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Tipping, Tithing, and Grace Giving (Part 7)

IMPLEMENTING GRACE GIVING

Most of what I have shared previously unpacks the biblical basis for Grace Giving. See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This final article will focus on the practical application of these biblical truths. Once you understand Grace Giving, how do you start doing it?

As a reminder, here is a quick review of biblical facts. These are fully presented in the previous articles, so I will just state them here without explanation.

  • Material and financial giving to the Lord has always been a response to grace and an act of grace.
  • The Jewish people under the Old Testament system were required to “tithe,” which means give 10%, of their material and financial possessions to the Lord. There were actually three tithes, so they gave more than just 10%. There is no requirement for New Testament Christians to tithe.
  • The Old Testament followers of God also gave free-will offerings, which were voluntary contributions to show worship, devotion, and thanks.
  • Jesus had a lot to say about giving, especially the motive for it.
  • The New Testament church, described in the Book of Acts, practiced voluntary giving according to people’s individual ability. The offerings were received and distributed through the church.
  • There are two objectives of grace giving presented in the New Testament: supporting Gospel work and helping people in need.
  • The key word in the New Testament that is associated with financial and material giving is grace. The motivation for giving is not obligation or manipulation, but a willing heart.
  • Every Christian should regularly practice the grace of giving.
  • Biblical giving is willing, voluntary, responsive, and generous.

Now let me suggest some practical steps for implementing Grace Giving.

  • Have a discussion with anyone who shares your spiritual and financial decisions. In other words, if you’re starting a new financial practice, you should talk about it with your spouse, or future spouse if you’re engaged. For a child living at home, it would be good to talk through this with your parents. Grace giving is a serious financial commitment. The people in your life who are close to you and will be impacted by this decision should be aware of your thinking and plans.
  • Consider the biblical giving objectives of supporting Gospel work and helping people in need. Hopefully you are part of a local assembly of believers. This is the primary context in which biblical giving takes place. Have conversations with the leaders about the how funds are channeled to accomplish these objectives. Learn everything you can so you will be able to purposefully and prayerfully plan your giving.
  • Consider the needs of the ministry. These are often reflected in the yearly budget and in periodic financial reports. Look at the church’s budget as an indicator of what the ministry needs in order to accomplish Gospel work. Let this guide you as you determine how you will support it.
  • Answer the questions: What do I have? What can I give? This is where the difference between tithing and grace giving stands out. People who practice tithing simply calculate 10% of their income and put it in the offering. But there is no formula for grace giving. It isn’t wrong to use 10% as a guide for how much you give. But remember a couple of things. The Jewish people gave much more than 10% (see Part 3). And biblical giving is characterized, not by doing the least you can, but the best and most you can (see Part 4).

    Look at what God has provided for you. Consider that He “is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Then prayerfully determine how much you can give in response to His grace. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart . . . “ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Your determination may be one week at a time, one month at a time, or a year at a time. It may be less than 10%. It may be much more than 10%. It should be proportionately generous. It should be characterized by grace.

  • Make your practice of giving a priority, not an afterthought. Don’t start spending your money and wait to see what’s left over to give. Plan first what you will give and arrange your financial decisions in coordination with your plan.
  • Choose a start date. Decide when you’re going to start Grace Giving and put it on your calendar.
  • Set aside your gift. Designate or separate it somehow so it doesn’t vanish as you start paying your way through the week or month. As Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper . . . “.
  • Offer it to the Lord. Consciously worship God in your heart and mind as you present your offering of finances to Him. Think of His grace as you practice grace toward Gospel work and toward needy people. Whether you are placing a check or cash in an offering plate, dropping it in a box, or giving online, think about what you are doing as an act of love, devotion, and thanks to God.
  • Look for additional needs and opportunities. No doubt you will observe or hear about special projects, evangelistic work, and needy people along the way. Prayerfully consider each one as an opportunity to practice the grace of giving.
  • Rejoice! Yes, God does “love a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). It delights God when we give, not because we have to, but because we get to. So make your giving an occasion for joy.

Many people have special situations that produce questions about giving. I’ll address some of those.

  • We all go through stages and phases of life that affect our ability to give. These may include income adjustments, children’s needs, school costs, health expenses, job change or loss. What do we do during these times? You are under grace. Keep practicing grace giving. Do what you can. Go back to the questions, “What do I have? What can I give?” and reevaluate based on your current circumstances. Give accordingly.
  • Some may question whether and how much to give while in debt. Here are a few suggestions.

    First, meditate on and pray over this truth from Scripture: Psalm 37:21 The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives. Of course you should repay what you owe, but Christians should go farther than that. We are to reach a place where we are able to “show mercy and give.” In other words, we should work toward being in a financial position to be able to practice the grace of giving.

    Second, make a plan for reducing debt. There are many helpful resources for overcoming the burden of debt. Here are a few simple points:

    – Have a plan and a time period for eliminating debt.

    Include aggressive debt elimination payments (not minimum payments, not maintenance of debt lifestyle)

    – Give what you can, when you can, even if it is a little bit.

    – Evaluate your status each month.

    – Intentionally change your lifestyle from “debt living” to “grace giving.” (Ephesians 4:28)

  • Another special consideration is your view of people who prosper more than you. You might compare yourself to more financially prosperous individuals and be discouraged from giving yourself.   But grace giving fits every individual. Direct your thoughts and make your own decisions, guided by the following principles:

    – Recognize and rejoice in their gift of giving. (Romans 12:8)

    – Recognize the varying distribution of talents. (Matthew 25:14-30)

    – Do not envy. (1 Corinthians 3:3; 13:4)

    – Do not judge. (Romans 14:4, 10-13)

    – Give from what you have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)

CONCLUSION

May I encourage you to take what I have shared on Grace Giving and personalize it? A good way to do this is to get by yourself and prayerfully and honestly respond to the following questions:

  • Have you received God’s gift of salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ? This is how you begin fully experiencing God’s grace.
  • How would you rate the level of appreciation you have for God’s grace in your life?

    1) I hardly ever think about it.

    2) I say thank you sometimes, and I feel grateful when something prompts me to think about how good God is to me.

    3) Every day I am amazed that God loves me, has saved me, and blesses me. I know I could never attain who I am and what I have by myself. I am filled with gratitude. I want to continually give my whole self to God in return for what He has done for me.

  • Would you say you have a willing heart or an unwilling heart when you think about giving of your financial and material resources to the Lord?
  • Would you say that you “abound” in the grace of giving to the level that you are able
    (2 Corinthians 8:7)?
  • Take a few minutes and meditate on 2 Corinthians 8:9. Thank God for His amazing grace. How is God prompting you to grow in the grace of giving? What decisions will you make? What steps will you take?
 

Here’s What’s Coming Up

This will be a newsy update on a few important things going on in the life of our church and my preaching and teaching. I’ll return to the Grace of Giving series of articles and complete it within the next couple of weeks.

Last night we (the pastors) began introducing a new opportunity for growth and fellowship called Community Groups. This new element of church life is already being developed as two of our pastors are currently training people who will lead and support the groups. The opportunity for our church family to get involved will start in September of this year. We are sharing some details about Community Groups to various audiences within the church this week and next in order to address the ways it will impact them specifically and answer immediate questions. We will make a full presentation of Community Groups on Sunday, May 31 in our 10:30 AM worship service. Join us on that day to worship the Lord together, learn from His Word, and share in what God is doing in the life of our church. I am very excited to introduce this to you and to see the fruit of this new ministry as it is implemented this Fall.

Here is what I plan to preach on in our Sunday morning gatherings this summer. I know, technically summer doesn’t start until June 21, but let’s get a head start on enjoying it :).

  • Sunday mornings, June 7 and 14, I will preach on what it means to be Under Grace. My perception is that everyone, including believers and those who are far from God, need to learn what this means, or deepen their understanding of it. I think some live in ignorance because they don’t fully understand it, some live in bondage because they lack an appreciation for all it includes, and some misapply it because they don’t balance it with the full teaching of Scripture. I desire to grow in my understanding and appreciation of what it means to be Under Grace, so I look forward to digging into the Scriptures and sharing it with you.
  • Sunday mornings, June 21 – July 26, I will be preaching on True Community. This study of what real community, or “fellowship” as many know it, looks like in our lives, will help us get beyond the idea that fellowship consists of Christians being in the same place together, watching the same thing together, drinking coffee from the same white Styrofoam cups together, or going to activities together. We will learn that we ARE in fellowship with one another, and we will grow in how to PRACTICE fellowship with one another. This study will also relate to the beginning of Community Groups mentioned above.

There’s a glimpse of what’s coming up. I look forward to sharing the Word and growing together with you.

 

Tipping, Tithing, and Grace Giving (Part 6)

THE OBJECTIVES OF GRACE GIVING

It’s time to get practical. So far, we’ve looked at grace giving as a biblical principle and concept. Please read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 which are foundational to this article.

To whom and what should we give? As we consider grace giving, is there any biblical guidance regarding the people and causes we should support with our finances?  The answer is readily apparent from specific instructions given by the Apostles and from the practice of the first New Testament believers.

The primary aim of grace giving is to glorify God. Hebrews 13:16 says of grace giving, “. . . with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” But our financial offerings are not burned up on an altar. They provide practical benefit to someone or something.  The New Testament specifies who and what should be the targets of our giving.

As I have studied and restudied this topic, I have observed two main objectives of grace giving. They are helping people in need and supporting Gospel work.

HELPING PEOPLE IN NEED
This has great prominence in the New Testament, which is why I list it first. I wouldn’t say it’s a higher priority than the other objective, but it is often marginalized in comparison. It isn’t in the scope of this article, but believers and church leaders should thoroughly study and consider the implications of the New Testament principles and pattern of giving to help people in need. The Scriptures provide clear instructions and examples. It is abundantly clear that helping people with material provision during times of genuine need is elemental to New Testament Christianity.

Let’s look at the relevant Scriptures.  Note that Paul, Peter, James, and John all address this.

Believers In Need
As stated in previous articles, 2 Corinthians 8-9 contain the most extensive instruction on financial giving in the New Testament. Here Paul taught the principles of grace giving and applied them to helping other believers who are in need.  He called their financial offering “the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (8:4) and “the ministering to the saints” (9:1). The purpose of it was to “supply their lack” (8:14). The “administration of this service . . . supplies the needs of the saints” (9:12). Paul was not introducing anything new. This was the practice of Jesus’ followers from the founding of the church (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). This kind of giving should flow naturally within the body of Christ.

Paul also exhorts believers in Romans 12:13 to manifest love for others that includes “distributing to the needs of the saints.”

In 1 John 3:16-17, John uses the example of Jesus laying down His life for us to urge us “to lay down our lives for the brethren.” He then pointedly applies this principle, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Both Believers and Unbelievers
According to Galatians 6:10, Paul says we are to “do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Our responsibility is first to other Christians, then to anyone, including unbelievers, in our circle of awareness who has a need.

Orphans and Widows
The familiar words of James 1:27 tell us that true religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.” To “visit” means to look after and care for. Those left behind after the death of a loved one often experience material needs in addition to the need for comfort. This is an opportunity for the body of Christ to practice the grace of giving.

Caution
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 Paul makes it clear that we are not responsible to help those who will not work to provide for their own needs. In fact, those who refuse to work and who depend on others to provide for them are considered disobedient to God. One of the great challenges of providing relief to the needy is discerning whether someone is a worthy cause or not. In being generous, we need to be good stewards as well, and not enable those who habitually rely on others to support them.

Grace giving is our response to God’s grace to us and a reflection of it. Anyone who has walked with God has experienced His gracious provision during times of material need. One way we can reflect His grace is by helping others who lack. Our generous assistance is not merely a humanitarian deed, it is an act of worship. As the writer of Hebrews says, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (13:16).

SUPPORTING GOSPEL WORK
This second objective of grace giving includes the people who are engaged in the work of spreading the Gospel and in establishing and leading churches.

Giving to those involved in spreading the Gospel
Paul asserts the general principle behind this objective in 1 Corinthians 9:7-14. He defended his right to receive financial support as a preacher of the Gospel, even though he was reluctant to actually accept it. His argument for this right in verse 14 is taken from Jesus’ teaching, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” This is either a summation of Jesus’ instructions such as Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:8 or a quotation of unrecorded teaching by Jesus. Paul spent his life spreading the Gospel. He taught that it was right for those reached with the Gospel to provide materially for those who ministered to them spiritually. He asked them, “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (verse 11).

In our present day, this would include missionaries, church planters, and others engaged in Gospel-spreading ministries, of which there are many examples – rescue missions, orphanages, campus ministries, and more.

Another key passage that presents Gospel work as an objective of financial giving is Philippians 4:10-20. Paul expressed his deep gratitude to the Christians in Philippi for providing for his material needs. He said, “. . . in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.” He thanked them because they “. . . sent aid once and again for my necessities” (verse 16). He even called it “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (verse 18). Their generous gift to support Paul’s Gospel-advancing work was an offering to God.  Thus it is clear that when we give financially to support those who spread the Gospel we are performing an act of worship toward God.

A third key passage on this objective of financial giving is 3 John 5-8. John commends Christians who “send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (verse 6). The ones they supported are those who “went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles” (verse 7). It seems these were individuals who traveled to share the good news of Jesus with people who needed to hear. They did not rely on unbelievers for their support, but accepted the help of brothers and sisters in Christ to help them on their way.

Giving to those who shepherd churches and teach the Word
In addition to people engaged in direct evangelism, there are those who do the Gospel work of shepherding churches and teaching them the Word. These carry on the work of those who first shared the Gospel and started the churches. Paul refers to them in two places. The first is 1 Timothy 5:17-18: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’ “

An “elder” is one who holds an office of leadership in the local church. My belief is that the New Testament terms of “bishop,” “elder,” and “pastor” all refer to the man or men who hold the primary leadership positions in the local church. Paul’s instruction contains the dual role that pastors have, of leading (“rule well”) and feeding (“labor in the Word”). He states that it is right for those who do this as their life’s work to receive compensation worthy of it.

Paul gives a similar instruction in Galatians 6:6, specifying who should provide this material compensation. “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” It is the biblical responsibility of those who benefit from the leadership of their pastors to, according to their ability, provide for the material needs of those men.

The Scriptures do not speak specifically to financial provision for facilities and programs. These often constitute a major percentage of a church’s budget. While the primary objectives of our giving include the people who evangelize and shepherd, it seems legitimate to fund properties and programs that help accomplish Gospel work and facilitate church life. The extent of this of course is up to individual believers and church leaders.

CONCLUSION
The final article in this series will continue in a practical direction as I will share specific suggestions for How to Implement Grace Giving.

 
 
 
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