Giving Is Good
Jesus is known for his profound wisdom and paradigm-breaking teaching. Even 2,000 years after Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, his followers are challenged to live in the ways he has called us. One of those countercultural teachings is found in Acts when he is quoted as saying:
“It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” – Jesus (Acts 20:35)
Jesus says we’re robbing ourselves of something better and settling for something less when we don’t give. Giving is good. We know that. Still, many of us struggle to live a life of intentional and proactive generosity. There are three primary struggles that people tell me they have when it comes to growing in generosity:
- They’re not in the habit. They’ve never practiced generosity regularly before. It’s not been a part of their life.
- We tend to keep our finances very private. We don’t want to talk about money with anybody.
- The most predominant reason is that many live with a “scarcity mindset.” It’s a thought in our minds that we don’t have enough to be generous right now. We think we will be generous after we pay off the debt or get a raise at work.
(I challenge this thinking because if God’s love, evidenced by the death on a cross, isn’t enough to move us to generosity, then an extra dollar an hour or paying off that credit card won’t either.)
Finding Financial Freedom
This is the final part of a three-part study called Finding Financial Freedom. This is easily the most challenging topic we cover every other year at Madison Church.
(That’s saying a lot because we talk about politics and faith every other year too!)
Talking about finances makes people feel guilty or ashamed, and money has been a source of conflict and pain for almost all of us.
But that’s why we do these series.
God has something better for us.
Paul, writing to one church struggling with generosity about another church that thrives in generosity, says
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, what God in his kindness has done to the churches in Macedonia, they are being tested by many troubles and are very poor. Still, they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed their joy has overflowed and rich generosity. I can testify that they gave far more than what they could afford. And they did it of their own free will. They repeatedly begged us for the privilege of sharing and the gift for believers in Jerusalem.” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-4
These people in Macedonia are going through some really severe trials. They’re very poor, but they’re filled with joy. The overflow of this joy is practicing generosity. Paul challenges readers to grow in generosity no matter the situation or circumstances, as they’ve done. He tells us this will require intentionality like every other aspect of our faith:
“Because you excel in your faith, you’re gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us, I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving wants you to excel in this gift.” – 2 Corinthians 8:7
Becoming More Generous: Step 1
This is about being intentional and having a plan. As part of the plan, I recommend setting up a recurring gift. Pick the amount you’ll give, the frequency you’ll give, and start giving. This is the first step on the journey and is what Megan and I do. We see our giving come out the same day we get paid.
Becoming More Generous: Step 2
Stepping forward is the second step to growing in the grace of giving. The most challenging step we push people to take is tithing. We believe that this is biblical that the tithe is to give back to God 10% of whatever we make.
Tithing & the Bible
Tithing comes from a Hebrew word that means 1/10. We see tithing happen in the first few pages of the Bible, though not called “tithing” by name, with Cain and Abel. They’re supposed to bring the best of their livestock and harvest to God. Then we see it written down in Levitical law that you got to tithe. It’s explicitly commanded in Malachi:
“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, so there’ll be enough food in my temple. If you do, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will open the windows of heaven for you. I’ll pour out a great blessing. Try it. You will need more room to take it all in. Put me to the test.” – Malachi 3:10
For those of you who are Bible nerds, we’re told repeatedly to NOT test God. But when it comes to tithing, God gives us permission. This is the only time you can try God in the Bible. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. God’s blessings are greater than money and possessions.
I want to clarify that you and I are not bound by Levitical law. I’m not telling you to tithe because it’s written in Leviticus. It’s right there in Matthew if you were looking for an affirmation from Jesus and this new covenant that we live under.
“Yes, you should tithe, but do not neglect the more important things…” – Jesus (Matthew 23:23)
What I love most about this statement is that Jesus says there are more important things than tithing. His examples in this passage are mercy, justice, and faith. Jesus is saying, however, if we can’t get generosity right, we may as well forget about something important like justice.
(A funny fact about this passage… it’s triggered our one and only one-star review on Google. Someone wrote they gave us one star because we teach tithing. And I love a one-star review like that because what we believe about generosity is offensive. If there’s anything I want to be known for, it’s radical generosity.)
Many of you think giving 10% is crazy and impossible. To do that, I would have to totally and completely 100% rearrange my life around God.
That’s the point.
Becoming a more generous person is about total surrendering. What would happen if you tried tithing for the next 90 days? What might happen?
Challenged or Manipulated?
I want you to discern the difference between feelings of manipulation and being challenged. If you feel pushed to grow, I’m glad for you. You’re about to experience a new dimension in your relationship with God.
But, if anything I’ve written that makes you feel pressured to give, Paul says don’t give – and I’d back him up on that.
You must each decide in your heart how much to give, and don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves a person who gives cheerfully. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
Giving is good, and may God help us grow in the grace of giving.