Thanks to televangelists and other false teachers, the church has a bad reputation when it comes to money. You will hear people lament “the church only cares about money”. These people have experienced high-pressure offerings. They have been mailed tithing envelopes from churches they had not attended for years. They have witnessed preaching that attempted to guilt them into giving. They have heard absurd promises of financial breakthrough if they gave a certain amount to a certain preacher.
Worse yet, many people have seen nationally known preachers with private jets, million dollar homes, obscene jewelry and luxury cars. It is no wonder that the church has been given a bad rap when it comes to money.
Believers and unbelievers alike are right to criticize the things mentioned above. We reject high pressure offerings, mismanagement of funds and the hoarding of money – by any church or preacher. More importantly, God rejects is as well.
1 Timothy 3:1-3 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not teach that money is evil. What it does teach however is that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. According to the passage above, there is no room in the character of a Pastor, evangelist, missionary, elder or deacon for a love of money.
1 Timothy 6:6-11 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Man’s sin-driven lust for money is so intense that it actually has the potential to lead him away from the faith. In the case of a rich ruler in Luke 18, the love for money kept him from giving his life to Christ. Greed, covetousness and lust for material things are sinister components of man’s sinful nature. For this reason, we are not surprised to find these qualities among the unsaved. What is shocking and intolerable is witnessing greed, covetousness and a lust for money among those who call themselves believers.
There is no question that man’s lust for money rears itself in many churches and even in the hearts of those who call themselves Pastors. This is deplorable from a human perspective and downright sinful from God’s perspective. But are we to believe that man’s lust for money only affects those who are soliciting funds and not those who refuse to give? Of course not. Just as the Pastor should examine his heart and determine whether or not he has a proper view of money, so too should the church attender. The lust for money cuts both ways. It tempts churches to use unbiblical means to solicit funds and it tempts believers to use unbiblical excuses to justify their lack of giving.
The fact that some churches and preachers have failed to teach on financial giving from a Biblical perspective, puts other churches at a great disadvantage. As much as we would like to avoid asking for money or encouraging people to give, the fact remains that the church operates entirely on the offerings taken in its weekly meetings. For this reason, it is necessary from time to time to educate the church about giving from a Biblical perspective. With this purpose in mind, let’s look at the Purpose of Giving.
The Purpose of Giving
1. To Support Leadership
1 Corinthians 9:6-14 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
In this passage the Apostle Paul is addressing allegations that he was in the ministry “just for the money”. In defense of himself and his fellow servants he shows that it is perfectly legitimate and should be expected that those who minister the gospel should be supported by the church to do so. In verse 12, he refers to it has a “rightful claim” and in verse 14 says “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” This of course is not the motivation for ministry but, according to Paul, it is certainly a legitimate product of it. (see also 1 Tim 5:17-18)
2. To Supply Needs
Acts 2:44-45 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Acts 4:32-37 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
One of the purposes of giving is to relieve the needs of the poor. When a brother or sister find themselves in a tough financial situation, fellow believers should have a willingness to come alongside and meet their needs. The includes, but is not limited to, the sacrifice of money and material things.
3. To Sustain Worship
At Calvary Baptist Church our only source of income is the weekly offerings collected in our Sunday morning services. As a simple matter of practicality, giving is done so that worship can be sustained. These contributions are, in part, used for practical things like utility bills, mortgage payments and building upkeep. Without the contribution of church members, the practical necessities of maintaining a church would not be met.
4. To Spread the Gospel
Before Jesus Christ ascended to the Father he gave the church a mandate. He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).
The church is to spread the gospel far and wide (Acts 1:8). This happens in the worship service but it also happens through supporting missionaries, distributing gospel literature, hosting community events and much more. Each of these require funding. So, giving to the church helps us to fulfil Christ’s command in the great commission to spread the gospel and make disciples.
The Principles of Giving
Having looked at some of the purposes of giving, let’s now consider some Biblical principles of giving. As you consider the following principles, try to look past other unbiblical or man-centered teachings that you may have been subjected to and allow the word of God to reshape your understanding money.
1. The Principle of Sovereignty
1 Chronicles 29:11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.
Psalms 50:12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.
1 Corinthians 10:26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.
God’s sovereignty means that he not only rules as King over all, but he also owns everything. He is the creator and the owner of the entire universe. What does this mean for us? For the answer 1 Corinthians 4:7.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
God’s sovereignty is his exclusive right to exercise supreme authority over everything. All that we have and all that we are His. With this in mind, giving to God is not a matter of us begrudgingly giving what is ours to Him. It is rather us graciously thanking God for providing it all to start with. Some would argue “but I’ve earned it with the sweat of my brow!”. To these we answer, God’s sovereignty extends even further than simply providing material things, He also provides us with life, health and the ability to work. This is the same answer that God had for Israel in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
So, the first principle we must consider when it comes to giving is that of God’s Sovereignty. The fact is, He owns everything and giving to the church is simply our way of thanking him for providing everything that we have. It is also a humble recognition that he is the source of all of our wealth.
2. The Principle of Stewardship
Closely connected to the principle of sovereignty is the principle of stewardship. We can define a steward this way:
Steward: a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property, financial affairs, an estate, etc.
A steward is a person who manages the affairs of another. If God owns everything (as we learned above) including everything that we have, then that makes us His stewards. As stewards, we are not spending our own money but managing his. This principle should have a tremendous impact on the way that we conduct our finances. Consider the character of a good steward.
A Good Steward is Faithful
1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.
A good steward does not look out for his own interests and spend his money on his own whims but always has an eye on the best interest of his master. With this perspective he wisely and cautiously spends, invests and saves his money. Naturally then, if a man wanted to choose a steward to whom he could entrust his money, he would look for a man with a track record of faithfulness.
A Good Steward is Wise
Not only is a good steward faithful but he is also wise. He exercises wisdom in what he spends, what he gives and how he invests. He behaves wisely so that his master will receive the greatest return on his investment.
Read Matt 25:14-30 where Christ tells a parable about a master and his stewards.
Matthew 25:14-30 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The context in this passage is that of the coming judgment when all men will give an account to God. Jesus chose to couch this lesson in the context of a master/steward relationship. As Christians we are stewards of God and are expected to wisely invest our time, abilities and finances to bring Him the greatest glory. The men with five and two talents used wisdom in deciding how to invest their master’s money. As a result, they were commended. The man who foolishly buried this money and produced nothing for his master was condemned.
The Bible teaches that God not only owns all of our material things but that he also owns us. 1 Corinthians 6:20 tells “…ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. Any way you look at it, He is our Master and we are his stewards. This should have a tremendous impact upon how we handle our money. Giving to the church is one important aspect of this, but it also includes how we spend, save and otherwise use everything he has entrusted to us.
Giving to the church is done in recognition that all that we have is actually his. It is our way of ensuring that we have the greatest return of His investment. Supporting the church financially helps to further the kingdom of God and if done with a right spirit will invite God’s glowing commendation – “Well done thou good and faithful servant”.
A Good Steward is Accountable
Just like the master who returned in Matthew 25 to see how his stewards had invested his money, God will also require that we give an account of how we have used all that he has entrusted to us. Therefore, whenever we spend, give or invest we should be conscious of God’s priorities.
So far we have learned that our giving should be guided by the principles of God’s sovereignty and the principle of stewardship. Next, consider the principle of sowing.
3. The Principle of Sowing
In the ninth chapter of Second Corinthians, Paul addressed the Corinthian church in regard to their giving to other churches. In doing so, he taught them the principle of sowing.
2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
The comparison that Paul is making is between that of a farmer planting seeds and a Christian giving money. If a farmer would like a bountiful harvest he will have to plant many seeds. If he is sparing in his planting, he will be disappointed with his harvest. Likewise, the Christian who gives liberally will benefit from many spiritual rewards.
God taught the Jews in the Old Testament this same principle.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Although the mandatory, legal aspect of the tithe never applies to believers in the New Testament, the principle still remains. Just like Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:6, God blesses those who honour him with their lives – this includes finances.
Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
You could also word the above verse this way “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Both of these statements seem counterintuitive don’t they? The idea is that a hoarder cannot experience gain because he is not investing his money. In contrast, one who is willing to spread his money around is likely to see a return on his investment. The same is true on a spiritual level. When we use our money freely to advance the kingdom of God we are more likely to reap spiritual rewards. This of course assumes that all of our giving is done out of a willing and sincere heart.
We do not believe that the legalistic tithe of the Old Testament is for the church today. Nor do we believe that anyone should ever feel pressured or obligated to give to the church. So, throughout this study we have attempted to look through the lens of scripture, applying Biblical principles (and not rules) to this matter of giving.
We have considered the principles of God’s Sovereignty; Stewardship; and Sowing. Next time we will look at the principles of Supply; Sincerity and Sacrifice followed by a word about tithing.