From the title on the top of this page, it should be apparent to the believer that the topic of this article is “Christian Giving.” Giving is a necessary part of the Christian life. It proceeds from a heart thankful to God who is rich in mercy towards His people. Giving characterizes the life of those who are saved by the blood of Jesus.
In the third part of the Catechism, we read in Question and Answer 111: “But what doth God require in this commandment?” (the eighth commandment). “That I promote the advantage of my neighbor in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.”
It is apparent that if the fear of God rules in our hearts, it will manifest itself in thankful acts. One of these acts of thankfulness is giving to relieve those in need. Like all good works that we perform, by the grace of God, they must be performed as God has commanded. On the work of giving, the Bible is very clear on how we ought to give.
II Corinthians 9 gives us very thorough instruction on how we ought to give, especially verses 5-7. After reading through these verses several times, three different aspects of giving become apparent. First of all, our giving must be bountiful (vs. 5,6). The opposite of this is sparing (vs. 6). Secondly, our giving must be done purposefully (7). In other words, it must be done deliberately and thoughtfully. Finally, our giving must be done cheerfully (vs. 7). The opposite of cheerfully is grudgingly.
First of all, our giving must be bountiful and “not as of covetousness.” This is very difficult to do. It is so very easy to put our “church money” on the bottom of the budget and give only our leftover dimes and quarters. It seems that the gas tank always runs dry on the weekend and by the time Sunday morning rolls around, we are left with a dollar or two we would rather not part with. We are quick to come up with excuse after excuse why we should keep the money and let someone else do the giving. After all, we say, “He has a better job than I do, and can afford to give. I’m in college. Let him give. I’ll give later.” We can be very sparing. In Proverbs 21:26 we read that the “righteous giveth and spareth not.”
Giving can only be bountiful if it is done purposefully, from the heart. Giving must be a thoughtfully planned action and not a last minute, impulse decision. Money for church collections, Christian school tuition and drives must be at the top of the budget. It must be the highest priority. Our giving must be characterized by thoughtfulness. It must not be careless or haphazard, but done regularly and deliberately as God has blessed us.
The third component of giving is cheerfulness. One who gives cheerfully, is one who gives gladly of what God has given him. Giving is cheerful, only if it is done bountifully and purposefully. The opposite of a cheerful giver is one who gives “grudgingly, or of necessity.” Cheerful giving arises from a thankful heart, whereas giving done grudgingly or out of necessity comes from an unthankful heart.
All our giving must be characterized by these three commands found in Scripture. Giving performed in any other way, is not pleasing in the eyes of God. Bountiful giving is dependent upon thoughtfulness and cheerfulness. Thoughtfulness is only possible when bountifulness and cheerfulness are present.
God’s people are repeatedly instructed in the Bible to be givers. In Psalm 112, we read that the man who fears the Lord is blessed. In verse 9 of that Psalm we read, “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor.” The man who fears God, gives as God has blessed him. Not just to one cause or object of need, but his giving is dispersed. He gives to every need that he sees, always as God as blessed him. Likewise, our giving must be dispersed. There are many worthy needs to which we must give. There are the poor. There is the cause of Christian education. There are several funds which each church maintains to support the minister, maintain the church property, and contribute to the endeavors of the denomination. There is the cause of mission work. The list goes on.
In Acts 10:2 we read of Cornelius, “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” It is remarkable that the phrase “gave much alms to the people” is used to describe Cornelius. Obviously, giving is an important part of the Christian’s duty of thankfulness.
In Acts 20:35, Paul reminds us of our responsibility to work, so that we are able to “support the weak.” Then he goes on to remind us of the words of Jesus when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” These are just three of many passages which set forth our responsibility to give.
The Bible is also very clear when it comes to the sin of greediness and giving sparingly. Proverbs 28:27 is crystal clear regarding the consequences of those who hide their eyes. “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.” There is no clearer language than that. In Acts chapter 5 we read of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about the price of a possession which they had sold. When they brought the money from the sale of the possession, they told the apostles that they were giving all of the proceeds from the sale. In reality, they had conspired to withhold some of the money. God’s judgment upon them for this sin was instant death. After reading this passage, it is impossible not to be pricked in the heart. How easily we can be found committing similar sins.
But rather, we must be cheerful givers. In order to give, it is necessary that we work. Ephesians 4:28 is one of many passages which instructs us to work. And our labors must always be with an eye to giving. We must not labor to fill our own pockets or to heap to ourselves as many possessions as possible. Rather, as Ephesians 4:28 states, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
Verses 8 and 9 of I Peter 4 also remind us of our duty of thankfulness to give. In these verses we read, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
In giving, there is blessing from God. We have only to look at II Corinthians 9 again. God sees to it that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully. Proverbs 22:9 also speaks of this blessing. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed.” However, before pride grabs hold of us, we must remember, it is only by God’s grace that we can give. There is no good work performed apart from the work of God in our hearts. Thanks be to God. ❖