The Giver God Loves
Dr. Russell K. Tardo
Scripture Reference: 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.
The subject of giving is one that I don't often address. Unfortunately, the subject of giving is so frequently and widely taught these days that many Christians have grown weary at the prospect of hearing another message on giving. Just as the subject of giving has been overly emphasized by some, it is also possible to go to the opposite extreme by neglecting the subject altogether. A balance should be maintained in every sense but giving is a very important subject. It is especially important during times of economic difficulty when people feel it would be foolish and even extravagant to be generous. However, giving is quite relevant and as Christians, it is our responsibility as stewards of God's resources.
- Sowing and Reaping -
6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
We believe in an inspired Bible and we know that Paul spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver, not a begrudging, grasping or reluctant giver. He's talking here about a happy giver who considers it an honor and privilege to give.
This congregation knows that we don't make giving a major focus of attention. While we do pass the offering plate, no one gives a 20-minute preliminary lecture on giving before the plate is passed. No one stands over the plate to see how much each person puts in the plate. As pastor, I don't know how much each individual contributes; thankfully, I have someone who takes care of that phase of the church ministry. Therefore I am not influenced by the size of any person's contributions or lack of contributions. I leave all the conditions surrounding each person's giving to that individual and the Holy Spirit. While I disassociate myself from the giving practices of membership there is one that does know and He's the one to whom we all answer. Is that New Testament or is it not?
Looking again at verse 6, what does the word sparingly mean? The word means frugally, to sow little. God is the one who anointed Paul to use the illustration of a farmer who is sowing his field. The picture here is that of one who sows sparingly, having only a few grains of seed in hand. He takes each seed individually and then cautiously decides just where he is going to put that one seed. This farmer is sowing sparingly which means a little, not much. Consequently, his harvest will reflect that he sowed sparingly. On the other hand, the one who sows bountifully which means with a full hand is scattering seed by generous handfuls. In proportion to his dispersion of seed, this farmer will reap a bountiful harvest.
- What is your motive for giving? -
On the one hand, we have the man who is reluctant to give and gives only begrudgingly fearful that if he doesn't someone will take note. Givers are not to give regretfully harboring wrong thoughts and motives. God doesn't want us to be that kind of giver. There's another phrase used in that verse, i.e., of necessity which means because we have to. The Christian is not to give because he has to. In fact, just the opposite should be true. Each of us should give because we want to. We should give and consider it a privilege to give to God's kingdom and we should express that sentiment to the Lord.
The Bible says that we're not to give grudgingly or out of necessity. Giving is not a legal requirement. No one has to give anything, but the Bible says if we sow little, we reap little; if we sow bountifully, we reap bountifully. God loves the cheerful giver whose motive for giving is simply a grateful heart. God loves the one who considers it a joy to give and gives with a happy attitude and countenance. The gifts are designated for the work of the Lord, the propagation of the gospel and the sustenance of the church and ministry.
I've been pastoring since 1981 . . . a few years now and I've come to know some people who have very strange ideas about giving. Some are happiest when they don't give at all while others are happiest when they give generously. There is, of course, every type of person falling somewhere between those two extremes. There are Christians who believe they must tithe explicitly and to the penny. There are others who reason that since tithing is not law, they really don't have to give at all. There are folks who are quite stingy in their giving while others give freely. There are yet others who give on impulse and whim with the notion that they give only when moved by the Spirit which I've come to discover is quite infrequently. There are also those who give regularly, consistently and generously. It's impossible to categorize givers for there are some who are quite poor who give generously while others who have plenty give virtually nothing.
- Classes of Givers -
According to the scripture reference (2 Cor. 9:6-7) Paul lists only two classes of givers, i.e., those that give sparingly and those that give bountifully. Which class do you want to fall into? Only each individual can answer that. (Don't answer aloud for you do not answer to me. We all answer separately and individually to the Lord.) The Bible describes our giving as the sower sows the seed. It's also interesting that Linsky in his Greek word studies of the New Testament speaks of our sowing in the continuous sense. In other words, it's not something that we do once and then we're done. It's a continuing lifelong process. Christians are givers. The Lord Himself set the example. He loved us and He gave to the point of giving all that He had. How are we supposed to respond to that? By laying our all on His altar, i.e., all we are and all we have. It's supposed to be an acknowledgment that He owns it all and He's in control; we're simply stewards.
Let's also take note that sowing bountifully or sowing sparingly (frugally) is tied to the amount of our income. For the individual who sows $10.00 but whose income is low, that amount may be a bountiful or generous gift. Likewise, a person who has a large income and gives $1,000 might be considered giving a sparing amount when considered in proportion to that individual's income.
- Compassionate Giving -
1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him that there be no gatherings when I come. [1 Cor. 16:1-2]
This particular passage has to do with the collection being gathered for the poor saints in Jerusalem. In biblical days there were no government relief agencies, food stamps, welfare, etc. The believers in Jerusalem were in great need. Paul told the believers to take a collection on the first day of the week because that's the day the New Testament church met. Paul went on to tell them that when they assembled each individual member was to lay aside an amount in proportion to what God had prospered or given him/her. The church was then going to send funds to the saints in Jerusalem for the relief of Christians there. We should keep in mind that giving was expected from each one with the amount based in proportion to their income. Giving was to be done willingly and generously, not out of necessity or grudgingly. Guess what? Paul is not speaking of their regular church giving. This offering was to be above what the people normally gave. This was a special relief fund designated for the assistance of the poor in Jerusalem.
- The Lesson in the Tithe -
Under the Old Testament the establishment of the tithe regulated and set the guide for giving for the people of Israel. Behind the tithe was God's eternal wisdom because each person gave in proportion to his income. The burden of responsibility was on the shoulders of each individual; everyone gave a tithe. Neither the rich nor the poor were exempt. Because everyone gave a tithe the burden of supporting the Levites (who had no inheritance of land with the rest of the tribes), was shared equally. Everyone had an investment in the religion of Israel because each individual, rich and poor alike, gave his tenth.
30And 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. 31And if a man will at all redeem aught of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. 33He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. 34These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai. [Lev. 27:30-34]
The tithe (tenth part) was holy, i.e., consecrated and set aside. So the tithe of all the land whether produce of the fields or of the fruit from the trees, belonged to the Lord. It was holy and set apart for the Lord. According to verse 31, it could be bought back at market value but an amount equal to one-fifth had to be added and given to the Lord. Concerning the flocks and herds, the increase of the flocks were passed under the rod, i.e., passing them through a narrow gate with every tenth animal being separated from the herd. There was to be no selection on the part of the herdsman and one animal could not be exchanged for another insuring that an inferior animal could not be substituted for an animal of higher quality. If the lot of selection fell on an animal of finer quality or breed, it could not be redeemed as no exchange for market value was permitted. If such attempt was made, then both the tenth animal and the one selected for exchange were declared forfeit and had to be given to the Lord. The concept was that no one would be devious in his dealings with the tithe, giving the Lord the least of what he had. All God asked for was the tenth part. This was the law that Israel lived by, i.e., the law of the tithe. This principle is repeated in many Old Testament passages, i.e., Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers. The lesson in the tithe was to remind the Israelites that God owned everything. Even in the Old Testament, that was the understanding.
The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. [Ps. 24:1]
Everything belonged to the Lord and all were to remember that. A tenth of what they received was to be given back to the Lord. God was the Creator of all and owner of all and everything belonged to Him; the people were to recognize and acknowledge that fact.
What did the tithe do?
The tithe was to support the priestly tribe of Levi. While there were twelve tribes, only eleven were given land. The twelfth or priestly tribe of Levi was not given any land and provision for their support was designated in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. It was encumbered upon the people to give the tenth to support this twelfth tribe which served as the priests (ministers) and their labors in the temple. It served to spread the burden of that support equally among everyone so that it wasn't just a few carrying the financial burden. Also, it was a preventive against one of the plagues, a scourge to Israel to this day . . . the scourge of covetousness. The law of the tithe was a preventive against this idea that was so ingrained in them, i.e., wanting to hoard things and take advantage of others. Vernacular in existence today reflects the ancient picture of this characteristic of the Jews. We have all heard the expression, “He really jewed me,” i.e., someone took advantage of me. That's the reputation acquired by the Jews. The law of the tithe served as a preventive because the Jews couldn't keep everything for themselves and do what they wanted. The tithe reinforced the principle that it doesn't belong to you; you are a steward. The tenth goes back to the work of the Lord.
Under Old Testament law there were no civil penalties for failing to tithe. If an individual would refuse to tithe, he would not be arrested, punished or publicly scorned. A person could refuse to tithe if he so chose. Since tithing was voluntary, what then was the incentive for the Jew to tithe?
! God commanded it. God required it. God said it.
! If you didn't give, God didn't bless you. Whether or not you consider that makes a poor motive for giving, it just shows an eternal principle that we recognize to this day. God never promises to bless or reward the disobedient. To a degree, God does sometimes bless the disobedient in spite of their disobedience. For example: You're disobedient; God tells you to repent and you don't. Tomorrow morning the sun is still going to rise, there will still be daylight and dark, rain on your garden just as on your neighbors because God is going to give you those blessings anyway. In this regard, there seems to be a favorable providence upon those who obeyed the Lord and gave generously which was withheld from those who didn't. We see it in both the Old and New Testaments.
In this passage of scripture the Lord is speaking to the people of Israel:
4Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? 5Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. [Your ways have caused God to withhold His blessings from you.] 6Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. [Haggai 1:4-6]
This could well describe some people today. No matter how hard they work, they can never quite get ahead. When it finally does get to the point where it looks like they might have a bit extra, something happens to take it from them, i.e., a bag with holes.
7Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. [Haggai 1:7-10]
God tells the people that this is why everything is going wrong for you. You're not putting the Lord first; you're putting yourself first. You're not thinking about the work of the Lord; you're thinking only of yourself. God's house has needs which are being ignored. For this reason, you're not blessed.
Verse 9 stresses the emphasis placed on expectations. Did you ever have great expectations to receive something monetary only to be disappointed and what you did bring home, God blew it away. This is why you're not blessed.
Most here are familiar with the pronouncement of curses in Malachi:
8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. 12And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
What we see in these scripture passages is that while there is no civil penalty for failing to tithe, God says if you don't give, He's not going to bless you. These curses are not the result of civil law, but curses brought about by God's anger. On the other hand, there were promises of blessing upon those who chose to be generous.
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. [Prov. 11:24]
The people needed to know that a stingy hand would not be blessed whereas a generous hand would. Withholding what should be given to God will never profit you. There are many passages of scripture where God promises to bless the generous.
9Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. [Prov. 3:9-10]
Those who give with a generous heart, with a full hand and those who share are promised blessing by God. In the absence of government relief agencies, the idea of giving to the poor was especially important in biblical days. The poor were always going to be poor and sometimes they starved to death if other people didn't help them out. The believer was supposed to be considerate and generous, giving to those who had nothing.
The tithe was the Old Testament law but it was not forced. Giving was voluntary and no civil penalty or punishment was attached to those who did not tithe. However, don't expect to be blessed if you don't obey the Lord. It's interesting that in the Old Testament the principle was God blessed those who gave. Do you think that's still true today? Does God still bless those who are generous and give? Should we still have compassionate, caring hearts, considering the lack and needs of others? The support of the ministry, etc.?
- Tithes, Offerings & Taxes -
In addition to the tithe mentioned in Leviticus, chapter 30, the Bible speaks of many other offerings that the Jews were required to bring, i.e., burnt offerings, meat offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, trespass or guilt offerings and others. An example is the New Testament account of Peter being questioned about payment of the temple tax for Jesus and himself. This was a special tax imposed on all Jews for the maintenance of the temple. Peter asked the Lord about it and was told to go fishing. As we know, there was a coin in the mouth of the fish which Peter caught and he used the coin to pay the temple tax. This tax was in addition to the tithe. There were many taxes imposed upon the people, including a third year tithe which was designated to be used for the poor. Many scholars tell us that the average pious Jew gave 23 to 33 percent of their income. I remind you they did this willingly and voluntarily and they did it in addition to the taxes that they paid.
Recently I read some articles on why people don't give and the particular beef was about the tithe. The argument was that the Old Testament tithe was actually their tax; they paid that ten percent because they didn't have income tax, sales tax, etc. Whoever wrote that was ignorant of what the Bible actually teaches. The tithe had nothing to do with taxes. The Jews paid their tithe in addition to their taxes. Were they heavily taxed? Indeed they were; sometimes quite oppressively. When the people began to ask for a king (1 Samuel, chapter 8), Samuel told them God would allow them to have a king but it would cost them heavily. Samuel pointed out that the king would take ten percent of all that they made, i.e., ten percent of their income, fields, herds, etc. Samuel also told the people that the king would take their daughters to be his servants, their men to be his soldiers and would place a heavy burden of taxation upon them. And that was in addition to their tithe. Then there were times when the kings became extremely oppressive with the taxation. Solomon was one of the most oppressive kings insofar as taxation because he imposed heavy taxes on the people. When Rehoboam succeeded his father, Solomon, the older counselors told him that his father (Solomon) had taxed the people too heavily. They counseled him to decrease the heavy burden of tax and assured him that the people would serve him. Sadly, Rehoboam did not accept their counsel but unwisely listened to his foolish friends. Those friends offered ridiculous counsel telling the new king to tell the people that his little finger was going to be heavier than all that his father Solomon had imposed. The people reacted to Rehoboam's response with disdain and disregard resulting in Rehoboam being king of two tribes only. The remaining tribes fled. The point is that the Jews gave their tithe in addition to an oppressive system of government taxation. This is a pattern that was established long before the Law even came into existence. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek (Genesis, chapter 14); Jacob promised a tithe of all his increase (Genesis, chapter 28). Tithing was a long established pattern. It was something that the people were familiar with for it had been going on for generations.
No law of the tithe was directed upon the New Testament believer; it's not imposed upon the Christian. In reading the New Testament we see entire lists and catalogs of sin, i.e., adultery, covetousness, etc. but nowhere do we see that failure to tithe makes the list. Tithing simply was not part of the New Testament economy. It preceded the Law and was part of the Law, but when Christ died on the cross for our sins, all of the Law went to the cross. There are Christians who generously give ten percent of their income but not because they must. They give because they want to. No one has to give anything at all. I do, however, want to remind you of our scripture reference for it is New Testament. Does it apply to Christians under grace? Yes it does and the man that sows sparingly reaps little while the man that sows bountifully, reaps abundantly. We would all begin to wonder about the person who sowed one small tomato plant and expected to reap a crop that would fill a barn. That's just common sense beloved. Remember there were eternal principles in the tithe that can be applied to us today.
The Old Testament tithe was voluntary. Under grace, our giving is still voluntary and not forced on anyone. No one has to give, but our desire should be that we want to give. The individual who doesn't want to give, however, should carefully examine his heart and his motives. If we don't want to be a blessing by giving, we have a problem. If there's something in you that just won’t permit you to sow freely, generously and happily, then you need to go to the Lord and find out why.
I was taught the principle of giving to the Lord and His work from childhood. It is an ingrained principle and one that I live by to this day. I freely acknowledge that I am truly blessed and beloved, each of us can say that. We're all blessed to have something to give. God says that He will bless and multiply our seed. For 300 years the early church supported itself. They believed they were to give, support the work of the ministry, promote the work of the Lord and propagate the gospel. During those 300 years the believers gave generously. This group was comprised of mostly poor people but in those first 300 years they affected the entire world. Something happened when Constantine became emperor. Not only did he sanction Christianity, but he also subsidized the church. When he did that, he almost killed it. By subsidizing the church, it became supported by government taxation. The government supported the church even in America up until the 1800s. Rome propagated the church by government taxation that carried on to the Church of England, i.e., the Anglican Church. Tax money went to pay for the church in Britain.
In the American colonies the churches were also supported by taxation. The taxes the colonists paid actually subsidized the church and paid the way. This went on even after the American Revolution and only ended with the new laws (circa 1850) regarding separation of church and state. At that time the church was no longer subsidized by the government and the churches found themselves in great trouble. They were accustomed to getting the government dole. It was like taking people off welfare. The response of the churches was to get members to start tithing. They reinstituted the Law of the tithe but even with that, they needed other means as well. One of the means devised to gain revenue was the rental of church pews. The very old historic churches had enclosed pews that were essentially rented to families. Rental fees were charged and paid to the church. The entire ground floor level of the church was filled with pews rented to families. The front row pews were the most highly favored so they went for a higher rental cost. The pews farther back in the church rented for a lower rate. People who had no money at all were consigned to sitting in the balcony or standing outside, perhaps looking in the window.
- Eternal Principles -
These are principles that should govern all of our giving.
! Our giving is to be voluntary; it is not coerced. We don't give because we have to. No one will publish a list of names in the church bulletin saying that these people do not give. What you give or don't give is between you and the Lord. I don't want to know and it's certainly no one else's business.
! Our giving goes for the propagation of the gospel and for the sustenance, supply and provision for the ministry, etc. Just as the tithe in the Old Testament was for the Levites, in the New Testament it was taught that the offerings were for the spreading of the gospel and for the ministry of the church.
13If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?. . . . 14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
[1 Cor. 9:11, 14]
The idea here is those who sow the seed should receive seed in return. As ministers of the gospel, we sow that which is spiritual and receive financial remuneration in return. This is to be used for the sustenance and support of the local church and its needs and outreach ministries. That's God's design.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. [Gal. 6:6]
If you've been blessed by the ministry, then you should be a blessing to the ministry. That's the principle.
17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. 18For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his reward. [1 Tim. 5:17-18]
! The tithe was proportionate for everyone; the rich were not required to give more nor were the poor expected to give less. In the New Testament, our giving is proportionate to our income. Our giving should be in proportion to our blessing.
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him....
[1 Cor. 16:1]
! Giving is every Christian's responsibility. No one should say he has nothing to give for every individual can give something. Because it is proportionate there is no pressure, law, rule or mandate regarding giving. Every person can give something even if it's only a small amount. Many use the excuse that if they just had more, they would give. The Bible teaches the principle that if we are faithful with little, then we'll be faithful with much. The person who can't be trusted with little can hardly entrusted with much.
! Our giving should be a regular and consistent practice. Just as the Old Testament tithe was an ongoing practice, under the New Covenant our giving should be regular and ongoing, not spasmodic and left to whim and impulse. If you receive a regular income, then you should give of that income with regularity. Here again, it's the individual's responsibility.
! Our giving should be from hearts of gratitude towards God and in recognition that all we have belongs to God. We don't give out of law, necessity or obligation. We give because we're privileged to do so. We give because the Father gave; He changed our hearts.
. . . God loveth a cheerful giver. [2 Cor. 9:7]
The world will say that we're crazy for giving, that all the preachers want is your money. As I mentioned earlier, if you haven't been here since 2001, you haven't heard me teach on giving because that's the last time I taught on that topic. Just because the subject of giving is not often addressed here doesn't mean it's unimportant. We do have to periodically remind ourselves that these principles are biblical and are as relevant for today as they were when Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. The motive of the cheerful giver is not to give in order to get back in return. It's simply the principle that we sow because we want to, because we're privileged to give and it's our heart to support the ministry and the propagation of the gospel, the spread of the Word. God wants you to be happy and pleased in giving. He's blessed us all with something.
To this day, regular, faithful, generous and joyful giving is a preservative against covetousness and the mentality of hoarding things for ourselves. We live in a materialistic society, one whose thinking is that whatever you get is for you. Covetousness is a terrible affliction; the Bible calls it idolatry. Sadly, some people have made idols of money and possessions. Let's ask the Lord to help us be generous, to be faithful, to have hearts to want to support the work of the gospel locally, nationally and internationally.
We're not under any law that requires one-tenth but based on what I read in the New Testament, nowhere does God expect less of us. In the New Testament under grace it rather seems that God expects more. The Old Testament Law said not to commit adultery while in the New Testament, Jesus said not to even look with lust in your heart. That says to me that God expects even more from us. The Old Testament Law said not to kill while the New Testament says that if you're angry with another you are guilty. God is expecting us to be grateful people.
Is it a sin to give just five percent? Absolutely not. You give as he purposeth in his heart. You can give ninety percent of your income and still have a bad heart. The bottom line is that you answer to God, not to man, not to any of man's laws. I want people to be blessed and to be a blessing and I want you to know the joy that being a cheerful giver brings.