Four Myths About Giving
by Scott Morton
What the Bible really says and doesn’t say-about giving. When it comes to giving, we all have our beliefs and opinions. But it’s time to turn some sacred cows about giving out to pasture. As we believers become
more and more inundated with appeals for finances, we must separate truth from myth. Let’s examine what Scripture actually says and doesn’t say about giving.
Myth One – You must give 10 percent.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not suggesting we water down our giving. Instead, let’s discover the New Testament’s tough-yet-fair standard for giving.
I used to believe that everyone should give 10 percent. But the more I study the New Testament, the more I see a theme that overrides the 10 percent tithe.
Jesus’ teaching on tithing is limited to two comments. One was to the Pharisees in Mt. 23:23 (also recorded in Lk. 11:42), where Jesus criticized them for tithing but not practicing justice, mercy, and faithfulness. In this instance, Jesus did not suggest that the Pharisees stop tithing. Instead, He attacked a self-righteous
motivation for tithing.
Jesus also mentions tithing in Lk. 18:12 where He mimics a Pharisee, saying, “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
Once again, He does not speak for or against tithing but rather exhorts that self-righteous activities do not add up to pleasing God.
Peter, Paul, and James don’t even mention tithing in their letters. So, if the New Testament is silent on tithing as the guideline, does it offer another?
Yes! It’s tucked away in Lk. 21:1-4, the familiar story of Jesus observing “the rich” and a “poor widow” putting their gifts into the treasury.Jesus said the widow “put in more than all” the rich givers even though
she gave only “two very small copper coins.” Why? Because “she [gave] out of her poverty [or living]” whereas the rich gave “out of their surplus” (NASB).
Jesus commends giving that affects one’s lifestyle, no matter what the amount. If we give only out of surplus, we’ve missed the point.
If 10 percent is the goal in giving, then consider what happens to Adam (not his real name), a new believer I meet with for Bible study on Tuesday mornings. Adam earns $806 per month, or $9,672 per year. To
tithe, he would give $80 each month, leaving $720 to live on. His rent for an extremely modest apartment is $500 per month. It’s tough to raise two kids on that income with or without tithing.
Adam, like all of us, is commanded to give sacrificially. But for him, giving even $50 a month might be a sacrificial gift.
Another friend earns $250,000 yearly. Like Adam, he is a growing believer who wants to honor Christ in his giving. If he gave 10 percent of his income, that would leave $225,000 for living expenses, minus taxes.
Do you see my point? Is my $250,000 friend “off the hook” if he tithes? No. Most of us would say he could do more and should do more … and I know he does. But many rich Christians don’t.
C.S. Lewis put it well when he said, “I’m afraid biblical charity is more than merely giving away that which we could afford to do without anyway.”
Paul had ample opportunity to teach giving 10 percent, and as a former Pharisee we would have expected him to. But in I Cor. 16:1-4, “about the collection for God’s people” at Jerusalem, he does not mention
tithing. Instead, he commands believers to set aside gifts “in keeping with [their] income” on the first day of every week. Paul is even more insistent on sacrificial giving in 2 Cor. 8:3 when he encourages the Corinthians to emulate the Macedonians who gave “as much as they were able, and even beyond.” In verse seven, he exhorts the Corinthians to “excel” in giving. Again, instead of setting up tithing as the standard, Paul, like Jesus, seems to have a broader, more far-reaching standard in mind.
So how much should we give? The New Testament does not prescribe a fixed percentage. Jesus tells us to give in such a way that our lifestyle is affected. Give “of your living,” not merely your surplus.
Myth Two – You must give the first 10 percent to your local church.
Commonly known as storehouse tithing, this teaching centers on Mal. 3: 10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” Not a partial tithe, but all of it.
Some churches say this means you ought to give your whole tithe to the local church. If you want to give more than 10 percent (which is often encouraged), then support mission organizations, the poor, or friends
The “storehouse” of the Temple was a special room used for keeping tithed grain. But is the local church the cultural equivalent of the Jewish Temple?
Bible scholars warn against bringing the practices of the Jewish Temple forward 2,000 years into the policies of the Church. Following that logic, wouldn’t we be obligated to adopt other Jewish practices, too?
Walter C. Kaiser, in Malachi: God’s Unchanging Love, says, “We must be careful about using this verse to insist on ‘storehouse’ tithing … the storehouse is not equated with the local church.”
Pastors are not wrong to ask for the first 10 percent to go to the local church as long as they make it clear it’s not a biblical command. A pastor friend of mine says asking for the first 10 percent for the local church is a “fine policy, but you can’t get that from Mal. 3: 10. ” I believe the largest portion of our giving should go to the local church-not because of a Scripture proof text but rather because of simple logic. If the parishioners don’t give to their local assembly, who will?
And where else might we give? Some biblical suggestions are to the poor (Gal. 2: 10), orphans and widows (James 1:27), those in full-time service (Dt. 26:12), missions (I Cor. 16:3, Phil. 4:10-20,3 Jn. 5-8), and those who teach us (Gal. 6:6). Give where you choose! Can it be that unrestricted? Paul summed it up best in 2 Cor. 9:7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give.”
But won’t this kill support for the local church? No. Not if giving is taught as a part of discipleship and not just once a year.
Myth Three – If Christian leaders
truly trusted God, they
wouldn’t have to “ask.”
The accidental patron saint of this belief is George Mueller of Bristol, England, a godly pastor who saw vast amount, come in for support of his orphanages without making appeals. We love to hear of “last-second deliveries,” like when the milk wagon broke down in front of the orphanage the very day Mueller ran out of milk. Rather than let it spoil, the milkman gave it all to the orphanage. A miracle? Yes! In our hearts, we wish all church and mission needs could be miraculously fulfilled like that. Just think … no more letters
asking for funds. No more telephone appeals at supper time. No more “Stewardship Sunday.” No more offering plates!
But are sincere, honest appeals for funds unbiblical? If appeals for funds are wrong, then what about:
– Jesus telling the 12 and the 70 not to take provisions for their ministry trips but to.
live off the “worthy men” in the village they visited. Showing up at the door is tantamount to an appeal in the hospitality rich culture of the Middle East (Mt. 10:11). – Paul hoping to be “helped on my way” to
Spain by the Romans (Ro. 15:24). – Paul asking the churches to support the economically struggling believers back in Judea (1 Cor. 16:2).
– Moses asking the people to give gold, silver, and other gifts to build the Tabernacle (Ex. 35:5).
– Elijah asking the widow at Zarephath for a meal (1 K. 17:10-11). – Joash asking for gifts to “restore the temple of the LORD” (2 Chron. 24:4-5).
A missionary once told me over breakfast, “Scott, I’m not like you. I don’t make appeals for support. I just trust the Lord.” However, he honestly admitted, “But I think about finances all the time.”Although I too am a missionary, by contrast, I rarely thought about finances, except to manage them.
I tentatively asked my friend, “Which took more faith for Elijah? Trusting that a raven would bring him food every day? Or going to the non-Jewish, poor widow of Zarephath to ask for her last meal?” He
agreed that asking only God (ravens) and asking people (the widow) both took faith.
Back to Mueller. Many people don’t realize that in Mueller’s day great noontime prayer meetings were held in several large cities. Mueller’s people often gave answers to prayer or prayer requests at these events.
Also, Mueller sent out reports (rightly so) of his orphanage work, accounting for finances. True, Mueller did not appeal directly. But needs were made known. And that’s fine. For in deciding where to give, people usually must first be aware of specific needs.
Pastors and missionaries who make biblical, sincere, non-manipulative appeals trust God as much as those who “ask only God.”
Myth Four – Once you make a giving commitment, you can never stop.
Deuteronomy 23:21 tells us, “If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for … you will be guilty of sin.” Based on this, we feel a missionary’s ministry would be ruined if we were to cut his or her support, even by a small amount.
But Dt. 23:21 must be balanced with Dt. 16:17: “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”Giving is to be proportionate to how much you receive. For example,
when a wife discontinues an outside job to have a baby, that reduces the couple’s income, so giving could be reduced, too. Some couples, by faith, continue giving at their former level, but it would not be wrong to cut back.
What if you want to cut back or redistribute your giving simply out of preference? Perhaps you would rather support outreach in Kazakhstan than continue a 10-year-old pledge to a rescue mission downtown. Can you reduce your rescue mission pledge and add to your Kazakhstan pledge?
Both those who give and those who receive must understand the principle of vertical giving and receiving found in Num. 18:21: “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel… in return for the work they do.”
Missionaries receive from God; givers give to God. You have the privilege and responsibility to give, but you are not the source. If you’re a giver, relax. And if you’re a receiver, relax. You have the privilege of receiving, but look to God ultimately-not your donors.
Wouldn’t the rescue mission folks get discouraged if you quit giving to them? Perhaps. However, they need to look ultimately to God for support, not to you.
A second reason I believe you can rearrange your giving preferences is because of the “joy quotient” concept found in 2 Cor. 9:7: “for God loves a cheerful giver.”
If your enthusiasm for the rescue mission has dwindled to a joyless “have-to,” first, examine your commitment to Christ-if all your giving is a drudgery, you’re likely struggling with a serious worldly
distraction. Once you’ve checked your spiritual health, determine which ministries you can support joyfully.
Take your commitments seriously, and avoid mindlessly switching, but don’t consider them a lifelong, nonchangeable steel trap.
The Adventure of Creative Giving
Giving can be a blast. Paul told the people in Corinth that “God loves a cheerful giver!” (2 Cor. 9:7). Regular, planned, and generous giving is the backbone of a responsible giving program, but throwing in some creativity multiplies the joy! Here are a few ideas to whet your creative appetite.
Anonymous Giving. Listen for specific needs people have and then figure out a way to meet them undetected. Several years ago, I needed $150 to attend a conference. Every day the entire week before the
conference, I found money tucked everywhere: in my Bible, my purse, in unmarked envelopes in my mailbox. It all added up to $150.
Planning for Annual Gifts. Every spring I anticipate several one-time gift appeals for summer missions opportunities. I set aside money so that I can respond to as many as possible. I also like to stick in a
roll of film or tuck in some stamps or batteries just for fun.
Taking Someone Shopping. Rather than just handing someone money, take them shopping. I love to take furloughing missionaries to a mall and give them a budget. They get to choose what they want, and it’s a
great time to build a relationship.
Hiring for Services. I know a talented single mom on a meager income. I “commission” her to make floral arrangements for me. She earns extra money with dignity, and I get hand-crafted decorations.
Footing the Bill. Pay some of the tuition, or cover for the textbooks, or supply the paper and pens for someone going back to school. If you can afford it, pay the rent for a student’s apartment for a quarter.
My first giving experience was to pay the way for a teen from my church to attend summer camp-where he became a Christian!
Recycling Things You Don’t Need. A friend of mine recently upgraded to a new computer system. Rather than selling her old system, she put more memory in it, added a couple of programs, and gave it to a high-
school student with the promise of tutoring her in word processing skills. In return, this student will be equipped to get a summer job.
Giving as a Family. Many families have rediscovered the joy of the holidays by giving each other token gifts, pooling the rest of the money they’d normally spend each other, and getting gifts for people less fortunate. Why not try at non-holiday times of the year?
Just’ Cuz Gifts. Giving gifts for no apparent reason is a creative press care and love, especially when you give them usual ways, Send gifts to your kids or spouse in the ail. Create a scavenger hunt to find the gifts. Give someone bulbs to plant or a gallon of paint if he or she is redecorating.
Spontaneous generosity is contagious. Creative ideas generate more ideas. If you look for ways to give hilariously, you will find them. Have fun!
Best New Books about money
Saving Money Any Way You Can
by Mike Yorkey
Find out more of Mike’s money-saving ideas. His enthusiasm is contagious, making this book pleasurable and practical. (Servant)
Spending Less Workbook
by Stephen and Amanda Sorenson
This is a true workbook-there’s lots for readers to do. Don’t miss the excellent chapters on home and automobile maintenance. (Moody)
Sound Mind Investing Strategies series
by Austin Pryor
These easy-to-use booklets explain IRAs, annuities, stocks, money markets, and bonds. Debt-free Investing tackles the critical issues of reducing debt and saving for the future. Investing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way addresses how to glorify God in the way we manage our finances. (Moody)
by Ron Blue (two audio cassettes)
Blue’s four principles of sound financial practice are masterfully explained and tangible to the novice. (Thomas Nelson)
‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple
by Barbara DeGrote-Sorensen and David Allen Sorensen
This book chronicles one family’s conviction about and journey toward simplicity. In the process of learning to live with less, they were blessed with more. (Augsburg)
by John Schneider
John Schneider, professor of theology at Calvin College, offers biblical principles that define mankind’s relationship with wealth. Don’t write this book off as merely a justification for Christian conspicuous consumption. Rather, it is a scholarly look at the potential redemptive partnership of material delight and social justice. (InterVarsity)
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