Understanding what God says about giving in the New Testament will help us be the best stewards of the resources that God has given to us. The following is an examination of the New Testament doctrine of giving.
In Romans Chapter 12, and verse 8 which says, “he that giveth let him give with simplicity.” Simplicity is translated from the Greek word haplotes which means according to Thayer, “singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty,” the virtue of one who is free from presence and hypocrisy, openness of heart manifesting itself by benefactions, liberality. The context of this verse is spiritual gifts so this is kind of giving is not specific to every believer in its fullest sense, but every believer should try to emulate these things when giving.
This giving Paul is teaching us is to be done sincerely, and without show. The second sense this word gives is explained more fully by its use in James 1:5, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally. So this giving is to not just be simple and not for show it is also to be generous or liberal. Sorenson says, The word so translated (aplothv haplotes) has the sense of being generous, but doing so modestly and without fanfare.
A few verses later Paul makes mention of sharing giving when he says, “Distributing to the necessity of saints.” This is a most important type of giving before we ever relieve the needs of those in the world we must ensure that worship with us in the local body are taken care of. So says Sorenson, “The injunction is clear. We are enjoined to help other Christians in their need. Conversely, there is no direct imperative in the New Testament for the church, in general, or Christians, in particular, to be a social relief agency for the world at large. Though contrary to the prevailing assumption in modern culture, the church has been directed to meet the needs of God’s people and not the world at large.”
This giving is to be sacrificial always placing the needs of others before our own. Wuest explains, “The exhortation is to make one’s self a sharer or partner in the needs of our fellow-saints in the sense that we act as if those needs were our own. We would satisfy our own needs, and the exhortation is to satisfy those of our Christian brother.” Paul often exemplified this truth by working a trade to pay for his own needs so that others needs could be met.
In 1st Corinthians 16 Paul is giving instructions to the Church at Corinth concerning an offering the churches were taking up for those in Jerusalem that were poor. Though the New Testament never tells of the specific way to collect tithes and offerings this passage gives a clear picture of the New Testament pattern of giving offerings would look like. The first lesson from this scripture that is apparent is that there was a specific day in which to collect giving. The day is termed the first day of the week or Sunday. Apparently this was the set day for Church to meet or this wouldn’t have been named as the collection day. Sunday was obviously the main day for worship and thus giving.
Sorenson states, “Here is clear indication to the day of the week on which the gentile church assembled. It no longer was the Sabbath on Saturday. Because of our Lord’s resurrection on the first day, the early church began to assemble thereon.” This clearly shows us the appropriate time, which the early church used for the collection of there giving.
2 Corinthians Chapter 8 says, 1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 6 Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. This passage is probably the key text to explain a New Testament philosophy of giving. This is not a nuts and bolts explanation of how to give an offering this is more like a literary masterpiece teaching the heart behind true Christian giving.
The first thing we see about giving in this passage is that it is to be sacrificial. These Macedonians were poorer probably than any of the early churches and yet the passage says, in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. In their poverty they were sacrificially giving to the cause of Christ one commentator said it this way, their circumstances did not hinder them from giving. In fact, they gave joyfully and liberally! No computer could analyze this amazing formula: great affliction and deep poverty plus grace equals abundant joy and abounding liberality! That is an amazing lesson in God giving grace to sacrifice for the needs of others.
Not only were they giving of their financial resources but the Bible says, and this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord. That is the foundation for any giving we do in the context of the local body. We must first dedicate are selves to the Lord’s then our money second. Warren Wiersbe said, If we give ourselves to God, we will have little problem giving our substance to God. If we give ourselves to God, we will also give of ourselves for others. It is impossible to love God and ignore the needs of your neighbor. So giving of ourselves is the foundation of giving to others.
Another theme that is very essential to a Biblical philosophy of giving is the fact that giving is a supernatural thing. Paul told us that, “in our flesh dwells no good thing” in the natural man has no desire to give to the needs of others. Verse 1 of Second Corinthians 8 says 1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia. This verse clearly tells us that the ability to give was proceeded by God bestowing his grace on these Christians. Paul is teaching us that giving is not a law or a compulsory thing. It is an act of grace from start to finish there is no teaching of compulsory giving in the New Testament. There are no baselines for giving laid out in the New Testament. The New Teachers commentary puts it this way, It’s said most Sundays in most of our churches. As the collection plate is passed, the congregation is encouraged to give God “tithes and offerings.”
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this familiar phrase. Unless we make the mistake of reading into it a theology of giving that has its roots in Old Testament Law rather than in the vital new principles of grace-giving that the New Testament establishes for God’s people. It is significant that the Epistles mention no tithes, and the offering which God seeks is that of the person himself as a “living sacrifice” which is your spiritual worship” This seems to be the core of Paul’s statement of giving that it is a supernatural outflow of God’s gracious workings in our life.
While giving is not compulsory in chapter nine of the same book Paul shares the principal of reaping and sowing when he says, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
So then giving is not a baseline or a standard, but a blessing it is like the farmer sowing seed the more seed he puts out the greater the harvest. The same way it is not a baseline that one grudgingly gives, but a grace given from the heart cheerfully that God blesses.
The aforementioned verses give a general overview of a New Testament philosophy of giving, the foundation of New Testament giving is all of grace; one would be hard pressed to find a solid command to tithe given under the New Testament. With the foundation of grace we see a superstructure developing that is not at all rigid (natural), but rather organic (supernatural).
So when congregations are told that they need to only give ten percent of their income to the church that is not scriptural. What they need to do is give themselves completely over to God as a living sacrifice. Then the Old Covenant command to give a tenth of ones income will seem completely inadequate. Ten percent is a great baseline or minimum for a starting point but not all that God intended for giving under grace. The New Testament philosophy: Grace giving and the grace giver will never be satisfied with just a tithe.