Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Gift and the Giver

Without much argument from anyone we can say that love is given first priority in the Bible. It is the first and comprehensive fruit of the Spirit. It is the first commandment. It is the second commandment, and all other teachings fit into those two commandments.

The source of all love is God. God’s expression of love to the world was by giving. This is a fast preamble to get to the subject of giving.

Giving is taught and preached more than it is done. Perhaps this is because the teaching is prompted by the desire to receive rather than the desire to give. Many churches, radio and television programs are teaching giving this way, “You should give to me and my ministry.” The emphasis is, “You are to give so that I can receive.” It is a major cover for covetousness.

Another reason giving is taught more than done is because the giving teaching is not preceded by loving teaching or a loving-giving example. If godliness was taught and practiced, the teaching of giving would be minimal—it would not be necessary. People would give themselves, then their money, rather than giving their money instead of themselves. The money would be given to right places, in right amounts, instead of to people who tell you where to give your money.

There are two examples of giving one’s self first. They are both found in 2 Corinthians 8. The first is where the people were intolerably poor and the second is where the person was wealthy beyond all measure.

We should give ourselves first to the Lord, then to others. If we have done that in love for God and for others, then we no longer belong to ourselves, nor do our possessions.

Giving should not be based on how much we have but on how much we love. With this as a prerequisite, we can now look at the places and the people to whom we should give.

God is our example in giving food and clothing to widows, orphans and aliens. We see this in Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”

We should supply the needs of God’s people (believers) and everyone else. This is seen in Ephesians 4:28: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” 1 Timothy 6:17, 18; the rich are commanded “to be generous and willing to share.”

We should give to those who teach the Word to us. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 9:14: “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” The same principle is taught in Galatians 6:6: “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.”

We should give to those who teach the Gospel to others. The Philippians are a good example, for Paul says they were the only church who supported him when he set out from Macedonia and while he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15, 16).

Giving should not be legalistic (tithing). Nor should it be anti-legalistic (anti-tithing). Jesus spoke to the former and the latter when He said in Luke 11:42, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”

Tithing should not be left “undone.” Tithing, or tenthing, should be done lovingly, ungrudgingly, and not legalistically. The best way is to consider the tenth as a minimum, not even considered as your own, take it off the top of your gross income and give it lovingly to one or more of the places mentioned above.

It may be considered “better stewardship” to give to a corporation which has a non-profit, IRS-approved tax-deductible status. However, if you are giving in order to get, the blessing of the Lord may not be in your giving. There is another difficulty with that means of controlled giving: the widows, orphans and aliens may not be approved by the IRS. The Bible teacher or missionary may not be approved either. You may be able to give to widows an orphans through groups like Compassion or World Vision, but some of this giving spoken of in the Bible is carried out by taking them into your home. To give impersonally might mean giving without love. Western Christians have automated giving to make it efficient, painless and unloving. Sometimes there is a question of whether giving should be anonymous. However, if giving is a source of pride or seeking merit or praise, then Matthew 6:1-4 should be applied: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from you Father in heaven.

“So whey you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Most people give where the needs are expressed and where they are asked to give a certain amount. If you limit your giving to the call for money, then those missions who believe that they have no Biblical basis to raise money for their own ministry would never receive money form you.

There is a lot of teaching in this country that applies the “storehouse” of Malachi 3:10 to the local church that you attend; the “whole tithe” must go to the local church. If this were true, then the other places for the tithe that the Bible teaches would be contradictory.

Give lovingly, give personally, give prayerfully.

1 comment:

soulvitamin said...

James, I thank you for your fresh thoughts on giving-loving. I hope that you will check out my study on Tithing, Prayer and the Melchizedek Priesthood at http://powerthruprayer.blogspot.com. God bless you and continue to return His tithes because He loves you and has blessed you! *-)