Biblical giving is built on the reality of the gospel and not on the tithe.
Just as it’s common to ask, “How much must I give?”, it’s common to think that biblical giving is, ultimately, about the amount we give. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The amount is absolutely not the issue. Biblical giving revolves around the way we absorb the gospel.
It’s also true, however, that if we understand the gospel the way we should, our giving – at least for most – will increase. Why? Because we’ll see Jesus and the salvation he brings, as the singularly most important, infinitely valuable, everyone-must-hear, news that exists. Biblical giving is primarily a question of heart alignment. The alignment of my heart with God’s heart. Speaking to the religious leaders of his day, Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” It’s a heart change that leads to correct giving.
While we won’t cover it here, fundamental to being able to think about biblical giving is the concept of stewardship. This is difficult but core to any well-rounded vision of being faithful in our finances.
Here are four foundational beliefs that combine to shape the heart for giving:
#1 – The gospel is our treasure
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44
In this short parable, Jesus created a contrast between the value of God’s kingdom and the value of everything else. Not only does this man sell everything to possess the field and its treasure, he also does it with joy. He longs to have what is most valuable. Being captured by the grace of God through the cross-work of Jesus opens our eyes to the infinite value of the gospel and the lesser value of anything that would compete for our priorities.
It’s impossible to give as we should if our money – or the things that money can buy – are as valuable to us as the gospel. All that Jesus is for us should dominate our focus and serve as the controlling influence in our lives. We will know that the gospel is our treasure as it defeats the idols in our life – idols like money. It’s impossible to give as we should if our money – or the things that money can buy – are as valuable to us as the gospel.
#2 – We’re here for the mission
…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
It’s tempting to think that the Christian life is a better and “cleaner” version of what the world offers. But that’s not true. Believers don’t simply live in an improved paradigm. We live in a new reality where Jesus is King, sin has been defeated, and life takes on an eternal scope.
And just like Jesus, we are here to live fully for the glory of God. The way we raise our children, do our work, spend our leisure time, relate to co-workers and spouse and other believers and our enemies, should be done with the mission in mind. The mission to bring God glory.
We are new people with a new reality that does not conform to this world. We’re here as disciples. We’re here to follow Jesus in his mission:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. – John 12:26
So, we not only possess a treasure of infinite value, our lives are now meant to show the world how valuable our treasure really is. When we embrace Jesus as we should and live for the mission, giving becomes natural.
#3 – Being like Jesus means giving
…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
Jesus was all about giving. It was core to his mission. Even though he was God, he “emptied” himself and became a servant. (Philippians 2:5-7). And we are to do the same. He gave himself in his incarnation, his sinless life, and in his death.
And what did his giving accomplish? Our salvation, glory to God, and great joy for him. In following Jesus, we must know that it means giving. Giving is how we follow Jesus. This one is tough because living as a giving servant is difficult:
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33
The concept of stewardship gives us another way of looking at this. Since we live in the hands of the sovereign, creator, sustainer God, we know that all we are and have comes from God and belongs to him. We are stewards of his gifts for his glory:
…from him and through him and to him are all things. – Romans 11:36
#4 – Walking by faith (believing God’s promises) is the way we live
We will only give as we should if we believe that God will, as he promised, take care of us. If we don’t live in the light of God’s promises, we will hoard for ourselves and not give. If on the other hand, we are content with God’s care and provision, we will give. So, giving demonstrates that we trust in God and not in earthly riches:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1
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 9:8
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19
We cannot give the way we should if we are not walking by faith. Giving shows that God is our hope and satisfaction.
So, what is the result of living a gospel-first, missional, I-want-to-be-like-Jesus, walk by faith life? We give.
By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, “You are my treasure, not these things.” – John Piper
Sam Storms has written a series of articles called Sacrificial Giving Smells Good to God. They are well done and helpful.