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Living Generously: a Call to Truly Live

Faith and finance: a column by CCMBC Legacy Fund

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Giving. It can be challenging to talk about in the church. For one, many pastors feel uncomfortable preaching on the subject — they are acutely aware of their position as beneficiaries. Talking about the importance of giving or tithing means asking congregation members to fund the ministries of the church and, therefore, their salary. It’s the awkward reality of ministry.

Plus, money is just plain difficult to talk about. And this is especially true for Christians. Pride and legalism can easily creep in when we start getting into specifics, such as how much we should give, where we should give and how often we should give.

But the fact is, Jesus talked about money often. In Matthew 6:19-21, he said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Giving generously is a discipline that not only breaks the chains of greed and consumerism within us, it is also an eternal investment. Giving involves us in the work of God around the world. People’s lives are changed by our investments in kingdom work.

So tithing is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is a witness to the reality of our faith — it clashes with our cultural worldview that says, “Me first!” in all areas of life.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites are told to give a portion of their firstfruits, or their first harvest crop, to God (Lev 23:9-14, Lev 27:30, Prov 3:9-10). By doing this, the people showed their obedience and reverence for God. It also signified that they trusted God to provide enough food to feed their families with the remaining harvest.

This is completely counter to our cultural financial priorities; our culture says we should take care of ourselves and our lifestyle first. Then, we should repay debt, and after that, we should save and invest for the future. If there’s anything left, only then should we give. Giving is the very last priority.

But what the Bible teaches is the total opposite; God tells Moses in Leviticus to make giving to the Lord the first priority. Jesus reinforces this principle in Mark 12:41-43:

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on.’”

So how much should we give? For those who love living in the black and white, unfortunately there’s no rule about tithing made explicit in the New Testament. Tithing was part of the old covenant through the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled by Christ; believers are no longer bound by this law (Rom 7:1-6, Eph 2:15, Col 2:14).

What we do have is this guideline from Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving is all about the attitude of our hearts. It’s living out this reality: because God has blessed us, we can bless others. Everything we have is the Lord’s to steward.

In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul gives a few more instructions on giving to the church. He says our gifts should be in proportion to our income, and that giving should be a regular and methodical practice of individuals belonging to the church.

The other question is this: where should we give? When Jesus sent his disciples out on their own to do ministry, he told them not to bring any money or extra provisions (Matt 10:9-10, Luke 10:7) as they were to rely on the generosity of others. Paul also highlights the importance of supporting ministers of the gospel (1 Cor 9:6-14; 1 Tim 5:17-18). We are commanded to give to those who preach the good news of Jesus so their work can continue.

Paul also tells us to give to those in need, so there is equality and that everyone’s needs can be met (2 Cor 8-9). The act of giving to others is important: wealth can so easily become an idol in our lives, leading us to put our hope in money and abandon the Lord.

Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 writes, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Life that is truly life can only be found in God. He is our treasure; by giving cheerfully and generously, we reorient our perspective away from ourselves and towards the Lord and his work. Because of Jesus, there’s no absolute rule for Christians about giving. But the fact remains: being generous is a beautiful gift that helps us remember that everything belongs to God— not just our finances, but our very lives. It’s also a great privilege to partner with others who are spreading the good news of Jesus in our communities and around the world.

For many of us, we may need to ask ourselves: what has priority in our lives? Are we giving generously and sacrificially? Are we being obedient in supporting the Lord’s work in our churches, missions organizations, schools, camps and other areas where the gospel is being preached? Are we living a life that is truly life?

1 comment

Rudy Hiebert April 15, 2024 - 12:34

In my opinion finances and stewardship topics are rarely communicated from our pulpits and small sessions. The reasons could be logical and appreciated but should still be increased. We’ve all heard about how often “money” is mentioned in scripture but I’, the first person to admit applying these scriptures is the challenge.


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