The Act of Giving
The casual reader of the Bible is aware that the Bible is replete with teaching on the subject of giving. Paul called giving "grace" in his Second Corinthian Epistle and instructed them to " abound in this grace also" (vs. 7, see vs. 1-6). To motivate them in their giving, Paul mentioned the greatest act ever of giving:
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8: 9).
Giving is witnessed in all three biblically recognized dispensations. We do not know the very inception of tithing, but we read of Abram giving a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek (Gen. 14: 20, Heb. 7: 2, 6). We also read of Jacob tithing (Gen. 28: 22). Tithing was a regular act involved in the Law of Moses (Lev. 27: 30-33). Regarding Deuteronomy 18: 5-18, 14: 22-27, and 26: 12-14, Smith Bible Dictionary says the following:
" From all this we gather-- (1) That one tenth of the whole produce of the soil was to be assigned for the maintenance of the Levites. (2) That out of this the Levites were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high priest. (3) That a tithe, in all probability a second tithe, was to be applied to festival purposes. (4) That in every third year, either this festival tithe or a third tenth was to be eaten in company with the poor and the Levites. (These tithes in early times took the place of our modern taxes, us well as of gifts for the support of religious institutions)."
In view of the various offerings required under the Law of Moses, scholars are not sure exactly how much was required of the Jew. However, some estimate the total to have been around 35 percent of the annual income was to be given in compliance to the various laws pertaining to tithing (it must be realized that in view of the theocratic structure of Israel, tithing was also a form of national taxation). As we shall see, the third and final dispensation (the age of the gospel) does not specify a tenth or any percentage.
Examples of giving. As seen, Abram gave a tenth part to Melchizedek and thus performed a memorable act about which the writer of Hebrews would later comment (Gen. 14: 20; Heb. 7: 2-6). Almost immediately after the Lord's church came into existence, there was a financial need. Barnabas was one who is set forth as a model in giving. Concerning Barnabas it was simply said, "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4: 36, 37). The great generosity of Barnabas seemed to have brought out the worst in Ananias and Sapphira who lied about their giving (Acts 5: 1ff.). We see that in the recorded examples of giving that the amount is not necessarily the matter emphasized. I say this in view of the widow whom Jesus praised for in view of her giving.
"41: And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42: And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43: And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living" (Mk. 12: 41-44).
As earlier mentioned, though, the Father and the Son are seen as the ultimate givers in that, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son " and, " being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Jn. 3: 16; Phili. 2: 8).
There are many false standards when it comes to giving. There are those who subscribe to the philosophy of giving the minimum. "No more that I have to," they reason, "or just as little as I can." Such an attitude is diametrically opposed to "abounding in giving" (2 Cor. 8: 7). Others are guided by the thinking, "Whatever I find in my pocket when the plate is passed." Giving is an act of planning (2 Cor. 9: 7). The thinking of, "Whatever I do not need" is not uncommon," "let the wealthy do the giving," and "I will give just as much as brother Jones" are too often the criteria in determining our giving (cp. Matt. 6: 33; 1 Cor. 16: 2).
Reasons for giving. On a simple level, the two paramount circumstances of giving involve helping the needy and to enable the church to preach the gospel. Individuals based on their ability and opportunity have the privilege of helping those in need of the necessities of life (Eph. 4:28; I Jn. 3: 16, 17, aid should not be rendered to one able but unwilling to work, 2 Thes. 3: 10). The local church is, " the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3: 15). To the local church, God has assigned a certain work. This work involves the preaching of the gospel, edification of the saved, and the exercise of benevolence for needy saints (2 Tim. 4: 1-5; I Tim. 5: 16). This work requires financing (cp. I Cor. 9: 14, see vs. 6-14). The act of giving should not ever be viewed as an onerous duty, but a joyous privilege. Jesus said, " it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20: 35).
God's teaching today relative to giving. As mentioned, the Jew was required to "tithe." However, the teaching of the New Testament is not that simple. A designated amount is not stipulated, but instead we read regarding Paul presenting the giving of the Macedonia Christians to serve as impetus for the Corinthians:
"3: For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4: Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5: And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 6: Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 7: Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. 8: I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9: For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10: And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11: Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (2 Cor. 8).
Giving into the treasury of the local church is to be personally done. "Let every one of you lay by him in store," commanded Paul (I Cor. 16: 1). The giving is to be done every week and is to be proportionate (I Cor. 16: 2; 2 Cor. 8: 12, see addendum). There is to be purpose and planning as well as confidence in this giving (2 Cor. 9: 7; 2 Cor. 9; 8, 10). In this vein Paul taught:
"But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Cor. 9: 6-8).
God, rather than state an exact amount to be given in this age, goes by the principle of we show our love to both God and our fellow man by how we give (2 Cor. 8: 8; I Jn. 3: 17). Regarding helping a brother in need, John cogently wrote: "My little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth - in practice and in sincerity. By this we shall come to know - perceive and recognize and understand - that we are of the truth, and can reassure our hearts in his presence (I Jn. 3: 18, 19, the Amplified New Testament). God's "unspeakable gift" should continue to serve today as a means for our motivation in giving (2 Cor. 9: 15). (For a more detailed study, click on: "I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, a Study".)
Addendum: "In store" is from the Greek thesaurizon, the word from which we have derived our English word treasury. One reason for this instruction to give into the treasury of the local church was to avoid Paul having to gather the collection when he came to Corinth (I Cor. 16: 2). The expression, "Upon the first day of the week" is literally, "on the first day of every week" (kata mian sabbatou, cp. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle and Marshall). I say this because I believe that while the teaching in I Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is pertaining to a specific event, the needy saints at Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit meant for these texts to serve as teaching for the weekly collection. It should be appreciated that the free will giving of the members into the treasury on each Lord's Day is the only authorized means of financing the work of the local church. Hence, pie sales, real estate investment, and various money- making endeavors are excluded.