Must I give my
to the church?

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What is acceptable giving? Besides the half shekel, which every male was to give, the Law of Moses required every one to give a tenth of his total income. There was no exemptions or deductions. In addition were the numerous sacrifices and the gifts to the poor.

In the New Covenant, however, the Lord mentions no specific amount which we are to give. Instead, from the moment we become Christians, we ourselves belong completely to the Lord. In I Corinthians 6:19-20, the Apostle Paul says, "Ye are not your own; for you were bought with a price". And Peter in his first letter, Chapter 1, verse 18-19, says: "We were redeemed (or bought again) not with silver or gold . . . but with precious blood. even the blood of Christ".

This means that as Christians we belong completely to the Lord our bodies and minds, our abilities, and whatever comes into our possession. In Acts 4:32, it is said of the Christians at Pentecost that "Not one of them said that the things which he possessed was his own", but many sold their possessions to supply the needs of others. Since our bodies, minds, abilities, and possessions are actually all gifts from God, we are in reality stewards of his bounty to use what he entrusts to us as he directs.

It is evident that a part of what he gives us must be used for our living expenses. Jesus says in Matthew 6: 31-32, that the Lord knows we have need of food, clothing, and other necessities of life. In I Timothy 5:8, the Apostle Paul says, "If any man provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever".

But apart from our necessary living expenses is that portion of God's gifts which should be invested in the advancement of his kingdom. A part of this must support the work and service of each local congregation.

But how much of our time, energies, and possessions should be used for our living expenses and how much should be devoted directly to the Lord's work is left up to our own conscience and our best judgement, but in I Corinthians Chapter 4, verse 2, the Apostle says, "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful". In the end, therefore, God will judge as to how faithfully we have fulfilled our stewardship, and how rightly we have used our abilities and our possessions. I have known those who, like Israel, gave a tenth of their income to the Lord, but I have known others who give the major part, and manage to live on the remainder. The decision is for each one to make, but there are three principles which may aid in the decision.

First, a man should give in proportion to what he has, and also as he plans, or purposes, in his heart. In Chapter 8, verse 12, of his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle says that their giving "is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not", and in Chapter 9, verse 7, that each man should "do according as he hath purposed in his heart". Giving as a man "hath", means in proportion to his income. In the parable of the talents, the two-talent man is not expected to accomplish as much as the five-talent. It is perfectly acceptable also to give in unexpected emergencies or on sudden impulse, as the Samaritan helped the man by the wayside, but the Lord also wants us to plan, or purpose in our hearts, our regular giving in proportion to the measure with which we ourselves have been blessed.

In the second place, the Lord, in Romans 12:8, urges us to give "with liberality". Jesus in Luke 6 states a universal truth: "Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again". In Matthew 10:8, he says to his disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give". God is, after all, the giver of all that we are and have, and it is impossible to give to him more than we receive. Nor is it apparently possible to give too much, for the more we give, the more we receive. When Peter said the disciples had given all to follow him, what then would they receive, Jesus said, "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel's sake, but he shall receive a hundred fold now in this time . . . with persecutions: and in the world to come eternal life", Luke 10:29-30.

In all his encouragement to giving, Jesus is speaking not merely of money, which, though important, is probably the least fruitful gift we can make. When we visit the fatherless and widows, as James urges, or minister to the strangers, the sick, and to those in prison, as Jesus urges, time, sympathy, understanding, and love may be even more helpful than money, and when we take time to share with others the truths we have learned, such giving is far more important than money.

Finally, or giving to be acceptable, it should be done with gladness. In II Corinthians 9:5-7, the Apostle says their gifts should be "a matter of bounty (or generosity) and not of extortion", as if he were twisting it out of them. They should not give "grudgingly or of necessity (that is, because they have to give); for God loveth a cheerful giver". God would not want a gift which is forced from anyone. Evidently he would be far more pleased with a small gift made with joy, than a larger one given grudgingly.

But to give of ourselves or of our means cheerfully always requires growth. Paul, in Chapter 9:8, of II Corinthians, speaks of giving as a grace. A grace is a virtue which has become so natural and easy as to be beautiful. He mentions the generosity of the Macedonians, where "the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their generosity", for they besought us "with much entreaty in regard of this grace, and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints". When people joyously press their gifts on others, as if others were doing them a favor by accepting them, they are giving with grace indeed. And Paul sends Titus to the Corinthians to "complete in you this grace also".

So we may conclude that in proportion to all that we have received, the fullest portion of our time, attention, love and possessions which we can purpose in our hearts to give with cheerfulness is acceptable giving. If that portion at first is small, with practice it can become a grace in every life.

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