HOW MUCH DO WE GIVE?
Just as how much you pray or how much you read the Bible, are spiritual practices that are known solely between you and God, (no outside person or group is keeping track about how much time and energy you put into these spiritual practices) likewise, how much you give is a spiritual practice between you and God. Well what about the church knowing what we give? While the church keeps financial records of giving for the purposes of accountability, taxes and fiscal responsibility as we fund the work and ministry God has called us to, be assured that those records are very confidential, no one is watching and keeping tabs on how much we give, nor should they be. For one, it would be impossible. Every day we give something (time, energy, money, or hope) to someone else, most of the time, only that other person and God knows. So giving is never just about our money and resources. Who could ever calculate the amount of time and energy we give in the name of the Lord!
This we also know, spiritual practices are meant to be put into action and practiced, for the result is a deeper faith and a more meaningful spiritual relationship with God and with one another. Spiritual practices lead us towards holy living. For that reason, this last study looks at a question many Christians wrestle with, “How much do I give?”
THE TITHE, SACRIFICE AND ABUNDANCE.
- The tithe.
- READ: Genesis14:17-24, Genesis 28:20-22, Leviticus 27:30,32.
- There are more references to tithing in the Old testament than there are to the afterlife.
- Within the Church some believe this is the only standard for giving. Others feel as though emphasis upon the tithe has led to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.
- Scholar Ben Witherington III believes Christians no longer live under the Levitical Law where tithing is interwoven with many other laws Christians are no longer bound to observe. Instead, Witherington concludes that Christian motivation to give is not grounded in the law but in a voluntary response to God’s love and generosity.
- And yet, many people who tithe 10% speak of the spiritual blessings of the practice of doing so.
- Jesus spoke about the tithe once, (Matthew 23:23).
- What are your thoughts, feelings and experiences about the tithe in your Christian journey? What would it look like to apply the “tithe” to our time?
- Sacrificial giving.
- Sacrifice is one of the most important words in our faith. It also has a place in the discussion about giving. “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
- READ: Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 19:8-9, Mark 12:42-43
- Sacrificial giving happens when sacrifice is made of a significant portion of our time, energy and resources as an expression of our faith in Christ. Sacrificial giving is more 10 percent.
- Sacrificial giving is usually not a continuous ongoing expression of generosity, but rather a onetime moment, or more.
- Sacrificial giving happens when God’s Spirit moves in us. When our “theology of giving” sees “the other 90%” as also belonging to God and we are the stewards of God’s blessings.
- Have you ever witnessed sacrificial giving? Have you ever participated in sacrificial giving, either as the person who gave or the person who received?
- Our abundant God is all-sufficient and overflowing – a God who created a bounteous world and desires that all people experience the fullness of life in every possible way – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and material. This is why Jesus said, “I came that so that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
- READ: Exodus 16:18, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 26:6-13.
- Generosity, stewardship and abundance are all interrelated.
- God entrusts things to us, and when we are good and wise stewards of those things, we are able to participate with God in God’s abundance for all people.
- God’s abundance does not mean the ever accumulation of more wealth and possessions (unless to share with others) but rather that God’s abundance means God will provide for our needs.
- A mindset of abundance is the opposite of the “mindset of scarcity” (Lesson 2).
- How can the cultural understanding of “needs” undermine God’s plan of abundance?