Giving to the Church

by | Sep 13, 2023 | Practical Living

Why should you give?

God’s Word is abundantly clear: God cares about your money and your giving (Mt. 6:2-4, 19-21, 24; Rom. 12:13; 2 Cor. 8:1-15, 9:6-15; Gal. 6:6-10; 1 Tim. 6:9-10, 17-19; Heb. 13:16; cf. Ps. 37:21; Prov. 11:24-25, 28, 19:17). Giving is a tangible and regular expression of worship and faith, where the rubber meets the road on what you are trusting and seeking with your life.

  • For this reason, in the Old Testament, believers were taught to put giving at the ‘top of their budget’, so to speak, to give the first-fruits to God. The ‘first-fruits’ offering was to be given at the beginning of the harvest, acknowledging that everything came from God and trusting that God would provide all that was needed (Lev. 23:9-16; Num. 18:22,24; Deut. 14:22-23; 26:1-10; cf. 1 Cor. 16:2). Proverbs 3:9-10 taught, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
  • Jesus taught that your money and giving reveal the treasures of your heart. He warned, “You cannot serve God and money” (Mt. 6:24). So he said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:20-21).
  • The Bible warns that money is a dangerous, spiritual trap. Paul taught, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). So, he said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Giving then is part of the disciplining of your heart, rightly ordering your life and priorities.
  • Financial stewardship is actually part of the eternal, moral law of God. The eighth commandment included the idea of stewardship of property, both ours and others, and the caring for the needs of others. The Heidelberg Catechism on the eighth commandment says, “What does God require of you in this commandment? That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.” Paul wrote, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).
  • Jerry Bridges points out three basic attitudes we can take toward possessions: “The first says, ‘What’s yours is mine; I’ll take it’… The second says, ‘What’s mine is mine; I’ll keep it’… The third attitude…says, ‘What’s mine is God’s, I’ll share it’.” [1]

For all of these reasons and more, your personal giving matters to God.

Why should you give to the church?

While there are many charitable causes, God calls his people first to be part of a church as the foundation of our spiritual life in Christ. You are called to be devoted to a community of people and what God is doing in that community, including sharing in the needs of the saints (Acts 2:42-47; cf. Gal. 6:10). We are given the example of the early Christians giving their money, not to their own interests, but at the feet of the apostles for the needs of the church (Acts 4:34-37). This properly includes contributing to the support of those who labor in preaching and teaching. Paul says, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal. 6:6; cf. 1 Cor. 9:11, 13-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). It includes contributing to the spread of the gospel around the world (Phil. 1:3-5; 4:15). Giving to the church then is part of what it means to be the body of Christ, every part doing its share (Eph. 4:16). Your financial giving to these matters is part of your spiritual investment for eternity.

How much should you give to the church?

Many people will point out that the New Testament doesn’t give a legalistic standard for giving like the tithe of the Old Testament. They will argue that the tithe is part of the Old Testament ceremonial law, which is not binding on New Testament Christians. But these arguments can be misleading, if they are used as a justification for less worship, less gratitude, and less faith than Old Testament believers! Even if the 10% tithe was part of the ceremonial law, the principle predated the law (Gen. 14:20; 28:22). And clearly, the principle of “giving” itself is part of the moral law that is still in effect (see above). In the Old Testament, the Jews gave tithes to the Temple, alms to the poor (Deut. 14:28-29), and also ‘freewill offerings’ (Ex. 35:29). The tithe was only the beginning of their giving (Mal. 3:8). Jesus taught, “When you give to the needy…[let it] be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt. 6:2-4). Though he was rebuking people who were making a performance of their giving, notice that he assumes and approves of a practice that went beyond the ‘tithe’! Nobody was tempted to parade through the streets to draw attention to their tithe, which was mandated. Jesus was assuming and approving a practice of giving that went ‘above and beyond’, as any had need.

This is the principle of generosity encouraged through the New Testament (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32; 2 Cor. 8:2-3, 9:6-15). The early church Father Irenaeus wrote, “The Jews were constrained to a regular payment of tithes; Christians, who have liberty, assign all their possessions to the Lord (see Luke 14:33), bestowing freely not the lesser portions of their property, since they have the hope of greater things.” [2] As Christians, we have greater hopes, greater motivation; we have greater assurance of an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us by God” (1 Pet. 1:4-5). So we have more freedom to give, because we have more grace. And we follow a Savior who gave everything for us (2 Cor. 8:9). “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

The New Testament may not give a specific number, because the “right amount” varies from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. For someone making $50,000 per year, giving 10% and living off $45,000 can be a legitimate act of faith and worship. For someone making $500,000 per year, living off of $450,000 is hardly an act of faith. The New Testament encourages personal giving to be proportional to personal circumstances (1 Cor. 16:2). It encourages us to give regularly (1 Cor. 16:2) and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). And God promises, when we act in faith and sow bountifully, he will increase the harvest: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:11; cf. Luke 6:30, Mal. 3:10, Prov. 11:24-25). In other words, you will have even more opportunity and more joy in giving! If God is blessing you, he wants you to bless others. God supplies you, so that you can supply others and supply the church. When you give, God will multiply his blessings!

“Everything in heaven and earth is Yours, O LORD… Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”
— 1 Chron. 29:11-14


[1] Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994), 88.

[2] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” 4.18.2.

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