A CEO/philanthropist of a non-profit company decided to challenge himself for 30 days. It wasn’t an exercise challenge or an ice-bucket challenge; it wasn’t even a diet. He did what he called, a generosity challenge. For 30 days he would say yes to every request that came his way to help. To every letter in the mail and every request on the streets. Yes, Yes, Yes…to everyone who asked him for money. Is this a realistic way to live? No. Even the most generous people must wisely say no to some requests. However, for 30 days, this man said yes. Through repetition and action he said that he ‘learned’ to become ‘more’ generous.
Who is the most generous person you know? I’m sure you have a name in your mind. It could be a friend or a parent or a colleague. Maybe it’s someone you’ve never met but observed from far away. For me that person was always my dad. He was the first to pay for a meal with friends. He never worried about having enough. It took me a while to figure out what made him this way, but when I did it made total sense. The most simple way to describe it would be, HE TRUSTED GOD. He knew that God provided, so when opportunity to give came his way, he generously gave.
Giving is a tough topic, especially in the church. You’d think it would be easy to talk about, however, there are so many negative feelings that come with the topic of giving. Who can blame us for this, we’ve been abused by TV evangelists and fraudulent leaders. Perhaps you’ve been subject to the ‘offering’ talk in a church or camp gathering and felt like someone was reaching in your pockets with aggression. As true and unfortunate as those things are, it doesn’t take away from how vital this topic is and why it’s something that we, as followers of Jesus, have to take seriously.
Giving & generosity is directly related to our trust in God, our love for him and our love for others. It also represents what is closest to us; what’s in our hand; what we hold on to and how if used well, can make a huge impact in the world.
It’s possible that the biggest obstacle to giving is the ‘percentage’ principle that’s been associated with it. 10% of everything you have must be given to God. Hello? That’s a huge chunk of change. Some might say that living with the 10-10-80 (give/save/live) rule is ideal and wonderful, just impractical. How in the world can we make the math work?
Let’s talk about where that % comes from, then how the NT addresses giving, and then how we should live these things out today.
Where did 10% come from, OT?
Leviticus 27:30 ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year… At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands”
Malachi 3:8-10 (read here)
When you narrow it down, there are 2 main reasons for this principle and this command: Trust God & Help Others.
The idea behind the tithe was to teach Israel that it’s all God’s, everything, and that we are privileged to use it…steward it. This also shows us that every part of our budget is important, the living, the saving, the giving, it all reflects our reliance and trust in God.
In every person’s life, God plants this question: Do you trust me? Giving & Generosity answers that question for us.
Note that the tithe wasn’t just money thrown away to prove Israel’s trust, it was stored and then redistributed to those in need, priests (who didn’t make an income), the poor, the orphan, the widow, the sick, etc. There was a social idea behind this tithe. We see this in the NT as well when people gave what they didn’t need to help those who needed it. An amazing way to think about community for sure.
What did giving become in the NT?
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
We see here that in the NT, giving is still about trust, but it’s also about investing and planting. Sow little, reap little, sow lots, reap lots. We also see that there’s an intelligent side to giving as we’re asked to decide in our heart what to give, not ignorantly or blindly, but according to what you are sensing in your heart and mind.
Remember this, giving is always a present action that turns into a future impact.
1 Timothy 6 says this, 17 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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.
Here’s where the NT turns what it means to be rich on it’s head. We are not rich in what we have or acquire or accumulate, but in what we give and share.
Some things to consider after reading these OT & NT texts…
- Don’t let fear stop you from giving (Matthew 6:33)
– we shouldn’t fear giving away too much, but planting too little
- Will you be a % giver or a heart giver or can both be helpful?
– start somewhere
– as good as this principal is, it’s not a law, but it it s great place to start
– % giving doesn’t make you more spiritual, it simply helps you be smart about all your finances
- Giving reinforces that it’s not about me, but about a calling to make the world around me better.
– it seems like the tighter our fists are with our stuff, the more selfish we become
– open your hands and see what God can do
- Be a thoughtful giver
– be smart about this
– giving should never be done in ignorance
“You might not be 100% comfortable with giving, but you want to get to a place where you become uncomfortable not giving.” (Andy Stanley)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group discussion: (video wrap up)
Who is the most generous person you know? What makes you think that about them?
Why can giving be a tough topic to address at church? What are some of the negative thoughts associated with giving & church? Why?
Take time to read the 3 OT texts. Do they help you understand the tithe (10% giving)? What else jumps out at you? What resonates? What is difficult for you?
Now look at the 2 NT texts. Is there anything different about them? What resonates with you? What is helpful and/or challenging?
Look at our application statements. Is there anything you’d like to address? Fear? % giving? Selfishness? Thoughtful Giving?
Is it hard to trust God with your gift and generosity, knowing that something good will come from it?
Take some time to pray about needs in our world and community. Thank God in advance for using our or others generosity to meet those needs. Also pray that God would remove fear and increase faith