I am glad I learned faithful, regular giving early on in my life. Had I tried to start tithing once my family came along, I think I would have had a hard time making space for it. Not impossible, just difficult. By starting at a young age, it became a regular part of my life. It has always been a blessing.
I’ve written a little about the promise and purpose of generosity. Here, I’d like to write about the process of generosity. Is there a place in the New Testament we can find help on the “how” of generosity? I believe 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9 provide us a template or example in this area.
1 Corinthians 16
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 addresses a collection of a gift for distressed saints in Jerusalem. It provides a great example for how this giving could work in a person’s life. I will consider four parts of this.
Paul said, “Each of you” (1 Corinthians 16:2). This is personal. Each individual makes a personal decision to give. Paul put the responsibility on each person. This wasn’t a church-wide mandate. The direction was for each believer to take responsibility before God and live this out.
Perhaps you are ready to get started with regular generosity. Don’t lean on a few generous donors to fund the work of the church. Don’t shirk your responsibility. Like Jesus, take responsibility for your part. It might not feel like it makes much difference, but it does, both in you and in the work of the church. Paul wanted this to be a personal act and decision.
Additionally, this is personal, so no need to feel pressured to give. We ought not to give into pressure, nor should we parade ourselves for giving. Seek the Lord, take personal responsibility, and give.
Paul said, “Put something aside and store it up” (1 Corinthians 16:2). This is predetermined. Scrambling for the checkbook when the basket was passed was not Paul’s concept. No, this is a predetermined gift.
Perhaps you need to grow in this area of your generosity. To predetermine means you will have to decide in advance. You’ll have to budget. No budget, no generosity, usually. To predetermine means you will need to plan your finances. No more reactionary finances, but planning. If you are single, think this through and make your plan. If you are married, come to an agreement with your spouse and make your plan. Predetermine.
Paul said, “As he may prosper” (16:2). This is proportional. Their gifts were to have a direct connection to their personal income. If they prospered much, their giving ought to reflect that. If they prospered little, they should give proportionally to their income.
Perhaps you make only a little. Don’t fall into the trap of believing it would be easier to give if you earned more. This isn’t true. It only becomes easier with practice, no matter where you are in your financial state. Have you never done this before? Maybe the tithe (10%) is way out of reach for you at the beginning. Start with 3% if you can. Just begin, and make it proportional to your income. You aren’t going to be all Bill Gates on this. No one is going to name a building after you. Just do your part.
Paul said, “So that there will be no collecting when I come” (16:2). This is without pressure. He refused to pressure them with his presence. He wanted a private generosity, without the pressure his apostolic presence might induce. This was to be a personal decision, without human pressure added to the moment. Our giving is for God, not a man, so the motivation cannot be a man. Our motivation must be God.
Perhaps you have been in an environment where pressure existed. That is unfortunate. This should be private, personal, and without pressure. Be restored by Jesus’ grace, forgive the offenders, and move on.
2 Corinthians 8-9
In addition to the 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 passage, Paul also spoke of Corinthian generosity in 2 Corinthian 8-9. It is remarkable how often Paul spoke to this maturing church about finances. Paul speaks to them again about a gift for the church in Jerusalem. But this time he drew their attention to the example of the Macedonian church (Philippi).
The Macedonian church’s giving was incredible. They were a model of generosity. This is how they rolled:
They were insistent (8:3-4).
They gave voluntarily (8:8-9).
They gave generously (9:5).
They gave purposefully (9:7), and cheerful (9:8).
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7–8).
Paul urged for a cheerful generosity. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He has given us so much. As we ponder the grace of God in the cross of Christ, as that gospel washes over our hearts, a spring of generosity in all areas will well up in our hearts. As we let go, as we give, we find much in return. As we release, life comes back to us. As we sow bountifully, we reap bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6). Life becomes more beautiful and good and pure. We are released.
C.S. Lewis said: "I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare."[^http://pdbooks.ca/pdbooks/english/L/Lewis-C-S--Mere-Christianity/yudbwx_files/OEBPS/Text/Section0019.html] I agree.
At the end of the day, your heart must be there. If it isn’t, perhaps there is something in there Jesus wants to deal with. Maybe you need to forgive a church or leader who pressured you in this area. Maybe you need to grow in your trust and submission for your local church leadership. Maybe you need to repent of idolatry towards money. Maybe you need to see yourself as a steward of your finances (not the true owner of your possessions). But to do this well, your heart must be there.
My intention with this series of articles isn’t to pressure even one person into regular, planned, local-church generosity. Not at all. If your heart isn’t there, if you cannot cheerfully do it, I would hate for you to be pressured into it. I think Paul would agree. But if you are ready — if you are looking for guidance on the why and how and when — I hope these articles provide you some clarity and help.
Let me close with this word from Ecclesiastes: “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
God bless you.