For most of us, the concept of "financial generosity" conjures mathematical images - percentages, dollar amounts, budget balancing. Yet Scripture calls the people of God to a grander view of giving that embodies all the Gospel represents - staggering grace, overwhelming blessing, undeserved abundance. 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us that although he was rich, Jesus became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich ourselves. Images of riches and poverty challenge our checkbook-size concept of financial generosity. They lead us to ask, Is our giving merely generous? Or is it Gospel-shaped?
At Irving Bible Church, we believe that the giving of God’s people must be Gospel-shaped.
From the time he called Abram back in Genesis 12, God’s dream has been to bless a group of people and that they in turn would take that blessing to bless others so that people would see Him for who He is – loving and generous.“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor 8:1-7, NIV).
Generous, sacrificial giving comes from a heart that understands the gospel. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9, NIV). That’s the gospel. It is the purist expression of God’s grace.
At Irving Bible Church, we believe that the giving of God’s people must be Gospel-shaped. The good news teaches that Christians have been exceedingly blessed. Gospel-shaped giving demonstrates that Christians know they have been exceedingly blessed to be a blessing! At IBC, we believe that Gospel-shaped giving is:
The starting place for our giving should always be the local church.
We should be strategic and intentional with our giving. “Generous people plan to do what is generous and they stand firm in their generosity” (Isaiah 32:8,The Message). The starting place for our giving should always be the local church. The church is Christ’s passion. It is his body (Eph 1). He loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph 5), and the church is the bride of Christ (Rev 19). We honor the groom when we support His bride.
The local church is the hope of the world. It is God’s Plan A to redeem and restore the world. “My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels. All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:9-11,The Message).
In the New Testament, giving is to the local Christian assembly. Even gifts that went other places were given through the church. As the Old Testament temple was a storehouse, the New Testament church is a clearing house, or rather, a conduit or means of channeling gifts to care for the needy and reach the lost. The church thrives when everyone is doing their part according to their means. If we all participate and join the mission here at IBC with our finances, talents and time, our church will have all the resources necessary to fulfill every kingdom purpose to which God has called us.
God’s main concern in our giving is not what He gets from us, but what He wants for us. . . and that’s a heart devoted to Him and a life blessed by Him.
Giving is a spiritual aspect of God’s discipleship plan to build faithful hearts and great treasures into the lives of His people! God doesn’t NEED our money to do His work. God’s main concern in our giving is not what He gets from us, but what He wants for us. . . and that’s a heart devoted to Him and a life blessed by Him.
Scripture makes clear a fundamental connection between people's spiritual life and their money. In Matthew Jesus says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22, NIV). The word translated “good” has the connotation "generous". Have a generous heart and your soul will be blessed. Generously give to what God says is important and spiritual growth is inevitable.
Jesus also says, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24, NIV). The word “money” is the Greek 'μαμμων?ς', 'mammon', which means wealth or the personification of wealth in which one trusts. Richard J. Foster writes: “When Jesus uses the Aramaic term mammon to refer to wealth, he is giving it a personal and spiritual character. When he declares, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24), he is personifying mammon as a rival god. . . . Mammon is a power that seeks to dominate us” (Money, Sex & Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life, 25–26).
So get this: Jesus is warning His followers that they will be faced with the age-old temptation to dishonor God by replacing Him with the idol of wealth and the security and significance and satisfaction that it brings. And lest they. . .we. . .protest that Mammon could never lure us away from the Lordship of Christ He essentially says, “And don’t get so big for your britches that you think you can love God and money at the same time where millions before you couldn’t. Take it from me. . .you CANNOT serve both! No, not even YOU!”
Generous giving is God’s antidote to Mammon in our lives. It is the key to our fulfilling His dream for us, a dream of growing in the ways of Jesus, serving others, dependence on Him and considering others more important than ourselves. This is why Jesus talked more about money than anything else in the Bible. How we handle it is a spiritual issue.
Tithing was a God-given way for people to put God first.
So we have to choose, serve God, or serve money and all that it buys. But how do we make that choice? In the same way God has asked His people all along to choose Him and give Him glory. . . by TITHING! All through the Old Testament, God gave His people the “principle of the first”: whatever they received, they would honor Him as Lord and reject the God of Mammon by giving him back the first tenth. "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30, NIV).
Tithe means tenth, 10%. For God’s people, 10% has always been God’s portion of their income. Not theirs, His: “It belongs to the Lord.” God knew His people’s hearts were leaving him when they stopped tithing: "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it" (Malachi 3:8-10, NIV).
Some today believe that the church should not teach the tithe on the basis of “Law versus grace.” Randy Alcorn answers this objection: “Does being under grace mean that we stop doing all that was done under the Law? Many people associate the command to tithe with the command to keep the sabbath. To be sure, New Testament Christians are not obligated to keep the sabbath with all its legislated rules under the Mosaic Covenant (Colossians 2:16). However, a weekly day of rest based on God’s pattern of creation was instituted before the Law (Genesis 2:2-3), and it’s a principle never revoked in the New Testament. The special day of observance changed to Sunday, “the Lord’s day,” but the principle of one special day for worship remained intact and observed.
Christ fulfilled the entire Old Testament, but he didn’t render it irrelevant. Old Testament legislation demonstrated how to love my neighbor, and while the specific regulations don’t all apply, the principle certainly does, and many of the guidelines are still as helpful as ever. When it comes to the Old Testament we must be careful not to throw out the baby (ongoing principle) with the bathwater (detailed regulations). . . Being under grace does not mean living by lower standards than the law. On the contrary, Christ systematically addressed such issues as murder, adultery, and the taking of oaths and made it clear that his standards were much higher than those of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-48).” (Randy Alcorn, “Financial Giving: What Does the Bible Say?”).
So tithing was a God-given way for people to put God first. Another term for the tithe in Scripture is "firstfruits:" Proverbs says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops" (3:9, NIV). The tithe honors the Lord because it is a powerful, tangible, authentic way that God’s people confirm their choice to serve Him and not money every time they receive money. It’s a constant reminder to them that God is the source of all their blessings and the Lord of all their lives. . . including the 90% that is not tithed! The spiritual community's giving back to the Lord what was rightfully his was a consistent thermometer of their faith and trust in him. When they slid spiritually, they ceased to give as they should. And when they ceased to give as they should, they slid spiritually.
The real issue with tithing is not money, but control. Who or what controls your life? Who or what dictates your values? Who or what determines your priorities? It can be the pursuit of stuff, or it can be God, but it can't be both. Tithing is a disciplined way of choosing God on a consistent basis in our lives.
Christians today want to know how much the Bible says they should give. But perhaps the more spiritual question they should seek an answer to is, “How much should I keep?”
The tithe or firstfruits was recognized as belonging to God in the first place. Hence, one was not “giving” a tithe but simply “repaying” it to the one to whom it belonged all along. . . However, the Old Testament also speaks of voluntary or “free will offerings” (Leviticus 22:18- 23; Numbers 15:3; Deuteronomy 12:6, 17). These were contributions beyond the tithe or firstfruits. In some ways they constituted true giving.
In Ezra when the temple needed to be rebuilt, the people were asked to provide “freewill offerings“ (Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28) which meant “give as you wish” or “give as you are led.” As “everyone whose heart God had moved” went to build the temple in Jerusalem, so “their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings” (Ezra 1:5-6, NIV). In other words, voluntary giving started after the tithe, after the firstfruits. The tithe was not a ceiling, it was merely a floor. It was a beginning point, from which the follower of God might give much more as needs and opportunities arose” (Alcorn).
Christians today want to know how much the Bible says they should give. But perhaps the more spiritual question they should seek an answer to is, “How much should I keep?” The tithe was never meant as a legalistic number that would limit our giving to God to a mere 10 percent. The tithe was a test and display of obedience, but the voluntary offerings were a test and display of love, joy and a heart of worship.
David said, “I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided...” (1 Chronicles 29:3, NIV). “Then the family and tribal leaders “gave willingly” and generously” (29:6-8). “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD” (29:9). They gave with the acute awareness that all they had was God’s. “David said to the Lord, But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand...it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you...All these things have been given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O LORD, God of our fathers...keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you” (1 Chronicles 29: 14, 16-18, NIV). Notice that David measured their loyalty to God by their willingness to give. So it is with our giving. We tithe and offer the firstfruits because God tells us to. We give above and beyond in voluntary offerings because, having experienced the joys of giving, we want to give all the more” (Randy Alcorn, “Financial Giving: What Does the Bible Say?”).
1. Gospel Shaped Giving is Strategic
We should be strategic and intentional with our giving.
The starting place for our giving should always be the local church.
2. Gospel Shaped Giving is Spiritual
God’s main concern in our giving is not what He gets from us, but what He wants FOR us. . . and that’s a heart devoted to Him and a life blessed by Him.
Generous giving is God’s antidote to Mammon in our lives.
3. Gospel Shaped Giving is Disciplined
For God’s people, 10% has always been God’s portion of their income.
Tithing is a disciplined way of choosing God on a consistent basis in our lives.
4. Gospel Shaped Giving is Generous
The more spiritual question …is “How much should I keep?” (not “How much should I give?”).
We give above and beyond in voluntary offerings because, having experienced the joys of giving, we want to give all the more.
For further information, listen to messages from the IBC Sunday message series, Gospel-Shaped Giving. Also, We recommend Randy Alcorn’s Money, Possessions, and Eternity and Online Booklet, “FINANCIAL GIVING: What Does the Bible Say? How Much? To Whom? Why?” and Andy Stanley’s Fields of Gold.