Inevitably when a Biblical discussion on the ordinance of giving is begun, one of the questions which is most often asked is “How much do I have to give?” It seems to be the understanding of many people that as long as they give a certain amount (which they generally term a “tithe”) God will be satisfied and they can continue their lives to spend their money elsewhere. While certainly there are times where this question is a legitimate one, there seem to be more occasions where the question takes on the role of, “How little can I give and God still be content?” This type of approach to giving is neither acceptable nor pleasant in the sight of God. Let us consider the principles of giving that we might determine what is pleasing to God.
Giving under the Old Law. Though not binding for the New Testament Christian today, the laws of giving which God levied upon the children of Israel under the Law of Moses can serve an informational value to us in seeking to understand God’s approach to giving. There are two distinct factors laid forth in the Old Law concerning giving.
They were to give a “tithe” to the Lord which included ten percent of all they earned, whether crops, cattle, or money. God told Israel, “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord” (Lev. 27:30). These people were required to give ten percent of all they brought in. If it was too far a journey to bring the actual items themselves they were to exchange the items for money and offer that instead. This was to be done, not because God was greedy, but in order to fulfill the needs of the priests and Levites who were not given an inheritance. God was using the abundance of one group of His people to take care of another.
They were also to give of the first fruits. God has always required man to give the best, not the leftovers (Gen. 4:4). The same held true under the Old Law. God commanded Israel, “That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord the God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there” (Deu. 26:2).
Therefore, God expected Israel both to give the first fruits and to give a certain amount. Though not binding to us today, this helps reinforce the importance God places upon giving and what He expects of us as we approach Him with our offering.
Giving under the New Law. Just as there were commandments under the Old Law concerning giving, so there are laws for us today as well. These laws, though more general in nature, should not be taken as any less serious than the laws of the Old Testament.
We are to give on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). This is the time which has been authorized for us to give of our means to the Lord. Because God has specified one day, that excludes other days of the week being used for that purpose.
We are to give as we have prospered (1 Cor. 16:2). This may be different for every individual. All men do not have the same job with the same salary, therefore God does not state a specific amount to be given, but we are to give according to our prosperity. This also means that if our prosperity changes our offering to God should change.
We are to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). We are not to be ones who are frustrated or angry over every dollar we “have” to give God. Rather it should be from the generosity, graciousness, and thankfulness of our hearts that we give to God of the blessings He has bestowed upon us.
God has given us many blessings in this life. As we seek to answer the question, “how much do I have to give,” we should consider it from the vantage point of how thankful we are. For truly the attitude that leads us to give tells a great deal about what we think of God and all that He has done for us.
While we are not required to “tithe”, 10% is a biblical number and a good place to start. For a variety of reasons, perhaps we can not give 10% right now, but we can sit down and work out a plan to get to that level. How much did the first century church give? (Acts 2:43-47). The faithful Christian should be able to find a level of giving somewhere between 10-100%.
You are absolutely correct. Though the 10% figure is not commanded specifically in the New Testament, it gives a good frame of reference for what God has found acceptable in the past and should serve to assist us in reckoning our giving.
Yes, you said that much better than I did. Thanks for the good article!