I have little desire to write a lengthy article comparing Old Testament giving with New Testament giving. A simple Google search will yield you months of reading on that topic. I’m not sure my opinion could add anything to what many in the past have said. I will offer this, though…many times people are not so much interested in how much they are required to give to the church, but rather how little they can get away with giving. It is that mindset that I’d like to quickly address.
Common sense should tell us that the local church is worthy of support. If we want an air-conditioned building with lights and padded pews, somebody is going to have to pay for it. In no way am I suggesting those things are necessary for a group of saved people to be considered a New Testament church. For centuries, congregations operated just fine without those things. Many (if not most) congregations never had a church building until the last few hundred years. Even in the New Testament, we find it common for churches to meet in homes (Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 1:2). However, in our society, church buildings are deemed as necessary – but they come with a cost…a monetary cost.
New Testament giving isn’t spelled out as clearly as giving in the Old Testament. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t addressed at all, because it is. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). When your money becomes more important to you than your service to God, there is a problem. Remember, Paul said our lives should be that of “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). Nobody is suggesting you should skip a house payment to give an exorbitant amount to the church. Well, there may be some groups out there that would do that – but the Bible doesn’t suggest it. However, the Bible does specifically state that we should sacrifice some worldly things so that we can serve God. And, this would include the giving of our money (which He has given us) to our local church.
One of the biggest hindrances in our society isn’t the inability of a poor family to give much. Does that happen? Well, certainly. However, from all I’ve seen, that is not normally the case. Many times those who give least spend the most on luxurious vacations and toys. They live in the biggest homes and drive the finest cars. And while they may declare these things to be “blessings from God”, they actually use their money to fund their extravagant lifestyle rather than the Lord’s work. In doing so, we make covetousness to be an honorable thing while the Bible calls it “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
Are there religious groups on radio and television and the Internet that are seeking to rob the poor of their money? Absolutely there are! Even in the days of the New Testament, the scribes had such a sway over the people that they devoured widow’s houses while urging a poor widow to give her last cent to the temple (Luke 20:45-21:4). We ought not be surprised when we see the same today. There are those that peddle the Word of God in an attempt to live lavishly off the backs of the poor (2 Corinthians 2:17). Somehow, such charlatans continue to find support and often from those least able to give it. I’ve known men and women that have given the vast majority of their income to such “ministries” while their families struggle to put food on their table and shoes on their feet. No Biblically minded New Testament church leader is suggesting robbing from your own kids to support some mega-church where the pastor lives in a $4 million home.
However, what we cannot do is allow those that have robbed people of their money to drive us to the other end of the spectrum – the end where we keep all we have and don’t give anything to the Lord’s work. When Paul was collecting an offering for the church at Jerusalem, he expected the church at Corinth to give out of their bounty. He wrote, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Though this is not necessarily our weekly giving to the local church, it does set precedence for giving itself. We should give. We should give bountifully. We should give willingly. And, we should give cheerfully.
Churches must operate. They have leadership that has been set in place by God. And, God has determined at the very least that the church body should support the church leadership monetarily. Paul again told the Corinthian saints, “Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). In writing to Timothy, he said much the same – “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18). If God has given you men to lead you in His church through His Word, the least you can do is thank God by giving to the church in order to support them.
I realize people are at different places in life. Some are young and finances are tight. Some are old and finances are tight! Some have plenty. Some do not. But this I know, there is a New Testament pattern that we ought to give to the work of God. And oftentimes, this is hindered by our own covetousness. Let us examine our lives and see if there is something we may be allowing to hinder our support of God’s work. Is our life a “living sacrifice”? Or, are we like those whom Haggai ministered to that are more concerned with our own house than the house of God (Haggai 1:4)? I’m not promising 100-fold blessing in return for giving. The Bible never gives such a promise. However, I am saying, “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Are we considering that as we pass the offering plate along our pew? God’s work is worthy of our support. And, sometimes we may have to give up a caramel latte in order to support it.
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net