Giving is an important principle within our Christian walk. What does God expect of us?
Under the Law of the Old Testament it was simple to know what to do because God defined for His people every aspect of giving. God used a strict system of sacrifices and offerings to bring about atonement and support for His work.
We understand that today we are not required to sacrifice animals and offer gain to God but we still see the obligation to tithe to support the church. Other than two instances of Tithing by Abraham and Jacob our total knowledge of tithing relates to the Law.
What obligations do we have to the Law?
In Acts 15 Paul had conflicts with the Jews over the Law’s requirement that people be circumcised. In fact the statement was made in Acts 15:1 “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved". Paul went to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to discuss this question. After heavy discussion the leadership released this statement.
Acts 15:24 – 29 "…Some who went out from us have troubled you with words ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ – to whom we gave no such commandment-…. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”
As a gentile believer I have no obligation to the Law other than what is required by this statement. This being the case my giving is not determined by the Law of Moses. My giving is therefore not according to sacrifices, tithes, and offerings from the Old Testament.
You may say that tithing occurred before the Law. Let us look at the two instances outside the Law.
- Abraham in Genesis 14.
Here Abraham has returned from a battle to get back his nephew who had been captured by enemies. Returning from the battle he was met by Melchizedek, a priest representing God in Israel. In response to a blessing from Melchizedek Abraham gave him a tithe of the spoils of battle. In verses 23 – 24 Abraham did not keep any of the spoils. Abraham’s action was in response to God’s deliverance of his enemies into his hands.
- Jacob in Genesis 28
Here Jacob made a vow. “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to you.”
In both of these situations it appears that there is no obligation on Abraham and Jacob to give but each has responded to the Lord’s past or future blessing.
What does God ask of us?
After Jesus’ death everything changes. He has been the fulfilment of the Law with its sacrifices and now all are free of the obligations of the Law. In Acts 4:32-35 we see a new attitude.
"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
What a change!
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul discusses the importance of giving and the attitude required in giving. Please read it all but here are a few key points.
- In 8:12-15 Paul says “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack – that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
- In 9:6-8 Paul shows us the qualities of a giver. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So 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 sufficiency in all things, have abundance for every good work.”
In summary we are not under the Law with the requirements of sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Our giving should come from a generous heart which believes that nothing that we have is our own but is to be shared so that no one has any lack.