Part Two: How should I give... and how much?
There’s a phrase we use around the staff offices quite a lot – it’s “you decide”. We use it because we’re trying to create a culture of decision making and ownership whereby people don’t have to ask me (as the Lead Pastor) or their direct line manager about everything. People can make decisions, feel empowered and the ministry kicks on.
‘You decide’ has its risks; sometimes, the wrong call is made and things can go wrong. But generally, so long as no one has the authority to sell the building, any ‘wrong’ decision can be put right, learnt from and (hopefully!) not repeated.
When it comes to our giving, and how much we should give (if at all!), it’s quite surprising to many Christians (especially those who’ve been around church for a while) that ‘you decide’ is what Paul the Apostle said to the early church. Check this out:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give…” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV).
The principle of ‘you decide’ is based upon GRACE. Grace is the undeserved favour of God upon our lives; so our response to giving is based upon what God has already done for us.
But the ‘grace of giving’ that Paul talks about also refers to something we do. Listen to Paul the Apostle here in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4:
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity…”
(2 Corinthians 8:1-2)
“But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
(2 Corinthians 8:7)
Being a grace is doing something or being someone that brings joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm and loveliness. In other words, it is referring to something we ourselves may produce or even experience.
And that’s what Paul is talking about here – ‘GRACE GIVING’, which we can do, out of what God has already done in our lives. So under grace, we really do get to decide. Therefore, grace giving is likely to be:
Think about sowing and reaping. 2 Corinthians 9:6: ‘Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously’.
Paul spoke of this in the same context as finance, I’m fairly certain there’s a link there. According to the laws of sowing and reaping, if nothing else, its in your interests to make your giving generous.
- Better than the Old Testament way
In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, the Israelites gave 10% of their income to fund worship and helping the poor. Lots of churches teach tithing, and that’s for each church to determine in their own heart. But we don’t. Because we can’t see it in the New Testament. Paul didn’t teach it, neither did Jesus. So if you’re looking for a place to start, matching the Old Testament way of giving 10% is where lots of a christians start, or aim for. But grace giving, is likely to exceed the older way. But everyone Is on a journey and needs to ‘decide in their heart’.
- In line with our income
This will look like a percentage. So many Christians commit to giving to God, under grace, a certain percentage of their income to the work of the Lord. That way, if you get a pay rise, or perhaps even lose your job, your level of giving is still in line with what you bring in.
- Not really an option
Hearts touched by the grace of a God will find it hard not to give out of grace. Paul said ‘Each man should give’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Not if. But should. It may not be easy, there may be some uncertainty, but a heart touched by the grace of God only ever wants to give back.
- Planned and definitely not random
Again, grace giving makes a plan and sticks to it. It doesn’t vary depending upon whether or not we liked the message, or agree with the mission of the local church. As Tony Morgan says “if you can’t trust the church with your wallet, you shouldn’t be trusting them with your soul” (Unstuck Church).
- First, not last.
Grace giving is given out of the first fruits. It sets a budget with the gift to God first. If the budget doesn’t add up, something else gives. In our church, if our budget doesn’t match up, everything is up for negotiation; except for our missions giving. That will always remain our biggest priority.
Giving is a challenge for everyone. No one is immune from the pull of money. ‘You decide’ is about exactly that; making a decision based on what you feel in your heart, your financial situation and the measure you feel the grace of God has impacted your life.
No one should be giving ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’ (2 Corinthians 8:7) – if that’s how you feel, holdback, ask the Lord about it and see what He says to you. God loves a ‘cheerful giver’(8:7); one that gives with smile on their face, gladness in their heart and a big bold message to the world: Jesus is King; not cash!
Questions for application
- Have their been times in my life in the past where I have giving ‘under compulsion’? How did that make me feel? How do I feel about giving under grace?
- How have I decided up to now how to give, and does it sound like grace-giving?
- What can I do to make sure my giving resembles grace-giving? Where do I need to make some changes. How am I going to do that?