Christian Giving

This Bible study is designed to help you decide how you should give as a Christian. You will benefit most by reading the many references by touching on them.

John Robertshaw  

Bible References - Touch or hover over the Bible references to bring up some of the verses in ESV. Follow more» to get the whole passage. If it's not working, touch another part of the page and try again.

Attitude to Wealth and Possessions

  • God is the owner of everything we possess - A good starting point is to acknowledge that nothing in this world permanently belongs to us. God is not just the owner of some of our money and possessions - he is actually the owner of it all! (Psalm 24:1, Deut 10:14)
  • We are only stewards of God's possessions - We need to be careful and wise with what we have because we are looking after someone else's property. We also need to use our money and possessions for good purposes and not for immorality or sin - in the same way that we are careful with our bodies which also belong to God! (Gen 2:15, Psalm 115:16, Matt 25:14-15, 1 Cor 6:19-20)
  • We may lose our possessions and be left with nothing - Nothing is certain in this world - we should not put our trust in our money and possessions. Catastrophe, disaster, war, accident, illness, financial collapse etc. can result in losing everything we have. Life can change very quickly! (Job 1:20-21, Prov 23:4-5, 1 Tim 6:17)
  • We will leave it all behind when we die - Someone else will assume responsibility for what we had and who knows how they will use it. We should be careful not to rely on our wealth. Jesus said we should lay up treasure in heaven - this is the enduring work we have done for the Kingdom of God in the souls of people which will last for eternity. (Psalm 49:10, Eccl 2:18-19, Matt 6:19-20, Luke 12:19-20, 1 Tim 6:7)
  • Beware of greed and accumulation of possessions - There are many warnings against wealth and riches in the Bible. They can prevent us following God, they can choke us and destroy our faith, and the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. (Prov 11:4, 11:28, 22:1, 30:8-9, Eccl 5:10, Matt 6:19-21, 13:22, 19:21-22, Luke 12:15, 16:13, 18:24-25, 1 Tim 6:9-10, 17, Heb 13:5)

Where to Give

  • Give to God - It is good to consider all of your giving as giving to God - it is an important part of our stewardship. There is, however, no heavenly post box to put your money in or a celestial bank account to transfer funds to! So you do need to give to actual people and organisations here on earth - here are a few ideas:
  • To support the poor and needy - The Bible is full of encouragement to remember the poor. We should respect, be kind and generous to those who are needy. They are the most obvious destination for our Christian giving. As well as simply helping poor people you know, you may also wish to subscribe to Christian charities which reach out to the poor. (Lev 19:10, 23:22, Deut 15:7-8, 11, Psalm 41:1, Prov 14:21, 31, 17:5, 19:17, 21:13, 22:9, 28:27, 31:20, Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33-34, 14:13, 18:22, 19:8  Acts 2:45, 4:34-35, Gal 2:10, Eph 4:28, James 2:2-3, 16, 1 John 3:17) 
  • To support widows and orphans and strangers - There were no state benefits in Bible times and this group of people were particularly vulnerable. Christians have historically supported widows, orphans, refugees, the sick, hungry etc. (Deut 14:28, 29, 24:19, 20, 21, 26:12, 13, Acts 6:1, James 1:27)
  • To support your family - This may be a priority for some believers. (Exodus 20:12, 1 Tim 5:4, 8)
  • Gifts to other needy and persecuted Christians - Paul often organised collection of money from believers in one place and took it to provide relief to suffering believers in another place. There are several organisations today which support suffering Christians in various parts of the world. (Acts 11:29-30, Rom 15:25-28, 1 Cor 16:1-4, 2 Cor 8:1-9:15)
  • To support Christian ministry - In New Testament times the main support required for individuals was food, water, clothes, footwear and accommodation. Travelling missionaries like Paul would require money for travel on boats etc. When Jesus and his disciples were near home, they would be provided for by their families. They also had a moneybag which was used for their food and for giving to the poor. (Matt 26:8-9, Mark 14:4-5, John 4:8, 12:4-5, 13:29) The group was probably funded by family, friends, some wealthy followers (Luke 8:3) and gifts. When Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to preach, heal and cast out demons, he instructed them to take nothing but to trust in God's provision through the people they met (Matt 10:9-11, Mark 6:8-10, Luke 9:3-4, 10:1, 4-8). The early church shared their resources and used this for supporting the apostles as well as distributing to the poor (Acts 2:45, 4:32, 34-35, 6:1-2). Paul often supported himself by working, not wanting to be a burden to those he was preaching to (Acts 18:3, 20:34-35, 1 Cor 9:14-15, 1 Thess 2:9, 2 Thess 3:7-8, 9-10) At other times he was supported by others (2 Cor 11:9). In these days, you may wish to give to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers or to Christian organisations engaged in mission, evangelism, charitable work, medical work, education etc.
  • To your local church - There were few expenses in the early church - they met in homes, outdoors or in public places and food would be provided by everyone. Shared money was used for giving to the poor etc. and sometimes for support of leaders or elders (1 Tim 5:17-18, 1 Thess 5:12-13, Heb 13:7, 17). Modern churches often have significant expenses for buildings, audio visual equipment, administration, outreach events etc. as well as salaries for leaders and other staff and gifts to visiting speakers. Hopefully they also give significantly to the poor and needy and the other issues mentioned above. Many Christians give mainly to their local church which they attend regularly, trusting that it will be used wisely for godly purposes. It's good stewardship to look at your church accounts to see how your money is being used. Previously completed accounts can often be viewed on the Charity Commission website in the UK.

How to Give

  • Intentionally and regularly - It is helpful to thoughtfully decide how much you are putting aside to give away - this could be weekly or monthly. The Israelites used to bring the best and firstfruit of their harvest to God in thankfulness (Exod 23:19, Deut 26:2, 10, Prov 3:9). It's a good idea to consider your giving as a firstfruit of your income and not a left over!  Paul suggested a regular method of giving whereby each person is to put aside money on the first day of each week (1 Cor 16:2).
  • Generously - God is generous to us in so many ways and we can reflect this by being generous to others with God's help (2 Cor 9:8-9, 10-11). Generosity is the opposite of being stingy or selfish. (Psalm 37:21, Prov 14:21, 31, Acts 10:1-2, 2 Cor 8:2, 1 Tim 6:18)
  • Secretly - In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said we should do three things secretly - giving, praying and fasting. We should not give proudly or publicly, but quietly and privately. (Matt 6:2, 3-4)
  • Sacrificially - Giving can sometimes be a struggle and will mean that you miss out on things yourself so that others can benefit - the poorest people are sometimes the most generous. (Mark 12:42-44, 2 Cor 8:2-3) 
  • Cheerfully - God loves a cheerful giver (cheerful = Greek hilaros = "hilarious"! Haha!) (2 Cor 9:7). Jesus said "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The joy of giving comes from seeing the pleasure and benefit in the lives of the recipients and in the thanksgiving which comes to God (2 Cor 9:11-12).
  • With a pure motive - Our motive for giving is simply to express our love for God and his Kingdom and our kindness and compassion to other people. In the Old Testament, the Israelites tithed and gave in obedience to God's laws and in expectation of his blessings (Lev 27:30, 32, Mal 3:8, 10) - unfortunately this included a selfish motive of a reward from God. In the New Testament we live in days of grace, our giving is voluntary without expecting anything back in return. God's blessings are provided by his grace and not by our obedience to Old Testament laws (John 1:16-17, Rom 11:6, Gal 2:21). It is true that when we are generous to others, there may come a time when we are in need and will benefit from their generosity - but this should never be our motive to give (Luke 6:38, 2 Cor 8:14-15, 2 Cor 9:6).

How Much to Give

  • Tithing - A tithe is a tenth. The first mention of tithing is when Abraham gives a tenth of his possessions to a priest called Melchizedek (Gen 14:20, Heb 7:1-3). The next mention is when Jacob (=Israel) vows to give a tenth of everything back to God (Gen 28:22). It later became a law for the Israelites to give a tithe to the tribe of Levi who were devoted to the service of God and had no inheritance in the land (Num 18:21, 24). The Levites in turn tithed to the priests who were from the family of Aaron (Num 18:26-28). There was also an extra tithe every third year which included providing for the sojourner, the fatherless and widow (Deut 14:28-29). Tithing was an important part of Old Testament law and withholding a tithe was considered to be robbing God of his due (Mal 3:8, 10). Tithing was still practiced strictly at the time of Jesus by the Jews (Luke 11:42, 18:12) but there was no expectation for gentile Christians to tithe. Some Christian leaders insist on tithing by their church members using dubious analogies with the Old Testament. Some Christians choose to tithe because it appears to be a wise level of giving in the same way as taking off one day in seven is a wise level of resting - although neither of these are legal requirements for gentile Christians (Acts 15:19-20).
  • New Testament - There are no instructions in the New Testament for how much we should give. There are, however, a number of guidelines in Paul's letters to the Corinthians. We should give as we prosper (1 Cor 16:2), as we have decided in our hearts - not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7), according to our means and beyond our means but not what we do not have (2 Cor 8:3, 12) and we should excel in this act of grace (2 Cor 8:7). We are not advised to put ourselves into debt by our giving.

Written July 2020  

Last Edited: 2020-07-06   

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