The Structure of A Church's Giving
When we left off with the makeup of a Biblical church structure, we discussed the great importance of discipleship. An interesting component of discipleship is that, sometimes, topics surface that have the potential to become very emotional, and divisive. While there are many areas today that seem to be used to erode someone's walk with the Lord, none seems more corrosive than the topic of money.
I recall personally, one Sunday, the family of a close friend of mine decided to join us for services at the church we were members of. My friend had been inviting her dad for some time to come along, but his excuse was that, "All these churches care about is money." Well, after several weeks of urging, he finally came. We all piled into the pew, sang the hymns, and settled in for the preaching time. The preacher came to the pulpit, and started off with a message on financial stewardship that Sunday. Of all Sundays, THAT Sunday. My friend and I were discouraged. Over the years however, being in ministry myself, I have come to realize that this may have been the Holy Spirit trying to pierce through to this man's heart, because most struggle, at some point, with holding too tightly to the glittery objects of this world.
When it comes to the giving of believers in the New Testament, many divide church giving into giving God the first ten percent of our increase (the tithe), and giving by God's grace to other needs that arise via the vehicle of faith in God's ability to provide when He leads (grace giving).
The tithe is a much contested topic among many Christians today. Unfortunately, many dispute this concept of giving, not out of a desire to give more, but in an effort to give less. That God, now, intends all of the monies He blesses me with, are to be used for my purposes, and belong to me alone. However, Jesus reveals that this mentality is an indicator of a life that is not merely selfish, but imbalanced:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
- Matthew 6:19-24
One of the prevailing opinions surrounding this thought is that giving God the first ten percent of our increase is part of the Old Testament law system, and thereby is abolished in the New Testament. It is true that the tithe was to be paid under the law, yet to say that tithing was only a part of the law is a misunderstanding of the congruity of the Scriptures. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek prior to the law in Genesis fourteen. Jesus further commended the tithe in Luke eleven.
That being said, outside of the Gospels and Hebrews, you do not find any mention of the tithe in the New Testament. This is curious, but when looking at the giving of the church in the Scriptures it is easily explained.
God speaks much of the topic of physical possessions. In Bible times, this consisted of bartering services, livestock, drinks, and precious metals. Today, the majority of us pay for things with, and work for the expectation of, money. Money, as shown in the passage quoted before, is a huge indicator as to what our life is motivated by. So, it is clear as one studies the church in the New Testament, you find within the church a multitude of amazingly generous people. People who still led lives, had families, and went through difficulty while still joyfully giving beyond the rigid line of the "ten percent".
This reveals a concept of giving, rarely seen in the Old Testament, but which saturates the New. Grace giving. Giving that is discussed in caring for the needs of struggling, persecuted church members (II Corinthians 8), its ministers in the Word (I Corinthians 9 and I Tim 5v17-18), and its missionaries (III John 1:5-8). Giving that went far beyond the base-line of the ten percent. The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse as he boasted, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of the Macedonian believers:
"That in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 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."
- 2 Corinthians 8:2-5
Here the Bible tells us that these saints gave "beyond" their natural ability, and anyone's preconceived expectations of a people who were, themselves, in the grips of "deep poverty". Even more amazing, is the realization that the context shows us how their willingness to be channels of the providing grace of God, was used to encourage a church of greater wealth in Corinth to give to the cause by faith.
Clearly, we are taught that, in this age of grace that we live in, it is not that we are obligated to pay a tithe to the Lord, but rather we have the blessing of getting to give the tithe in a showing of love to the Lord, and are enabled by His grace to give so much more. To give, by faith in God's ability to provide, as the Apostle Paul so concisely puts it in II Corinthians 9v8:
"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."
The challenging questions are not, "should a Christians tithe", or "should I be willing to commit to give to God by Faith in His ability to provide". Rather, I believe the question is why am I so unwilling to honor God with the first ten percent (at least) of His provisions for me. With regards to giving above the tithe, we must ask ourselves, why is it we seem so unwilling to give in faith, in spite of the bills (resulting of choice or otherwise), in spite of the economy, in spite of the claws of societal covetousness, to be a blessing physically to help those who are struggling around us, or to sustain the missionary that is serving as an extension of our church family in a place I cannot be. In an age where churches across America are struggling to keep the doors open, its time we realize that our churches could possibly be more enabled to reach our generation, if the provisions God has sent to the members of that church actually made it, with joy, to the church on Sunday (I Corinthians 16:2), and not to Amazon on payday.
- Pastor Knight
Today's Bible Reading:
II Corinthians 8:1-24
 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;  How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.  For to [their] power, I bear record, yea, and beyond [their] power [they were] willing of themselves;  Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and [take upon us] the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.  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.  Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.  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.  I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.  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.  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.  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.  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.  For [I mean] not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:  But by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality:  As it is written, He that [had gathered] much had nothing over; and he that [had gathered] little had no lack.  But thanks [be] to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.  For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.  And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise [is] in the gospel throughout all the churches;  And not [that] only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and [declaration of] your ready mind:  Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:  Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.  And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, upon the great confidence which [I have] in you.  Whether [any do enquire] of Titus, [he is] my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren [be enquired of, they are] the messengers of the churches, [and] the glory of Christ.  Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.