Giving is a most wonderful part of the Christian life. It's not meant to be a "teeth pulling" experience, but rather something that is done joyfully and with grace. As the Apostle Paul said, "let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Cor 9:7-9). A person who gives cheerfully from their heart doesn't give so they will get something in return, nor does that person give because some law or some church rule tells them they have to give. Giving should never be done according to a rigidly set method or principle. Giving cheerfully as we decide in our hearts to give - what a freeing way to give!
The church of today seems to put a heavy emphasis on two things in particular: financial giving and giving to a church. And you know what? Giving to a church is fine, as long as all the people who give "to" that church have decided in their hearts that that's what they want to do. However, when the church leaders teach giving as a "must," or worse yet, when they teach "tithing" ten percent of their income to the church, then they've moved completely out of Christ-land and into a doctrine that is not of the New Covenant. (I hope this series has done a sufficient job of establishing that fact!).
Everybody's financial circumstances are different! Some people have careers that provide a 'healthy' living for them and it may be quite easy for them to give liberally and freely. Other people work two or three jobs and barely scrape by, even in the necessities of life. For them, giving even a small amount may mean missing their next meal. Some people have small families with only a few mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, and other people have huge families that cost a lot more money to provide for. The circumstances are wide and varied. There simply can't be a "set amount" that should be expected of anyone. In many cases, instead of a church asking all the people to give money to them, shouldn't the more prosperous people of the church instead be reaching out and giving to those who are in greater need? Again, we're a body, and all the members minister to one another, each according to how God has fitted them within the body.
Often the very best things that we can do in our lives in Christ is to give of ourselves to other people in all kinds of ways that aren't financial. This can be in the context of "a church" or in can be in the context of any of our relationships with other people! The church of today has unfortunately seemingly become a financial institution (!) with everything revolving around how much money people give. That said, I do want to also highlight that there truly are legitimate ministries, church programs, etc, that are dependent upon the generous financial giving of others, and if our hearts lead us to give financially, then let's give as generously as we can!
But the point here is that we can all give of ourselves according to what God has given us individually, whether it be finances, talents, time, service, friendship, food, hugs, mercy, love, or in a million other ways. Think about the ways in which you are able to give to others that have nothing (or little) to do with money and nothing (or little) to do with "a church." ALL of it is legitimate Christian giving! God said that His grace would abound toward us so that we would always have an abundance for every good work. Why do we always interpret that as referring to finances and churches?
One more post to go! I realize this has been a long series, but I sort of wanted to do a "once for all" series on the tithe. While I think I've covered a lot of bases in this series, it's never really complete, but I think for the most part I've touched on some of the more common issues involving tithing and giving.
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