This is part 8 of 10 in the Basic Practices for Growing Christians series.
Financial giving is an important part of the Christian life, but there is a lot of resistance to the practice, and many misconceptions about what it is and what it means. Ultimately giving is not just a financial act, but a reflection of the relationship between a believer and God.
Giving Is a Spiritual, Not Just an Economic, Act
People think of giving as an economic exercise, but it is much more. If we seek to honor God with our entire lives, that attitude must encompass our finances as well as every other aspect of life. Because money has such a large pull on our hearts, what we do with our money reflects whom or what we love. So giving is about a relationship – with either God or money.
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
We are tempted to find fulfillment and happiness in money. When we give to God, it reminds us of his rightful place in our affections and priorities.
Giving Is Sacrificial
In human relationships, we’re willing to sacrifice to show others how much they mean to us. The same is true of giving to God. If it hurts a bit to give financially, that causes us to evaluate our priorities. If we never sacrifice anything in the important area of our finances, we have to ask whether we love God or money more.
Giving Is an Act of Trusting God
When we give away money to God, it requires us to trust him – and shows that we do.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Right after encouraging us to trust God, this chapter brings up the issue of finances. There is a link between the two.
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.
The phrase “the best part of what you produce” is literally “the firstfruits of all your crops.” Since we don’t live in an agricultural society anymore, we understand this to mean giving to God right off the top. We don’t give God our leftovers. When we give to God first, before taking care of ourselves, we are trusting in him to fulfill the promise that he will give us plenty to meet our needs.
It’s important to give to the church you attend. The church is God’s instrument to change the world, and your church family is the place to begin. But giving is not primarily a relationship between a person and a church. Giving is first and foremost between you and God. You might give through a church, but the gift is always given to God.
The word “tithe” means “one-tenth”. There is debate about whether the tithe is just for the Old Testament, or whether it applies to Christians today. Regardless of your position, it makes sense that 10% is a good starting point. After all, as we now live under the covenant of grace, we should be motivated to give more than those who lived under the Old Testament law.
In the New Testament, we are taught to give regularly and proportionately.
1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income….
For many people, to give “in keeping with your income” would entail giving more than 10%. As God prospers you, to give just 10% may not be an expression of sacrifice or trust at all.
The tithe is a basic commitment to give proportionally as God as given to you. It is the starting point, and we believe it should go to the local church. By contrast, offerings are financial gifts that go above and beyond that basic commitment. Offerings are given to any other need or opportunity that God puts on your heart. This may include missionaries (Philippians 4:18). There may be a widow in your family you want to help support (1 Timothy 5:8). The Bible encourages us to give to the poor (Proverbs 28:27). These are important. As God blesses you, you may have resources to bless others beyond your local church.
The Right Attitude
God owns everything. He doesn’t need our giving. It’s all about our relationship with him. That’s why attitude is important.
2 Corinthians 9:7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Each of us has the privilege of deciding for ourselves how much to give. God doesn’t want us to give begrudgingly or under pressure. But a bad attitude is not a reason to stop giving. God can change your attitude if you are willing. So do what you know is right – what God deserves – and ask him to change your heart about it. It helps to remember how joyfully and generously God has given to us (Hebrews 12:2).
God Is Faithful
God honors our giving. When we make him a priority – as reflected in our finances – God gives us what we need both to live and to give.
2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
This reflects the principle of reaping and sowing in the Bible (Galatians 6:7-10). If you give generously, it will come back to you. We don’t give to get. Giving doesn’t obligate God or force his hand. But giving is an act of trusting God, and God proves himself to be faithful.
The fact that so many people are reluctant to give generously shows what a deeply rooted issue this is in the human hearts. So consider where you stand with giving. Take steps to start giving. This can become an important part of your growth as a follower of Christ.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Describe some ways God has provided for you materially.
- Why is giving financially to God so difficult for many Christians to embrace?
- Read Matthew 6:24. What do our financial choices say about our relationship with God?
- Read Philippians 4:14-19. What was Paul’s attitude toward the gift this church send to support him?
- What evidence do you see in this passage that giving is more than just an economic transaction?
- Read 1 Corinthians 16:2. How does this help us decide how to give?
- What other factors should shape your decision about how much to give and where to give it?
- If giving is an act of trusting God, should a person give to God first before paying for essentials like food or utilities? Explain.
- Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. What factors make you cheerful about giving? What do advise a person to do if they aren’t cheerful about giving?
- Do you agree or disagree that the local church should come first in your basic giving commitment? Explain.
- What is the difference between giving to a church versus giving to God through a church?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.