This is sort of a follow up to my post the other day about giving. Most of what I said in that post were conclusions I came to myself from my own, very brief, Bible study about giving. I found out that I am not alone in my conclusions! A website was referenced in a comment on that post, and I've been doing some reading. If you get a moment, I'd encourage you to look up the website as well. I'm definitely starting to think that tithing is really not what God had in mind for the New Testament church. BUT, God does want His children to give. Not only does God want us to give, He loves it when we give.
Every man according has he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7).
Giving a personal choice (in "his" heart), and it's to be done with the right attitude. Giving is a blessing, and God blesses those who give. It sounds I bit like I repeated myself in that last sentence, but it is two different ideas. Think about it.
I can say it is a blessed thing to give because I've experienced it. Confession: I haven't always been the best giver. Some of my friends describe me as a "tight-wad." I won't deny it. I'm a bit of a penny pincher. I inherited that trait from my grandmother. If anyone knew how to stretch (and save) a dollar it was her. I'm not necessarily selfish when it comes to money, I'm just not a big spender. I don't see the point of spending $20 (or $30) on a tee-shirt from Gap when I can get pretty much the same thing for $5 or $10 at Wal-mart. It's not that I can't afford the Gap tee-shirt, I just think spending that kind of money is a waste. I also don't believe in going into debt, unless it's for something like a mortgage for a house. When I need to make a big purchase I try to save up, and then pay for it all at once. That's what I did when I bought my car, and it was a good thing I did! It turned out to be one of those blessings that God gives when we give to Him! But, that's another story for another day :).
So, back to my personal experiences with giving. I wasn't always the best giver. I was always taught to tithe, but my tithing was pretty sporadic. While I was in college pretty much every penny I made went on my school bill. I figured God would be okay with that since I was spending the money Bible College, and not a secular university. The money was going to a ministry. After graduation, I really made an effort to try and be more regular in my giving. At least 10%. I did pretty good for a while, but there'd always be a week here and there when I'd forget to go to the bank and take out cash before Sunday. I tried to make up for it the next week. Or it'd be Sunday morning, and I wouldn't have my cheque ready. I'd be writing furiously during the prayer hoping I could get it finished before the prayer ended. I usually sat near the front, so the plate came pretty quickly when that prayer was over.
Much of my giving during those first few years after I graduated was sacrificial. I was not making much money, and it would have been very easy for me to justify keeping all of it. I had rent, groceries, insurance, bills, and I needed to save up to by a car because the '88 Omni wasn't going to last forever! The first two years I taught I would only allow myself one Tim Horton's coffee a week because that was all I could afford. At the time it didn't seem that bad, but looking back I realize how little I really had. And yet, out of that little I was able to give back to the Lord. Even though I sometimes forget my offering, I did want to give to the Lord! I remember when missions conference came, and I decided to double my faith promise giving. I had been giving $5 a week, and I made it $10. Ten dollars doesn't sound like much, but I honestly did not know where that money was going to come from. It's not like I could cut out the Tim's and have my faith promise. I was only spending about a $1.40 a week there :). I prayed about it, and God supplied! He is so amazing.
Over and over again I've watched God supply my needs. I've never been wealthy, but I've always had more than enough. One thing I can say is this. If you honour God first with your finances He will ALWAYS provide for you. Not only that, He'll provide more than what you need.
When I decided to give to God, He increased that desire in my heart. Even though I typically like to hold on to my money, I actually LIKE giving money to the church. But, when I didn't give, I didn't have a desire to give either. It's amazing how when you start obeying God, He gives you the means and the desire to continue. It's really not that big of a deal. It's not a burden. I don't go around every week thinking, "Oh my, it's almost Sunday, and I have to give money at church AGAIN! I guess I can't buy that new sweater because I have to give my offering AGAIN!" The funny thing is that now I don't even think about my giving at all! I just do it! It's like brushing my teeth... it's a habit.
Sometimes it's good to stop and think about the blessings. We often miss the blessings because we're always looking at others. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. We think up excuses not to give because we don't realize how blessed we are. If I had a nice house like they do, I could give more. If my car was paid of like theirs is, I could give more. If I had a job like so-and-so, I could give more. If I didn't have to pay so much tax, I could give more. If I didn't have kids, I could give more. If I were married, I could give more. We need to look at what we HAVE, instead of comparing, and then realize that we CAN give. Everyone can do something! Even the poor widow could give her two mites (Mark 12:42-44)!
I remember one time was I was still living down south, and for some reason I was struggling with money. I knew there wasn't enough in my account to meet my expenses. I began thinking back. Things had been going pretty good. The needs were being met. Why was I suddenly lacking? Had I overspent the previous month? Not really, and nothing unexpected had come up. Then it hit me! I had missed my offering for about three weeks in a row. I knew in my heart that was exactly the reason I didn't seem to have enough to meet my needs. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I immediately went to the bank and took out some cash for my offering that Sunday. The bills didn't matter. The rent didn't matter. There'd probably be no Tim Horton's for about a month, but I NEEDED to give that offering that week, or I knew I'd be in trouble. Later on that week I got a cheque in the mail. Because I was self-employed, I always had to pay during tax time. I had overpaid that year, and the government refunded about half of my payment. It was quite a substantial sum. I NEVER expected to get that cheque. In fact I had filed my taxes months earlier, so it was the last thing on my mind. Some might think, well you would've gotten the cheque anyways even if you hadn't given your offering that Sunday. Yes, I would have, but isn't nice when you can praise God for it? Isn't nice that all the circumstances line up and you can see the working of God throughout it? Maybe if I hadn't given that Sunday the cheque would have gotten lost in the mail. Maybe I would have had to use it for some other unexpected expense, and I still would have been struggling.
This is just one example of a time in my life when God honoured my giving. There are countless others. Each day is a blessing from the Lord because I don't worry about money. I'm not in debt up to my ears. I have enough to pay the bills. I believe with all my heart that it's because I give first to the Lord! These are the blessings of giving! Could I give more? OH YES! New Testament giving was sacrificial. I'm not rich by any means, but I'm not really going without either. I could give more.
It all comes down to the heart. How much do I love God? When you love someone you want to give them things. Just think about Christmas. We give presents to those we love. Giving is not just a matter of money. We can give our time, talents, bodies, will, possessions, and so much more. Jesus gave His life for us. Giving is about surrender. Surrender about giving God control. Surrender is about relinquishing my hold on things and allowing God to use them. Giving is not about making sure you've tithed 10% of your income right down to the penny. I know people who do that, and it always kind of made me laugh. They wouldn't round up to the nearest dollar, because that would be taking away their 90%, and God gave them that 90%! It was THEIRS! It's their blessing from the Lord. No, the blessing is not the 90%. The blessing is the cheerful heart. The blessing is the work of the Lord being furthered. The blessing is being able to have a "cheque-in-the-mail" story. The blessing is the peace inside that comes from knowing you are obeying the Lord.
I think we need to change our perspective about giving. Many don't give because they feel they cannot afford 10%. They are in financial difficulties. They have families, bills, needs, expenses. These things are understandable. I really don't believe that God demands we put a percentage on our giving. He just wants us to give SOMETHING... ANYTHING! Many feel guilty because they fall behind in their tithe. The guilt leads to discouragement, hopelessness, and finally they give up. They fail, so why bother. God never intended giving to be a burden. He wants us to give cheerfully. We need to take the counsel and II Corinthians 9 and "purpose in our hearts" simply to give! That's all God wants. He just wants us to give. He didn't condemn the widow for her two mites. He didn't shun her. He didn't look down upon her for giving so little. In fact He lifted her up as an example, not because she gave 10% or because she had all her finances in order. He lifted her up because she gave with the right heart, and because she sacrificed out of great love for her Almighty God! We never read about the widow again, but I believe God blessed her abundantly and her needs were met.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38