There are many discussions and disputes regarding the application of tithing to the New Testament church and the necessity of giving at least 10% of our income to the church. Many churches use this teaching to make sure that they have enough money to run the business of the church and periodically pull out the teaching about financial abundance mostly to boost the current budget. Leaving these disputes and the motivation of church budgets aside, what does the New Testament say about giving and how can I as a believer determine what to give and how to give?
The issue is not between tithing and giving. The issue is that giving is something that God wants us to do. Most people who are arguing against the application of the tithe to our day and time are not giving in any capacity and see this argument as a reason (or can I say excuse?) not to give at all. I believe that of all the passages that speak about giving in the Church epistles particularly, II Corinthians 8 and 9 set the foundation for the practical application of giving to us today. These chapters set forth a cycle of the process of the "grace of giving." In this article we will examine this cycle and see how it answers the questions posed above.
II Corinthians was written to the church in Corinth to reprove situations that had crept into the church in the practical side of their lives. This reproof is directed to the church as a whole and the situation that had happened in Corinth is the same that is in many churches today. The believers had made verbal statements that they wanted to give to help the outreach of the ministry to the saints, especially to Jerusalem, but they had not followed through with the action to do the actual giving. The passage does not deal with the excuses or reasons that certainly were posed regarding why they had not followed through with the giving. It deals with the correct process of giving which needs to be in place and sets this forth so that the believers would understand why they should follow through on their original desire to help with the ministry of the saints.
II Corinthians 8:1-2: (Aramaic translation)
But we make known to you, my brothers, the grace of God that was given in the churches of the Macedonians, that in the great trial of their pressure, [there] was an abundance to their joy, and the depth of their poverty was surpassed by the wealth of their open-handed giving.
The Macedonians are used as an example of the process of the grace of giving. The grace of God was poured out in the midst of great pressure and tribulation. They had been in the middle of despair caused by deep poverty. But this poverty was banished by the "wealth of their open-handed giving." The word for liberality in KJV and "open-handed giving" in this translation is often translated simplicity. The Aramaic root verb for simplicity means to "stretch out the hand with openness." In our culture we would say that a person was very generous. This generosity had banished the depth of their poverty and brought an abundance to their lives. The passage then goes on to explain 5 main steps of a cycle that happened in their lives so that this abundance of joy was realized. These are the 5 steps:
1. First gave themselves to the Lord
2. Willingness to give
3. Performed the giving for the ministering of the saints
4. Grace of God poured out
5. Resulted in thanksgiving to God
This process then started over again as a cycle to cause them to give their hearts to the Lord even more and to be more willing to give and to give more. More grace is poured out and more thanksgiving is the result. Let us look at the key verses in these chapters that explain these steps.
II Corinthians 8:3-5:
For to their power, I bear record, year, and beyond their power, they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.
First they "gave their own selves" to the Lord. This is the primary step. Without beginning with worship and praise to God and the Lord Jesus Christ, any kind of giving is empty and unprofitable. I have heard people say that they tithed, but never got any results. The reason that they tithed was not out of love for the Lord, but of necessity or some other motivation. When your heart is full of praise for all God has done for you, you want to give your whole life to Him.
This kind of giving to the Lord of our lives issues in a willingness to give financially. Paul say of the Achaians (from the area of Corinth) that they had a "readiness to will" (verse 11) a year before. That is what it is also talking about in II Corinthians 9:1,2. The Achaians had been willing to give financially to the ministering of the saints for over a year. This second step is summarized in II Corinthians 8:12: "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." It does not matter how much the amount of the giving is, in that someone who is wealthy can give much more than someone else who does not have a great income. What does matter is the willingness.
The third step is to actually perform the giving. All the statements about wanting to give are meaningless without following through with the performance.
II Corinthians 8:11:
Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
This giving does not yield an inequality, where one person is eased and another burdened. But there is a supply for the service of the saints, so that everyone’s needs are met and there is no one who lacks. In chapter 9, the key verse for this step is verse 6: "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."
This bountiful giving yields an increase. Because of the cheerful giving, God is able to pour out His grace so that there is sufficiency for every good work.
II Corinthians 9:8:
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,
That is why this process is called "grace". Grace is given back to the giver all out of proportion to the amount given. The emphasis in verse 8 on all grace, abounds, always having sufficiency in all things, unto every good work shows how God is abundant in His blessings being poured back to the one who gives. In fact, He is the one who not only gives the "seed" to the one giving initially, but provides his daily bread, multiplies the amount given and increase the fruit of his righteousness! How great and loving our God is to provide in such an abundant fashion!
When this abundance has been realized, it causes great thanksgiving back to God.
II Corinthians 9:11-12:
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
One cannot help but pour out his heart with rejoicing for the sufficiency abounding in his life. This issues then in a continuation of the cycle. Because of seeing all that God had done for us, we want to give ourselves more to Him. We become more willing to give and next time, to sow more bountifully because we understand the process.
To summarize, let’s review the first questions we posed. It is clear that there is a process to giving which is a cycle. If someone is not getting results from their giving, examine the process to see if they have stopped at any of the steps. The whole cycle is a flow and can be started or continued at anytime. What do we give and how? We first need to give of ourselves to the Lord in praise and honor to Him for all He has done for us. Then we give of our financial resources (out of what we have). We sow as bountifully as possible so the increase will be bountiful also and do the giving with a cheerful heart. We should follow up on our promises and spoken pledges to give for specific needs of the service of the saints, and perform "the doing of it." Then God is ABLE to make all grace abound and results in great thanksgiving to God!! This grace of giving is available to anyone who applies these principles and it is my prayer that this grace will abound in your life unto every good work.