Principles of giving
Prevailing sentiment is that churches and money mix together about as well as oil and water. We are appalled at the preacher who needed a new jet to enhance his “ministry.” Or the pastor who calls for hearers to sacrificially give to support his or her lavish lifestyle. These outlandish abuses, however, should not keep us from lives of generosity. Today, let’s consider three giving principles.
We see the first two principles in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” First, generosity is to be regular. Notice the Corinthian believers are urged to set aside a sum on the first day of every week. While regularity doesn’t necessarily mean weekly, we should consider if our lives are marked by a pattern of regular generosity.
Second, generosity is to be proportional. We’re encouraged to set aside a sum “in keeping with (our) income.” Additionally, 2 Corinthians 8:12 reads, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
God doesn’t require generosity that bankrupts a person, but rather desires a generosity that matches a person’s God-given resources. A man on a fixed income recently lamented to me that he could not give more, and I reminded him of the joyful truth of this principle. God doesn’t expect the same amount from all, but accepts proportional giving. It has been said, “Not equal giving, but equal sacrifice.”
Randy Alcorn reminds believers that “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”
As my income rises, is my generosity growing proportionally?
Finally, generosity that God loves is cheerful. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reminds us, “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.” Neither reluctant giving (I’d rather spend the money on other things) nor giving from compulsion (I’m giving out of guilt or to meet others’ expectations) pleases God. But the cheerful giver? That is the heart that God loves! But what moves a person to this type of generosity? How can we overcome our natural reluctance to give? By remembering the lavish way that God gives to us regularly, proportionally and cheerfully.
Consider the magnitude of God’s generosity when He gave the gift of Jesus, His Son. This was not a one-time gift but an ongoing, regular rescue for us from our sins through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross. Amazingly, God has also given proportionally to us. Our infinitely wealthy God has given His infinitely valuable Son to reconcile every sinner who comes, by faith, to Himself. And finally, God gave his Son cheerfully. “Yet the Lord was pleased to crush (Jesus) severely. When you make him a guilt offering, he will see his seed, he will prolong his days, and by his hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.”
When we consider the breathtaking way that God has given to us regularly, proportionally and cheerfully, what a small price it seems for us to give as we’ve been given!
Pastor John Stone