Giving is often misunderstood. For this reason, we publish this booklet to clarify biblical giving.
This booklet will be disconcerting to some of you who feel that the tithe is a principle for giving. Actually, the tithe was not even a principle of giving in the Old Testament. Freewill offerings have been the norm for both the Old Testament and New Testament. This booklet sets forth that thesis.
1 Co 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
Actually, the first eighteen verses deal with money in this chapter. In 1 Cor. 16 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9, we will learn more about giving than in any other passage of Scripture.
It is this carnal church at Corinth that needs to learn how to give. A person’s spirituality can be charted on the basis of his financial giving. Carnal Christians are stingy in giving to God. The first issue with them is not giving but spirituality.
1 Cor. 16:1-2 gives us six principles for giving:
1. There was to be purpose in giving: –“collection for (concerning) the saints”
2. Giving has a time factor: –“the first day of the week” (Sunday).
3. Giving is personal: “let everyone…”
4. Giving is systematic: “lay by him in store…”
“Lay by” means to separate the money you are going to give to the Lord. Money is to be put aside, especially for this purpose
5. Giving proportionately to your prosperity: “as God has prospered.”
The word “prospered” means “gone well.” This is percentage giving. God does not expect blood out of stone!
2 Co 8:12, “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not.”
The issue is a willing mind—that is the rub!
6. Giving should not be based on emotional appeal: “that there be no gatherings when I come.”
II. GIVING ON THE PRINCIPLE OF GRACE
2 Co 8:1, Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:
Second Corinthians 8 and 9 are the greatest chapters of the New Testament on biblical giving in the Economy of Grace. Giving in the New Testament is based on the grace principle. The grace principle is what God has done for us. Giving is a part of the grace of God in our lives.
Corinthian Christians were carnal. Because they were carnal, they needed more instructions on giving than any other New Testament church. Carnality wants a “pat formula.” They want to set up a superficial standard. Don‘t ask for any personal evaluation or personal relationship to God of these Christians. Their giving is not based on fellowship with God; it pertains to a mechanical process that their religious society demands.
People who want to give a tithe, for example, want that “pat formula.” They do not give proportionally and not out of an appreciation for what God has done for them in grace. They simply give out of duty.
Even the Old Testament believers did not give this way—their tithes were one thing but their offerings were another. For example, Proverbs 11:24, 25 give the Old Testament principle:
Prov 11:24-25, There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty. 25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
Old Testaments believers gave liberally.
The “tithe” was a system of income tax in the Old Testament for the nation Israel (Israel was not a church). The word “tithe” means ten percent. This tax was for both believers and non-believers alike. There were three tithes in the Old Testament: 1) one for the feast and sacrifices, 2) another for the maintenance of the Levites, and 3) every third year a tax for the poor. This means that every two years they were to give 20% and on the third year 30%. That is an average of 23 1/3 percent! Go ahead and tithe if you wish!
Giving has everything to do with our current fellowship with God. It relates to our love for Him, but primarily for His love for us. The grace principle is the Old Testament and New Testament essential principle for giving.
III. THE MACEDONIAN EXAMPLE
Paul began Second Corinthians 8 by giving the example of the Macedonians as the proper way to give—they gave on the grace principle:
2 Co 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia:
They were abundant givers yet Macedonia (located in northern Greece) was poverty-stricken.
2 Co 8:2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
Macedonian believers were in abject poverty yet they were abundant givers. Often people excuse themselves from giving because they do not have enough financial resources. Paul’s point is that their priority has to be right. Nothing will launch biblical giving if our souls are out of sorts.
Macedonian joy in giving did not hinge on their circumstances. Civil wars between Pompey and Caesar, between Triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and lastly between Augustus and Antonius had devastated their country. Under Tiberius, they were transferred from the jurisdiction of the Senate to that of the Emperor (thus had less heavy taxation).
Yet their joy came out of fellowship with the Lord. They gave out of joy, not from pressure. The result of such fellowship with the Lord was liberal giving. Other passages indicate their giving patterns: 2 Co 11:9; Php 2:25; 4:15,18.
Verse three indicates that they give under their own free will:
2 Co 8:3, For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,
Their liberality was great—it was sacrificial. That is a step beyond today’s Christianity.
Their giving was not out of coercion or from pressure; it was out of free will. The Greek word for “freely willing” (authairetos) also indicates spontaneous giving (no external constraint or stimulus). They knew the need—poor saints in Jerusalem, but they did not give because someone made them feel guilty. They gave on the basis of their own capacity and under the principle of grace.
Notice their eagerness to give:
2 Co 8:4, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
They wanted to give by grace as they had received grace. The grace concept was their motivating factor. The Macedonians gave far beyond Paul’s expectations.
2 Co 8:5, And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
The word “first” means in importance and order, not time. It was a dedication of the entire self first. A person’s possessions are simply a facet of that. Their relationship to Christ was the first priority then their giving followed. Our giving is simply a manifestation of our relationship to the Lord. A good way to measure your spirituality is to measure your action giving in relationship to your potential giving.
IV. THE SUPREME EXAMPLE
Paul sent Titus to Corinth to see if the Corinthians would give like the Macedonians:
2 Co 8:6, So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well.
Titus came with the grace concept to the Macedonian churches. The Corinthian church abounded in blessing. They abounded in faith, in speaking the Word of God, in knowledge of the truth of God, in diligence in Christian service, and in love for the Lord’s servants. Their giving should be commensurate with other facts of their Christian lives.
2 Co 8:7, But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.
Abundant giving is part of the total Christian life.
Giving is a test of genuine love for Christ:
2 Co 8:8, I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.
The fundamental motivating fact in giving is love for God. Obviously, giving from pressure is not giving out of love. That is why giving cannot be by “commandment.” It is not a matter of obedience but of a relationship with God. Free will is vital to a relationship. A person cannot be forced into love. Thus, also, a person cannot be forced to give.
The word “testing” in “testing the sincerity [genuineness] of your love” means to test for approval. The test that God approves in giving is love. By the occasion of the Macedonian giving, God puts their love to the test.
The supreme example of grace giving is seen in the Lord Himself. It is out of gratitude to Him we give.
2 Co 8:9, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
Fundamental to giving is an understanding of grace. Grace is the means whereby God glorifies Himself. Grace is what God does. If God does it, He gets the glory. Grace is what God is and does; He gives out of His character.
Legalism is an attempted lean against God. It tries to win God’s favor by something the believer does. Legalism gives to earn brownie points with God. It is the opposite of grace.
Our Lord had the infinite wealth of the infinite God for all eternity. Yet, though He had that status, He became poor. He gave that we might be rich. He gave out of grace.
Jesus Christ is the Supreme Example in the grace of giving.
V. A CHALLENGE BUT NOT A DEMAND
2 Co 8:10, And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;
Paul gave his opinion in this verse, not a demand. If it is a demand then it is no longer the will of the individual who gives but of the person who demands.
Paul speaks of their “readiness” (willingness) to give the year previously.
2 Co 8:11, but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness [willingness] to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.
The desire of the Corinthians was still there one year later. Here is the challenge—finish what you started in giving.
2 Co 8:12, 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.
A person may not always have money but he or she can always have a “willing mind” (the right attitude in giving). God measures a person by their attitude and not only by the act of giving. The amount you give is not the major fact in giving; it is the attitude by which we give to God.
VI. THE SUPERABUNDANCE OF THE ONE SHOULD BE EMPLOYED TO RELIEVE THE NECESSITIES OF ANOTHER
(2 Cor 8:13-15)
2 Co 8:13, For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened;
In previous verses, Paul challenged the Corinthians to give according to the grace principle. Now Paul relieves a fear that they may have to carry the burden of giving for Christianity in the Roman Empire.
2 Co 8:14, but by an 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.
Paul did not desire that they go beyond their ability to give. He did not want others to be enriched at their expense. His point was not to aim at equality of giving among churches. The idea is merely the abundance of one group of believers should be shared with the deficiency of another.
This is not equality as to the amount of poverty; this is not communism! The idea is equal relief from a burden of want or destitution.
Scriptures strike a beautiful balance in giving. The Bible does not go to the extreme of agrarian communism by disallowing the right of property nor does it go to the other extreme of heartless disregard for the poor. By the way, scriptures also place a responsibility on the poor to support themselves to the extent of their ability:“
2 Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.“
2 Co 8:15, As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
This verse is a quotation from Exodus 16:18 in the episode of the gathering of manna. The super-abundance of one should be employed to relieve the necessities of another. Food is a necessity. When it comes to necessity there should be equality.
VII. THE NECESSITY OF GOOD ADMINISTRATION OF MONEY
(2 Cor 8:16-24)
2 Co 8:16, But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. 18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,
In these verses, the administrators of the money given by the Corinthians are listed. God so worked on the heart of Titus that he had earnest care for the Corinthians. This was the kind of administrator Paul assigned to manage Corinthian donations to the cause of Christ. Funds collected from Christians should be handled carefully and faithfully.
Paul assigned two other men to collect the money. Multiple people handling money is a safeguard against temptation. The collection, therefore, was handled in an honest and business-like manner. No one, therefore, could accuse Paul of handling donations in an improper way.
2 Co 8:19-21, and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, 20 avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us— 21 providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Paul and his companions administered the collection. More than one person should handle God’s money. This also gives glory to God. The Lord knows what we do with donations but this is not enough, men must know as well. Preventative measures must be taken against misunderstanding. Not even Paul’s pure purposes were free from possible slander.
2 Co 8:22-23, And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
The men whom Paul chose were beyond reproach. So much so that Paul could say, they are “the glory of Christ.” What a tribute! They brought glory to Christ whom they served. Thus, all three companions were highly recommended by Paul
2 Co 8:24, Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.
The proof of love is in the giving! Love thrives on giving. Paul’s conclusion to the first great chapter on giving is a challenge to give from the motivation of love.
VIII. ETERNAL INVESTMENTS
(2 Co 9:6-8)
2 Co 9:6, But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
This verse is an illustration from farming. It presents the law of quantity. If a farmer sows a few seeds he will reap a small return. If he expects to reap bountifully, he must sow bountifully. Money given to Christian work is not wasted; it is a spiritual investment. The blessing will be in proportion to the investment. The proportion of reaping will be determined by the proportion sowed.
The underlying principle is that Christians are not to give as little as possible but as much as possible. It was giving based on the heart.
2 Co 9:7, So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
Christians must be at peace with themselves when they give—“as he purposes in his heart.” True giving is from free will not by force. Therefore, it is not simply a matter of quantity. What is to determine the amount of the gift? It is from the effect of a person’s fellowship with the Lord. If God has done something for him there should be an adequate response.
“Not grudgingly”—we do not give out of a reluctant state of mind, grieving what was given as so much loss. This is to regret giving the gift.
“Or of necessity”—we do not give out of constraint. Sometimes circumstances arise where we feel we need to give. This spoils the gift. Outside pressure should not influence our giving pattern. We should not give even out of the stress of our conscience if we do not want to donate to the cause of Christ.
“For God loves a cheerful giver”—“cheerful” means one who gives with hilarity. Giving is a delight to a person with the right motives. He gives from a positive attitude.
2 Co 9:8, And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
The believer who gives from the right attitude will always have something to give. God will increase material wealth that is given from the proper attitude. To prove this Paul quotes from Psalm 112:9 in verse 9:
2 Co 9:9, As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”
God increases the resources of the hilarious giver so that he will be able to respond to other cases of need. This does not mean he will gain a greater bank account! There is nothing here that supports the health and wealth doctrine. The idea is simply if we give God will provide for us to give more. We possess it that we may pass it on.