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Posts from the ‘Giving’ Category

What To Do When Money Is Laid At Your Feet

One of the many tests that the Lord allows leaders in His church to experience is the test of finances. As leaders, we pray and ask the Lord for provision to carry out the work of the ministry.  When the answer comes, it is both a blessing and a test. It is a blessing when the Lord, out of his benevolence, entrusts material riches to accomplish His purposes on the earth. Similarly, it is a test to the leader who might be familiar with the small gifts, but unskilled with the large contributions which fall into their lap as they are taking steps to achieve the great things that God has put into their heart.

On such occasions, we, as ministry leaders, are confronted with the question of what to do when money is laid at our feet.  Thankfully, we find the Apostles considering this same question in the book of Acts at the formation of the early church. From Acts chapter 4:32-4:37 we can note how these godly leaders handled finances and determined what to do with other Christians freely given resources.

  • Trickle-Down Giving Grows the Church (Acts 4:32-34). The definition of trickle-down economic theory states that benefits for the wealthy pass down to the poor therefore improving society as a whole. In the New Testament church, they practiced ‘Trickle-Down Giving’. Those who had more strategically liquidated assets in order to help the least. Therefore, the ‘big gift’ was common in the NT church. Nowadays, many churches claim they want to be like the NT church in all matters; all matters that is unless it relates to managing generous giving. In Acts chapter 4:34 we see that trickle-down giving grows the church because the gifts went to those in need within the body of Christ. (It did not go to buildings, projects, etc. but that is another blog for another day.) 
  • Steward Resources to People First and Projects Second (Acts 4:34-35). Why did the New Testament church community experience rapid growth? There are many factors that play into the answer to that question – such as God’s grace, persecution, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But, I tend to think a main contributing factor to the growth of the early church as unconditional love expressed in uncontainable generosity. The needs of the early church came before missions, building projects, and anything else. People are more important than projects. Surely, those outside the community of faith must have noticed the generosity of the NT church and its commitment to share, give, and provide for those who could not do so for themselves. Yes, projects are important, but ministry resources should be stewarded to people first.
  • Steward Resources to People According to Need (Acts 4:35). A very difficult thing in life is trying to accurately assess and gauge someone’s need against someone else’s need. In situations like this, God gives the Christian leader wisdom. As much as we want to provide everything to all who have need, we simply can’t.  This is because God is limitless but his provision is limited. Why is it limited? So we can learn to trust Him and walk by faith knowing that he will provide for our needs to do what he has called us to do. As leaders we learn to disburse God’s provision to other Christians until it is gone. Then God, out of his limitless nature, supplies more.
  • Generous Giving is Remembered by God (Acts 4:36-37). Great givers are remembered. They are remembered by unsaved people, the community of faith, and God. The end of chapter 4 shows a beautiful example of a giver. Here, the writer of introduces us to Joseph of Cyprus. The apostles gave the name ‘son of encouragement’ or ‘Barnabus’, to this man who sold a field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet. To all the ones who exhibit such uncontainable generosity, know that you are remembered. Your gift, just like Barnabus’s gift, is remembered by others on the earth and by God in heaven. As a leader, when money is laid at your feet by a ‘Barnabus’, you remember that person before God and thank them with sincerity for their heart, their generosity, and their timely encouragement to the body of Christ.

Are Believers Cursed If They Do Not Tithe?

As I work with a lot of different churches and ministries, I have had to sit through (or endure…) many different messages on giving. Now before you get the wrong idea, I want to say first and foremost that I am a giver and do my grace-enabled best demonstrate the discipline of giving in my own life. Having said that, my frustration with the messages I hear many pastors preach deals with where they go in scripture to support our Biblical command to give. Many times, a pastor’s primary supporting text is Malachi chapter 3.  The passage, especially verses 8-12, says that the nation of Israel is robbing God and under a curse.

Can a person rob God? You indeed are robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions! You are bound for judgment because you are robbing me–this whole nation is guilty. “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the LORD who rules over all, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all. Then I will stop the plague from ruining your crops, and the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest,” says the LORD who rules over all.  “All nations will call you happy, for you indeed will live in a delightful land,” says the LORD who rules over all.  Mal. 3:8-12

The conclusion that most pastors draw from this is that present day believers are robbing God and under a curse if they do not give.  Let me show you my deep angst at this faulty theology which prompts people to, “give to get out from under a curse.”

Jesus became a curse for us so that we would not be cursed (Gal 3:13). If you apply this verse in Galatians to the present day experience of the believer and preach that Christians are under a curse if they do not tithe, you are faced with an imposing choice.  Essentially, you are saying that the death of Christ did not completely remove the curse of the law.  Think of it this way: Why would Christ rescue us from the curse only to place us back under a curse if we don’t tithe? Why would he set us free from the law only to enslave us to it again? Or, even further, if tithing causes us to be ‘blessed’ then why do we need Christ? The Bible points to Christ as the supreme, all-surpassing blessing and the curse breaker. Therefore, all curses were broken at the cross and giving is not required to keep us in God’s grace. 

Why didn’t Paul or any of the Apostles bring up this verse in the New Testament?  We know that the Apostles quoted scripture and knew the commands of God, so why did they not highlight this text to take care of their own needs among the churches in their day? I believe that it is because they knew that this verse applied to Israel under the Old Covenant, but did not apply to the people of God after the finished work of Christ. In other words, a different dispensation was in effect. Believers in Christ did not offer sacrifices at the temple anymore because they had received Christ’s substitutionary atonement. The death of Christ had made the sacrificial system obsolete. Therefore, why should people give to perpetuate a form of worship that was only a shadow of the greater thing?

The ‘Tithe’ is actually about 33% or so of one’s income. Yes, I am aware that the word ‘tithe’ does mean a tenth. Yet, if you study and calculate all the offerings and tithes written and required in the law, it equated to about 33% or so of all gross net worth (crops, animals, oil, wine, money, etc.). So, are we supposed to give 33%?  Are we to give grain and animals to a local church?  Any pastor today will tell you that he does not want your grain or animals (wine maybe… but that depends on your denomination!). So, I guess, if you were to follow the torah understanding of tithe, you should sell them in proportional increase, and give to your pastor/church or you will be cursed. In Seminary, I had no OT professors agree with the idea of God cursing his people today for not ‘tithing’.  These were men who were great examples in the faith and knew both the OT and NT with humility.

So, what is the believer to do? The believer is to give and give generously.  The amount is not important. Here are 4 reasons why the believer is to give and not tithe:

1. You can’t out-give God! It all belongs to him anyway. So, whether it is 30%, 4% 22% 12% or anything else, it is ultimately all his. The question then becomes, how much of God’s stuff will we release back to him in an act of worship? Do we give to get? No, – but rather, we give to become. When we give, we become more like Christ who gave of himself without condition or reserve, so that we might have abundant life. God is the quintessential giver.  We give because we want to be like our Father.

2. If you give everything and have not love it is nothing (1 Cor. 13).  It matters not if you give to the utmost with no love. Therefore, the amount is inconsequential. It is the motivation behind the gift.  If the motivation is material blessing or the removal of an imaginary curse, then I am not so sure that that giving amounts to very much – if anything – at all.

3. You reap what you sow. Whether in immaterial or material things, this truth is vital to understand. The effect of Christ’s death was his glorification and reward of souls that he had purchased with his blood. From one incorruptible seed sown in death came life to the many.  Armed with this understanding, we sow generously knowing that we will reap generously;  if not on the earth, then in eternity. God sowed generously through Christ and he will reap generously.

4. Some people live off of your giving. I think that it is spiritual manipulation for someone who lives off a congregation’s offerings to preach that people are under a curse if they do not give. But, just as the Levites lived off of the temple tithe, many people in the present day who serve the Lord live off of support (financial or other means) from believers. Whether you believe this type of lifestyle is by choice or by divine calling, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you give to those who you are in relationship with and who are working to bear fruit that will last (making mature, healthy, disciples who reproduce themselves in others).

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