses, inheritances, etc.
Acts 11:29 - Every man determined to give according to his ability. Remember that, as income increases, generally prosperity and ability also increase, so giving should increase. Some folks continue to give the same amount they have for years, even though they have had several increases in income. (See also 2 Cor. 8:12; Mark 12:41-44; Matt. 25:14-30.)
Bible principles of giving apply to Christians around the world and in every century, not just in modern America. We may not be wealthy by our own standards but, compared to people in other societies, the average American Christian has great prosperity, great ability, and therefore great responsibility to give generously. [Luke 12:48]
We should want to give so we can support the work the church does.
Philippians 4:14-18 - The church at Philippi gave to support Paul. This constituted "fellowship" (sharing) in his work of preaching. Likewise today local churches need money so teachers can teach in assemblies and classes, gospel meetings, radio and TV, literature, etc. (See also 1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 11:22-26; 1 Cor. 14; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:6-14; 2 Cor. 11:8,9.)
Acts 4:32-35 - Local churches also cared for needy members - they shared their possessions. (See also 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8,9; Acts 11:27-30.)
To the extent we are able, we should share in the church's work. Many denominations raise money by bingo, bake sales, rummages, raffles, etc. These methods are unauthorized, so the Lord's church never uses them. If members fulfill their responsibility to share, the church can do its work without such methods. But let us remember that the more we can give, the more the church can accomplish.
Are you fulfilling your responsibility to share in the church's work?
A steward is a person responsible to use someone else's property to accomplish work for the owner.
Psalms 24:1,2; 50:10,12; Haggai 2:8 - God owns the earth and everything on it, including animals, silver, and gold. Our possessions were given us by God (1 Chron. 29:12,14; Deut. 8:11,17,18; James 1:17; Job 1:21).
We "possess" or "own" things only as relates to other people. We have the power to decide how these things will or will not be used, but other people do not have that right for "our possessions." But in relation to God, He is the real owner, not us. He has the right to control, for He is the Maker. (See also 1 Chron. 29:11; Deut. 10:14; Gen. 14:22; 1 Cor. 10:26.)
Acts 4:32-35 - Christians shared with needy believers because they knew their possessions were not really their own. If we view our possessions as "ours," we may resent giving them to others. When we realize that these things really belong to God, not to us, then we should willingly use them for whatever God wants.
We sometimes think of the church treasury as "the Lord's money," but the money in our pocket is also "the Lord's money." Giving it to the church just transfers it from one of God's stewards to another of His stewards. To give it, then, does not do God a favor. It just fulfills our duty as stewards to use God's possessions for His purposes.
Are you a careful steward of the Lord's money?
Acts 2:44,45 - All that believed were willing to share (cf. Acts 4:32).
Acts 11:29 - Every man gave according to his ability.
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 - Every one of you should lay by in store.
Those who are not members are not responsible to support the church (though they ought to become members). But all those in the church ought to give to finance the work.
In nearly every congregation, the overwhelming majority of the money is given by a few members, while others give relatively little though they could give more. If you are truly able to give only a small amount, then God is pleased. But if you could give more, yet you just choose to leave the giving up to others, then you are an unfaithful steward.
Could the church accomplish more if you were a better steward?
One who owns property has the right to hold a steward accountable for how he uses the property (Luke 16:1,2; 12:42-46; 1 Cor. 4:2). Since God owns everything, He has the right to call us to account, and He has appointed a day in which we will all be judged (Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12; Matt. 25:31-46).
When you stand before Jesus, will you be ashamed for the amount you gave to support the church? Or are you truly a faithful steward who will be rewarded at that judgment?
1 Corinthians 16:2 - Give on the first day of the week. When the Bible tells us an act should be repeated on a certain day, it necessarily implies that the act should be done as often as that day occurs.
In the Old Testament, if a holy day was said to be on a certain day of a certain month, then it would be celebrated every year, just as often as that day of that month occurred (Ex. 12:18; Lev. 16:29; 23:5,6,24,34). The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week (Ex. 20:8-10). This meant it should be kept every week, as often as that day of the week occurred.
The New Testament tells us to have the Lord's Supper and giving on the "first day of the week" (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). The necessary implication is that these should be done on that day, as often as it comes - the first day of every week.
We use the same kind of language today. If we say, "The club meets on the second Tuesday of the month," you expect it to meet every month at that time, right? If your employer said, "You will be paid on the last day of the week," you would expect to be paid every week.
Likewise, 1 Cor. 16:2 so clearly means to give on the first day of every week that several translations actually put the word "every" in the translation (New American Standard, New International, Revised Standard, and New English).
Clearly denominations err when they have the Lord's Supper once a month or once a year, and they likewise err when they take up collections on weekdays. But brethren also err when they have prospered and could give on a first day of the week, yet they fail to do so!
Many church members fail to give as prospered because they miss worship meetings, then do not "make up" later for what they failed to give when they missed. This is just one of many problems involved in missing.
For example, suppose you prosper such that you ought to give $50 per week. If you miss a Sunday then just keep the $50 you should have given, you have disobeyed God's command to give as prospered. You prospered, but you did not give accordingly. In effect, you just stole $50 from God (cf. Mal. 3:8-10)! Think about it.
Do you give to the church regularly?
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each one should give according as he purposed in his heart. We purpose first, then we give. Do not wait till the plate is passed and then give part of what you happen to have with you.
Further, you must purpose for yourself. Neither the preacher nor the elders can decide what you will give. After you purpose, you must follow through and give what you purposed.
Acts 11:29 - Each person, according to his ability, determines what he will give. Giving should not be done lightly. Some people give more thought to buying a new pair of shoes than they do to how much they will give to the church!
Remember, the church has many important works it needs money to accomplish, and your eternal destiny is involved. Study your Bible, meditate on the principles we are studying, analyze your prosperity and ability, then decide how much to give.
At the end of this tract is a chart to help you plan your giving. Many need to consider more carefully the amount they give compared to their prosperity. The chart compares dollar income to percentage given. There are other factors to consider so this may be an oversimplification, but it may still be helpful in your purposing.
Are you able to give more than most people in other countries can? Are you able to give as much or more than did the Old Testament Israelites? What percentage of your income do you give now? Can you improve?
John 3:16; Galatians 2:20 - The love of Jesus and His Father was expressed when Jesus came to die for us. Scriptural love is an unselfish concern for the needs and well being of others. It motivates people to give what others need but are unable to do for themselves. (See also John 15:13; 1 Cor. 13:4-7; 1 John 4:9; Eph. 5:2,25.)
2 Corinthians 8:8,24 - Our giving is likewise an expression of our love. It indicates how much we love God and how much we want the church to accomplish its work. Consider specifically:
(1) How concerned are you about preaching the gospel to the lost? If you did not know the truth, but the church could teach you if it had the money, how generously would you want the church members to give? "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39).
(2) Do you really want preachers to receive the income they need to continue preaching? If you were a preacher who needed several hundred dollars more income each month in order to care for your family, how generous would you want members to be? "Do unto others..." (Matt. 7:12).
(3) Do you love brethren who have genuine material needs? "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18).
Every good thing you have came from God - physical blessings, spiritual blessings, and the hope of eternal life. Now God asks you to love Him, do His will, and support the church. If you really love God, will you try to give as little as you can and still squeak by at the judgment, or will you give as generously as you can to accomplish His will? (See also John 14:15; 1 John 5:2,3; 2 John 6.)
James 1:5 - God gives liberally to all men. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him (v17). If we really appreciate what He has done, will we respond by being stingy and selfish?
2 Corinthians 8:1,2 - The giving of the Macedonians abounded to riches of liberality. (Cf. Rom. 12:8.)
2 Corinthians 9:6 - We reap in proportion to our sowing. As in planting a field or garden, if we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly. To reap bountifully, we must sow bountifully.
But what is it that we want to reap? Eternal life! (Gal. 6:8). Is that a bountiful harvest, or a sparing one? Who can imagine a more bountiful harvest? Can we reap that harvest by being cheap and stingy in our giving?
Are you sowing sparingly or bountifully?
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Give not grudgingly or of necessity for God loves a cheerful giver. Giving must be done willingly, with a ready mind (2 Cor. 8:12). We should not grieve over what we have given. Do not feel sorry for ourselves, thinking about all the things we wish we could have done with that money. Do not give because someone pressured or embarrassed us. Instead, consider it a privilege to give.
Acts 20:35 - It is more blessed to give than to receive. Why did God plan His work so that we had to give in order to accomplish that work? Couldn't He have done it without our gifts? Of course! Then why do it this way? It must be, not that He needed the gifts, but that we need to give. It is for our good! True joy and happiness come only when we serve others. (See also Phil. 4:14-18.)
We get out of something only according to what we put into it. The reason many people get so little out of their religion is that they put so little into it. To really be blessed in God's service, we must give of ourselves. (See also Mark 10:29,30; Luke 6:38; Prov. 11:24,25; Mal. 3:10.)
John 3:16 - The Father sent His only-begotten Son to die so we could be saved. He gave the best He had at great personal cost.
John 15:13 - Jesus gave the greatest personal sacrifice anyone can give on behalf of others. He left the joys of heaven and came to earth to die for us (Phil. 2:5-8).
God did not keep His best possessions for Himself, giving us leftovers that had little value to Him. He gave the best He had, though it cost great pain and sacrifice. (See also Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 2:6; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Titus 2:14; Rom. 8:32).
2 Corinthians 8:9 - Jesus' sacrifice is an example teaching us to give sacrificially (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21).
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 - The Macedonians gave liberally though it cost them deeply. Their gift had real value to them. This is an example to us.
Malachi 1:13,14 - Old Testament sacrifices show that God does not want leftovers of little value to us after we first satisfy our own pleasures. God wants the best we have to give.
Mark 12:41-44 - A widow was commended for giving all she had, even though it was a relatively small amount. God is impressed, not by the size of our gift, but by the degree of our sacrifice. The gospel does not require us to give all we have (cf. Acts 5:4), but it does require sacrifice.
We should give enough that we feel the effect because we are sacrificing things of real value to us. Are there things that you really would like to have, and you could have afforded them were it not for the fact that you gave the money to the church? Does our giving to God show sacrifice for Him as He sacrificed for us? (See also Phil. 4:18; Rom. 12:1; Gen. 4:4; 2 Sam. 24:24; Phil. 2:5-8.)
Matthew 6:19-24,33 - Commitment to God will affect our attitude toward material things. We should lay up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness, even above earthly needs. The more important God is to us, the less important material things will be.
The Bible often warns us that material things can be a very corrupting influence (1 Tim. 6:6-10,17-19; Luke 12:15-21; Deut. 8:11-18; Matt. 19:23,24; 1 John 2:15ff). The average American is too materialistic. Earthly treasure becomes the master. The way we live is determined by our desire for material things rather than by our desire to please God.
Christians need to think seriously about these matters when we decide what we will give. Are we, like typical Americans, so concerned about material things that our desires keep us from giving as we should? God will not take second place. Nothing else in life should be as important to us as pleasing God.
Matthew 16:24-27 - We must deny self to follow Jesus. We must give our lives in His service. To lose our souls for the sake of material gain and pleasure would be too great a price to pay.
2 Corinthians 8:5 - The Macedonians gave generously because they first gave themselves to the Lord (cf. Rom. 12:1; Gal. 2:20). One reason many people are not generous in giving is that they lack depth of commitment to God's work.
If something is really important to us, we are willing to sacrifice for it. When we give our lives to God so that serving Him becomes the most important thing in our lives, then we will gladly give our things to His service.
If serving God is your highest priority, then it should show in the way you spend your money. Each of us should study our finances in light of our priorities. This is the idea of budgeting: studying what we spend in order to make sure we spend wisely for that which is most important. It is helpful even to write down what we typically spend money for, like this:
$_____ - Church contribution
$_____ - Housing (mortgage or rent, utilities, etc.)
$_____ - Clothing
$_____ - Taxes
$_____ - Food
$_____ - Transportation
$_____ - Recreation, entertainment (sports, TV, vacation, movies, etc.)
$_____ - Other expenses
Fill in the blanks with the amounts that you typically spend weekly or monthly. Remember that providing necessities is part of our duty to God (2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:8; 6:8; Gen. 3:17-19). Luxuries are items that may not be sinful of themselves, but we buy them to please ourselves and others, not to please God.
Some say, "I'd give more, but I can't because I have so many bills to pay." But what are your bills for? Often we just want what other people have, so we buy to please ourselves without considering the effect on our church contribution. Then we do not give as we prospered because we "have so many bills to pay"!
Could you eliminate some bills by more careful spending? Could you give to the church and still pay the bills if you would spend less on luxuries, entertainment, etc.? Is God really first in your life if you are spending more on recreation and entertainment than you are giving to the church (cf. 2 Tim. 3:4)?
By studying our finances in this way, we can evaluate our income (prosperity) and our expenses in light of our priorities. This will help us purpose what to give. Does your giving reflect proper priorities and commitment in your life?
There are many ways to give of ourselves in God's service besides just giving money to support the church. This study has examined just one aspect of the total giving a Christian must do.
We will conclude by listing some questions Christians should consider to help them determine whether their giving is pleasing to God.
1. How much am I sacrificing to support God's work? How much am I really giving up in comparison to what I have left?
2. Am I really carrying my fair share of the responsibility to support the work of the church, or am I leaving this up to others when I really could be giving more?
3. Am I seeking to give as much as I can, or do I try to "get by" with giving just a little to the Lord and spending the rest to please myself and my family?
4. How does my church contribution compare to other items in my budget? Does my giving indicate that the church and service to God are really the most important things in life to me?
5. Do I give the way I would want other people to give if they were giving to meet my need - if I were the lost person who needed to hear the gospel, or if I were the preacher or the Christian in need?
6. Do I give as much as Jesus would give if He were in my place? If He had my income and my family obligations, would He give more? (1 Pet. 2:21)
7. How much would I give each Sunday if I had to personally put the gift into the nail-pierced hand of Jesus Himself? Would I give more than I do now? Would I feel ashamed of what I give now? Remember, whatever I am giving now, He does know, and He will judge me for it.
Is God pleased with your giving?
(C) Copyright 1985, David E. Pratte
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The Church and Worship
Importance of Attending Church Meetings
Attendance, Unity, Fellowship, & Service
The Importance of Jesus' Church
Divine Authority vs. Human Authority
The Day for the Lord's Supper
How Many True Churches Are There?
The Nature and Meaning of the Church
How Can You Find & Identify Jesus' Church?
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.