Question: "What does the Bible say about giving?"
Answer: The Bible has a lot to say about giving!
First, Jesus declares that our attitude toward money is indicative of the focus of our hearts: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). It is helpful to look at our various financial accounts and observe how we spend our money. Our love for God and His work will show up in how we give our money away.
The Bible gives some helpful principles to guide us in how we think about and how we give our money:
1. God owns everything and gives His things, including money, to whom He chooses. Consider Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Consider also Proverbs 22:2, “Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the Maker of them all.” The reality is that all we have is from God. He gives according to His purposes and plans. The question should never be “How much of my money should I give away?” but “How would God have me use His money?”
2. How we spend and give away God’s money is a fundamental aspect of worship. Colossians 3:17 commands us to do everything for God’s glory, whatever we do. Thus, when we spend and give our money, we must be confident that what we’re doing glorifies God and honors Him. This includes our charitable giving to the church and other gospel ministries. But it also includes what we do with all of the money entrusted to us by God.
3. Giving to the church and the ministry of the gospel is commanded by God. First Corinthians 16:1–2 addresses the need for giving: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 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.” Consistent giving to the church for the ministry is a directive of God to Christians.
4. Giving is to be done with thoughtfulness, sacrifice, generosity, and joy. We are to thoughtfully consider how much to give based upon our income (1 Corinthians 16:2). Along these lines, 2 Corinthians 9:6–7 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Thoughtfulness, generosity, freedom, and joy are all part of giving. We are to be “cheerful” in our giving. It’s easy to be joyful when singing praise songs to God. This same joy should be present in our giving. We have an example of sacrificial giving in the Macedonians, who gave even in their “severe trial,” “extreme poverty,” and “beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:1–9).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to give around 23 percent of their annual income to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30), to fund celebrations such as Passover (Deuteronomy 12:10–18), and to help the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28–29). These commands included two tithes (the giving of 10 percent) and a third of a tithe. The giving was a legal requirement in Israel’s theocracy.
On top of their required giving, God directed the Israelites to give “freewill” offerings. Deuteronomy 16:10 explains that they were to give a “freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you.” It is this directive that is most similar to the New Testament type of giving. There is no tithe required today, but our gifts are more akin to a freewill offering. After prayer and consideration, we give as we feel God would have us to. Believers have freedom in this area of worship. As the Lord prospers us, we should consider giving more.
5. Our giving is to be done quietly. Jesus warned us against giving with fanfare or in a manner that would draw attention to ourselves. He told us, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). Our giving should “be in secret” (verse 4). And we have the promise that “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (verse 4). God the Father’s reward will surely be better than the applause and accolades of men.
6. As we give for God’s glory, sacrificially, generously, and joyfully, God promises blessing. The one who gives generously also reaps generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). Proverbs 22:9 states, “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” And Jesus says in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” In our giving for the glory of God, we build up treasure in heaven. We do not seek earthly, material prosperity, but we rest assured that God will reward and bless us somehow, someday. Perhaps the blessing will come here on earth, but it will most definitely come in glory.
In Philippians 4:18, Paul describes the Philippians’ financial gifts to him as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” The church’s practical help of Paul’s ministry was noticed by God and pleasing to Him. We, too, can be faithful stewards of God’s gifts in our giving.