T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
The subject of the tithe or, as many view it today, giving a fixed percentage (i.e.,
10%) of one’s income to the church (however one defines the word church ) is not
without controversy. Personally, I see most teaching on the tithe as the tradition of
men; a tradition that needs to be cast aside.
Simply, there is a higher spiritual law of giving that transcends the physical law of
the tithe, and this higher law is what Christians should be applying in this day. The
spiritual law of giving does not command a fixed percentage of one’s income. If
anything, this law demands 100%, not 10%. However, it is 100% of one’s heart, not
of one’s paycheck. The emphasis shifts from giving out of obligation and duty to
giving out of a heart of love that knows no bounds and no limits, and is
unconditional.
This is not to imply that the tithe or, as I prefer to call it, the tenth has no spiritual
significance. Quite the contrary, the tenth has great spiritual significance. I explain
the tenth in a series of three articles (#27-29) titled The Tenth . Article #27 deals
with the more traditional view of the tithe, but challenges this view with the
kingdom tax ; article #28 deals with the prophetic blessing of Joseph ; and
article #29 deals with the order of Melchizedek . The latter two articles present
the non-traditional view that the tenth signifies the giving of sons, something far
greater than the giving of money. I encourage you to read these.
At this point, I encourage you to put aside the tradition of the 10% tithe and
consider twelve spiritual principles or characteristics of giving. If our hearts are
moved to give based on these principles, then I believe we will be givers that please
God.
1. Liberty of the spirit of the Lord
2. Living sacrifice
3. Love
4. Caring for the needs of the body of Christ
5. Giving according to one’s means
6. Liberality
7. Earnestness
8. Equality
9. Sowing and reaping
10. Harvest of righteousness
11. Cheerfulness
12. Grace
There probably are more, but these are the ones that struck me as I studied the
matter. Perhaps some are mere characteristics, but others, in their own right, are
spiritual laws. Love is the third principle presented; but, without doubt, it is the
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foundation of giving, for giving is based on the royal law of love (James 2:8).
For the sake of continuity, I have chosen to refer to the twelve as principles.
These principles pertain primarily to helping the body of Christ that is in need;
however, I recognize that there are other things that involve giving, such as giving
to a local congregation or some outreach or teaching ministry that we might be led
to support. In these cases, liberty, love, righteousness, and grace are the more
applicable principles. Some might continue to argue that we must tithe to a local
congregation; otherwise, how will fixed expenses be paid, such as the pastor’s
salary and maintenance of the property? The answer is simple; it is called a budget.
Those committed to such a thing should contribute whatever is needed to keep it
going, if that is what the spirit of the Lord leads them to do. Further, giving is not
restricted to money, for there are other things that can be given, such as giving of
one’s gifting (i.e., talent, ability, or skill) when needed to help others.
First , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of liberty .
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17 NASB)
We are to follow the spirit of the Lord to know and to do the will of God. When we
do, there is liberty, not bondage to a tradition. The fact of the matter is that the
Holy Spirit knows the needs of people, and meeting these needs may require more,
not less, than the tithe that many seem so convinced they must give without any
thought as to why or for what. Many opportunities for giving according to God’s
will probably are missed by those who adhere to a rigid giving of a tenth every
week.
I realize that there is also the matter of the so-called “free-will offering,” which
implies that the tithe has nothing to do with one’s will. In other words, you just
give 10% without rhyme or reason; “do it or be cursed.” I find this sort of thinking
rather interesting, for the ones who push the legalism of the tithe, as if it has
nothing to do with one’s free will, are often the same ones who believe that man’s
free will determines whether one ends in heaven (bliss) or in hell (torture) for
eternity. If you have read much of my material, you know that I reject such
thinking. Article #5, January 2008, Being Ignorant, In Unbelief, Yet the Grace ,
offers some insight into the matter of one’s will and salvation.
The fact of the matter is that all giving should be based on an offering and not a
tithe, for the offering leaves the giving open for the Holy Spirit to lead, and the
tithe does not.
It is rather interesting that there are no directives given to believers in the New
Testament epistles to tithe or, more specifically, to give 10% off the top of one’s
gross or net income to a local church or ministry; thus, it clearly was not a “hot
topic” among the early church.
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T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
I suppose that one could make the argument that since the embryonic church was
comprised mostly of Jewish believers they did not need any teaching or exhorting
on the matter. Simply, it was an unchallenged tradition that continued, just as it is
unchallenged in our day 2,000 years later.
This argument would have some merit if it weren’t for the fact that the first council
of the church held in Jerusalem failed to give any instruction on the matter of
tithing (Acts 15). They had convened to give instruction to the non-Jewish
believers in Antioch, the believers from among the nations, and they came to an
agreement.
(21) For this reason I judge not to trouble those from the nations
turning to God, (20) but to write to them to hold back from the
pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and that strangled, and
blood. (28) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put not
one greater burden on you than these necessary things: (29) to hold
back from idol sacrifices, and blood, and that strangled, and from
fornication; from which continually keeping yourselves, you will do
well. Be prospered. (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29 LITV)
If there were ever an opportunity to make sure that the tithe flowed into the
coffers, so to speak, to keep the apostles and others employed, this would have
been the perfect occasion to do so. They could have established a scheme to send
the tithe to Jerusalem every week to make the church a viable institution within
the control of the Roman government. But they did no such thing. Instead, they
gave a few instructions dealing with idolatry.
Notice that the Holy Spirit was involved with this instruction, so we cannot state
that, somehow, the council missed the boat, so to speak. This was the will of God.
Consider the result when the believers in Antioch received this word: And
reading it, they rejoiced at the comfort (Acts 15:31 LITV). It brought comfort
or encouragement to them, not fear, nor discouragement, nor bondage. It liberated
them because they were set free from tradition to follow the leading of the spirit of
God.
Simply, the early church leaders knew something of the leading of the spirit of the
Lord. In turn, they knew that they had to entrust the Lord’s people to this same
leading.
Thus, the key to our understanding of this instruction is the Holy Spirit and being
led of the spirit of God. This is one of the most critical underpinnings of the
spiritual law of giving, as well as the Christian life in general.
Second , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of a living
sacrifice . Allow me to build this thought.
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When God called the sons of Israel out of Egypt to become a kingdom of priests
and sons of God, He reminded them that He is the Creator of all things and that all
things belong to Him. In other words, as Creator, He has the right over His
creation, for He owns it all.
“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,
then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the
earth is Mine ….” (Exodus 19:5 NASB)
“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is
Mine ; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.” (Leviticus 25:23
NASB)
We see very similar declarations when the Lord spoke to Job: “Whatever is
under the whole heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11 NASB), and as the Lord spoke
through the psalmist: “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for t he world
is Mine , and all it contains (Psalm 50:12 NASB).
Obviously, man belongs to the Lord as well, for he is contained in the world. This
reminds me of another word that I find most encouraging.
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who
formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have
called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:1 NASB)
Are not believers the true spiritual Israel in this day? To the ecclesia, which is the
body of Christ, the Lord declares: “You are Mine!”
But there is more to this, for mankind came forth from the land; that is, Adam was
literally fashioned out of the soil of the earth. He was made of soil or, if you will,
dirt. Our mortal bodies could be likened to a piece of real estate on earth that
belongs to the Creator. Our entire body is made up of materials that are found on
and in the earth. Consequently, mankind is a piece of the earth.
The Concordant Version has a strange read, but it makes the point of our
connection to the soil.
(47) The first man was out of the earth, soilish; the second Man is the
Lord out of heaven. (48) Such as the soilish one is, such are those also
who are soilish, and such as the Celestial One, such are those also who
are celestials. (49) And according as we wear the image of the soilish ,
we should be wearing the image also of the Celestial. (1 Corinthians 15:47-
49 CV)
According to Paul’s logic, we started out soilish but are destined to be celestial, just
like our Lord Jesus, who is the Celestial One.
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T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
This leads to the principle of a living sacrifice, and again, it comes through Paul.
(1) Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present
your bodies a living and holy sacrifice , acceptable to God, which is your
spiritual service of worship. (2) And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may
prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and
perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NASB)
We are to offer our soilish bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to
God. We are not to present a part of our body, like a hand or a foot or an ear. No;
we are to present our whole body to God as a living sacrifice.
In other words, we are to give our whole life to God as a service to God. We are to
be consumed on the altar of His service. Again, a foot or a hand will not do. It is a
total and unequivocal presenting of ourselves to God.
But notice that there is more to it, for we are not to be conformed to this world. We
are to be conformed to Christ, not to the world. To do this, we need to be changed
by the renewing of our minds, which means we are to have the mind of Christ (1
Corinthians 2:16), for only this mind knows and proves the will of God.
This is a vital step in giving, for it begins with giving oneself to God, which leads
one into the will and mind of God. Again, this requires that one be totally
dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance in the matter of giving or, we could say,
in the matter of sacrificial living, of which giving is a major component.
In fact, giving is sacrificial. The will of God tells us: And do not neglect doing
good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews
13:16).
The Macedonians were a wonderful example of living sacrifices as they first gave
themselves to the Lord and to us [i.e., Paul and company] by the will of
God (2 Corinthians 8:5). They had the proper order in their lives; it was giving of
themselves to the Lord first, and, out of this giving, they knew the will of God in
regard to helping others.
Third , the spiritual law of giving is based on the spiritual law of love , or, as
James called it, the royal law of love . After all, the law itself hangs on the
commandment (law) of love.
(36) Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? (37) And
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Deut. 6:5 (38)
This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like
it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Lev. 19:18 (40) On these
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two commandments all the Law and the Prophets hang. (Matthew 22:36-
40 LITV)
Our first love is to be for the Lord Himself (Revelation 2:4), and, out of this love,
we are to love our fellow neighbor, which not only includes our brethren in Christ
but all mankind.
Love comes from the heart; therefore, the motive of the heart is the guiding factor
in giving. It is a much higher law than the law of the tithe. It is based on the royal
law of love, which comes from a living relationship with the living God who is love.
We see an example of the relationship of the heart to giving when the Lord spoke
to Moses about His desire to have a sanctuary in which He could dwell among the
sons of Israel.
“Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man
whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.” (Exodus 25:2
NASB)
The Lord did not demand that they give. Why? Because God is love , and His love
does not coerce, demand, or instill fear and greed, but wins hearts. He wants
hearts like His that manifest love and righteousness and mercy and grace.
Shouldn’t we be like our Father?
The love of Christ demands that we give freely. After all, God so loves the world
that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Giving starts with the love of
God and extends to the world. Paul was very clear on the matter of love.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my
body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1
Corinthians 13:3 NASB)
Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your
love and of our reason for boasting about you. (2 Corinthians 8:24 NASB)
Let love be without hypocrisy. … Owe nothing to anyone except to love
one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
(Romans 12:9; 13:8 NASB)
The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the
Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5), and this love must be
manifested to others and one way, if not the most vital way, is to give to others.
Now, to add to these three basic principles or spiritual laws, it is best that we turn
to a real-life example of taking up a contribution for brethren in need as seen
through the heart of Paul.
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T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
The entire matter of giving from the new covenant perspective begins when the
early ecclesia was faced with a challenge; the brethren in Judea were in need.
(27) Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to
Antioch. (28) One of them named Agabus stood up and began to
indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all
over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. (29) And in
the proportion [according to ability] that any of the disciples had means ,
each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the
brethren living in Judea. (30) And this they did, sending it in charge of
Barnabas and Saul to the elders. (Acts 11:27-30 NASB)
The first thing to note is the involvement of the spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) in
revealing the need. As seen already, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,
and the disciples were at liberty to take up a contribution for the brethren in need.
They weren’t forced or coerced into it. Simply, they knew that the spirit of the Lord
made them aware of the need, and they needed to offer some relief to the brethren
in Judea. Another way of stating this is that they were obedient to the prodding of
the Holy Spirit and out of this nudge, if you will, they contributed.
The above verses reveal the fourth and fifth principles.
Fourth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of the body
caring for the needs of the body ; that is, the body of Christ is to meet the
needs of the members of the body when there is a need. In other words, we are to
care for our own when they are in need if the Holy Spirit brings their need to our
attention, regardless of where they are located.
The word need is emphasized for good reason, for there is a difference between
needs and wants. Needs deal with essentials of life and wants deal with the extras,
even excesses, of life. Another way of stating this is that needs are for survival of
the body and wants are for the satisfaction of the soul. Satisfying one’s wants can
and often leads to greed.
It has been said by others that we are to give by need and not in response to
greed . This is so true. However, I would add that we are not compelled to give for
someone’s wants either. When a request for help is brought to our attention, we
need to discern a true need verses a want, especially one based on greed.
Today, much demand for giving to the ministries of men so that they can live
opulent lifestyles is based on greed and their desire to go beyond their needs to
wants. Simply, they want to get rich and live in excess of what they need. These
men are greedy as they seek more and more money from people, and they do this
by playing off the greed of people who want to get rich just as they are. If this
doesn’t work, then they play off fear that God is going to curse and toast them if
they don’t give. Flee from such things , people of God (1 Timothy 6:11).
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I have little doubt that if the Lord appeared on earth today, He would speak of
such men in the most severe way. They would be like the hypocritical religious
leaders of the Jews to whom Jesus spoke woes (Matthew 23:13-33).
Consider how the Lord handled the rich who sought to enter the kingdom; He told
them it would be difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of the heavens.
Why? Because it is difficult for a rich man to part with his excess wealth!
(21) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your
possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, follow Me.” (22) But when the young man heard this
statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much
property. (23) And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is
hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (24) Again I say to
you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a
rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (25) When the disciples heard
this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”
(Matthew 19:21-25 NASB)
In this case, being saved is not about immortal life but about eonian life, that is,
having life in the oncoming eon when the kingdom of Christ begins to take root
among the nations. The problem for this young man was not that he was rich but
that he had excess that he had acquired from his fellow countrymen who had fallen
on hard times and had to sell their property. In other words, the Lord was telling
him to give his excess wealth back to the poor. He wasn’t telling him to become
poor but to simply help them with the excess that he did have.
The Lord spoke a parable warning the crowd gathered around Him to be on guard
against every form of greed, which means that greed can manifest itself in many
forms, some subtle and some very obvious.
(15) Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against
every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his
life consist of his possessions.” (16) And He told them a parable,
saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. (17) And he began
reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to
store my crops?’ (18) “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear
down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my
grain and my goods. (19) And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have
many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink
and be merry.’” (20) “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night
your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have
prepared?’ (21) “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and
is not rich toward God.” (22) And He said to His disciples, ‘For this
reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will
eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. (23) For life is more
than food, and the body more than clothing. (Luke 12:15-23 NASB)
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T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
The fool stores up goods for many years. We might not think of this as a form of
greed. After all, aren’t we told to save for retirement and for so-called rainy days?
However, Jesus encouraged no such thing. Instead, He told His disciple not to
worry about life but to seek His kingdom and His righteousness.
(33) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these
things will be added to you. (34) So do not worry about tomorrow; for
tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
(Matthew 6:33-34 NASB)
Worrying about tomorrow hinders giving to others, for those who worry in this
regard will fear that they might not have enough for their own needs if they give to
meet the needs of others.
Now, returning to the example of contributing to the brethren in Judea, we see
another principle.
Fifth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of giving according
to one’s means .
And in the proportion [according to ability] that any of the disciples had
means , each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of
the brethren living in Judea. (Acts 11:30 NASB)
The brethren in Judea were in need, and, when the disciples learned of it through
the prophets that came from Jerusalem, they determined, that is, purposely and
willfully decided, to help the brethren according to their ability to help. In other
words, they gave what they could, which means there was no percentage attached
to it. They gave according to their means. If they had no means, we must assume
that they did not give; a principle confirmed by Paul.
For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a
person has, not according to what he does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12
NASB)
One can give only from what one has; if there is nothing, there is nothing to give. It
is that simple!
If we do not have anything to give, then God is not demanding that we give. This is
contrary to some ministries that tell people to put their donation or tithe on a
credit card. Such a practice is not giving according to one’s means; it is giving what
one does not have and then paying back the bank with interest, which is usury,
which is unacceptable to God. Let us wake up and begin to follow God’s spiritual
laws.
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T HE S PIRITUAL L AW O F G IVING
Now, Paul elaborated further on the contribution to the Judean brethren in his
second epistle to the Corinthians, starting in chapter 8. Here we discover more
principles at work.
(1) Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God
which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, (2) that in a great
ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty
overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. (3) For I testify that
according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their
own accord, (4) begging us with much urging for the favor of
participation in the support of the saints, (5) and this, not as we had
expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the
will of God. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NASB)
Paul had traveled to the areas of Macedonia and Achaia. The Thessalonians and
the Philippians were in Macedonia, and the Corinthians were in Achaia. Evidently,
the brethren in Macedonia were under much trial and tribulation (e.g., 2
Thessalonians 1), and it appeared that they had nothing to give. Paul recognized
their plight and did not place any sort of demand on them to give. In fact, it seems
as if Paul had told them they did not have to take up a contribution; however, the
Macedonians would hear of no such thing. They begged Paul to allow them to
participate in helping to provide support (i.e., relief) for the saints. They not only
gave according to their ability but also beyond their ability. The need was great and
their hearts were opened wide by the love of God.
What was the key to their heart of giving? It was that they first gave themselves to
the Lord and out of this they knew the will of God. The will of God said to respond
out of love for the Lord and His people.
This is first love in action, and a beautiful example of the first three principles of
giving―the liberty of the spirit of the Lord, a living sacrifice, and love. Paul had not
expected such a reaction from the Macedonians, but he was thrilled to see it.
It is not uncommon for the poor and afflicted to bemoan their condition and to
continually put their hand out for help from others. The Macedonians were in deep
poverty, which means it was severe poverty, a poverty that brings one down; but,
instead of holding them back from making a contribution, they begged and urged
Paul to allow them to do so. This reminds me of a word from James.
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those
who love Him? (James 2:5 NASB)
This leads to the sixth principle.
Sixth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of liberality .
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Although the Macedonians were in deep poverty, their giving overflowed in the
wealth of their liberality, a word that Paul used to encourage the Corinthians in
their giving. We could say that their wealth was in their heart not in their purse.
(10) Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will
supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of
your righteousness; (11) you will be enriched in everything for all
liberality , which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. (2
Corinthians 9:10-11 NASB)
Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for
your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the
liberality of your contribution to them and to all…. (2 Corinthians 9:13
NASB)
The word liberality comes from the Greek word haplotes , which means “simplicity,
singleness, sincerity.” Thus, depending on the translation, it is translated with the
words simplicity , singleness , or sincerity (Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2
Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). It also conveys the thought of
being “folded together.”
For some insight into the concept of being folded together, please see my article
#16, December 2008, Simplicity and Purity To Christ . We are to be folded
together with Christ, for we are betrothed to one Husband.
In the above verses, the word liberality conveys the idea of giving generously or of
being a liberal giver. Such a one is not stingy or demanding in giving. Such a one
gives generously out of a heart of love, not expecting something in return. What a
far cry this is from the whole concept of the tithe that so many are told to give or be
cursed, which, by the way, breaks all the spiritual laws that apply to giving.
Applying the other meanings of the word haplotes to the principle of liberality
reveals that such giving is sincere for, out of the love of Christ, we are to desire to
help others; it is simple , meaning it is not based on fear, coercion, compulsion, or
some formula or form of legalism; and it is single , for we have been folded
together with Christ, and we respond with His heart of love to which we have been
joined. After all, Paul reminds us that we have been betrothed to Another, that is,
to one Husband (Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
Continuing on in his encouragement of the Corinthians, evidently, Paul became
concerned that they might not take up the full contribution as first intended, which
leads to the seventh principle.
Seventh , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of earnestness .
(6) So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he
would also complete in you this gracious work as well. (7) But just as
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you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in
all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound
in this gracious work also. (8) I am not speaking this as a command,
but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your
love [the reality of your love] also. (9) For you know the grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became
poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (10) I give
my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the
first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.
(11) But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness
to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. (2
Corinthians 8:6-11 NASB [BWD])
(1) For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to
the saints; (2) for I know your readiness , of which I boast about you to
the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last
year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them. (3) But I have sent the
brethren, in order that our boasting about you may not be made empty
in this case, so that, as I was saying, you may be prepared; (4)
otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared ,
we―not to speak of you―will be put to shame by this confidence. (5) So
I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead
to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful
gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected
by covetousness. (2 Corinthians 9:1-5 NASB)
Some had the desire to give a year prior and had begun to do so, but Paul
encouraged them, not commanded them, to finish the job as proof of their
earnestness and sincerity of love. There had to be a reality to their love, which
means it had to be manifested; otherwise, their love for the brethren was not real.
Paul had bragged of the Corinthians’ heart; however, if he had arrived with a
Macedonian and the contribution had not been prepared, it would have put Paul
and the Corinthians to shame. It would have been a horrible testimony.
Earnestness demands preparation, diligence, and zeal.
The Greek word for earnestness is spoude , which comes from a root word meaning
“speed.” Thus, attached to this word is the need to do something in all diligence,
even haste. In other words, do it without delay. After all, if one is in need, it is not
enough to say that you will help him later or in some nebulous future. The need is
now and should be met with all due diligence or haste.
Eighth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of equality
according to one’s level of need.
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(13) For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by
way of equality (14) at this present time your abundance being a supply
for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for
your need, that there may be equality; (15) as it is written, “HE WHO
gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered
LITTLE HAD NO LACK.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15 NASB)
It is interesting that, through Paul, the Holy Spirit quoted Exodus 16:18, which is
found in the story of the Lord providing bread, fine as the frost on the ground, to
the sons of Israel as they were in the wilderness. Some had gathered much and
some little, but, according to the word of God, the ones who gathered much had no
excess and the ones who gathered little had no lack. In other words, the issue was
not how much one had gathered but that what one gathered (much or little) was
enough to meet one’s needs for the day. Each had all that they needed, and they
were to consume it before the next morning; otherwise, the sun would melt it.
Of course, the spiritual lesson is that the Lord will provide for our daily needs, and
He is our daily bread from heaven. But this is beyond the scope of this article.
We could say that it was a matter of quality not quantity, for it is obvious that all
did not require the same amount of bread; some required much and some required
little.
So, in the case of the contribution for the Judeans, the issue was not that everyone
had to have the same amount of wealth or goods, but that they had enough to meet
their needs, so there was no lack on the part of the giver or the receiver.
Today, within the body of Christ, the level of need may vary across the globe. In
some parts of the world, people can live on a few hundred dollars a month, but, in
other parts of the world, it may require thousands of dollars. According to Paul,
equality would come into play if the ones requiring a few hundred dollars suddenly
were faced with having to live on a few dollars a month. Those who had gathered
much would help those who had gathered little so that there was no lack.
Some might read these words and conclude that Paul was extolling social justice or
some form of socialism, but this is not true.
Social justice means that government takes from an advantaged group and gives
it to a disadvantaged or disenfranchised group because the advantaged group
supposedly treated the disadvantaged group unjustly. The problem with such
ideology is that injustice is often defined by those who are best called social
engineers, not by righteous judges. In the US, as well as in much of the world
today, this ideology is more about redistribution of wealth than it is about a
sense of equality. In the case of the above example of ones living on hundreds of
dollars verses ones living on thousands of dollars, social justice and redistribution
of wealth would demand that the rich become poorer and the poor become richer,
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which is what socialism is all about. Socialism seeks “to level the playing field” by
making everyone dependent on the state and somewhat equal in wealth or poverty.
This is not what Paul meant with the word equality , which means “likeness.” Paul
was practical, and he knew that within the body of Christ there would be those in
need and those in abundance. However, I do not see any evidence that he believed
that all within the body of Christ must be at the same level of wealth or even
poverty. To me, equality is more about bringing balance into the body so that each
part can do what God has called it to do, all to His glory.
Simply, if one has abundance, then this abundance is a provision of God for those
in need. It doesn’t mean that one is to remain in abundance all the time or for one
to remain in need all the time. There are seasons of abundance and seasons of
need in various places within the body of Christ, and these may and, most likely,
will change over time, and when they do, we need to be open to adjust our giving,
as well as our receiving. This is the Lord’s way of providing balance within His
body, if His body is obedient to the leading of His spirit.
The key to equality is found in the heart of the apostles: Remember the poor
(Galatians 2:10).
Now, in Paul’s closing words on the matter of a contribution for the saints, we
discover some more principles.
(6) Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and
he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (7) Each one must
do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under
compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver . (8) And God is able to make
all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in
everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (9) as it is
written, “HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS
RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.” (10) Now He who supplies
seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed
for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; (11) you will
be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is
producing thanksgiving to God. (12) For the ministry of this service is
not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing
through many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:6-12 NASB)
Ninth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of sowing and
reaping.
Needless to say, this principle is well-known among Christians, for it is used often
in teaching on the matter of giving. Unfortunately, it also is used as if it were a
formula or a demand on the Lord to make one rich. According to the false
prosperity gospel, one is to sow seed to another man’s ministry to make the
“minister” rich in hopes of reaping riches for oneself. Unfortunately, it does not
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always work out this way. No matter what happens for the giver, the ministry
always gets rich while the giver may or may not reap anything. Of course, when
nothing happens for the sower, the response from some of the prosperity
preachers is that the giver, perhaps, lacked faith, didn’t give enough, didn’t give
with the right heart or motive, or has to wait a while for a harvest.
The simplest way to look at sowing and reaping is that God provides the material
or the seed to be sown, and the spirit of the Lord reveals the needs in His body.
We are to be obedient in sowing as we are led by the Holy Spirit, and, as we are,
God increases the supply of seed. Why? It is so that we can increase our service to
others, that is, so that we can give more to help others, but not to make a man rich
in his ministry or to become like him. In other words, the purpose is not so much
for our benefit but for the benefit or relief of others in need.
When we follow this principle, it brings glory and thanksgiving to God, and we
fulfill the principle of liberality as well.
Tenth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of the harvest of
righteousness.
I may be wrong but much of the teaching on sowing and reaping seems to miss the
heart of the matter and that is righteousness. The sowing and reaping teaching
mostly emphasizes what one will get in return in the way of material goods for
sowing abundantly: “Give a lot, get a lot!” What is seldom heard is that the sowing
is for a harvest of righteousness, which is something far greater than material
goods. Righteousness is about character, the very character of our Lord Jesus.
Righteousness is about doing what is right in the sight of God.
Giving with a heart of love to help bring relief to others in need speaks volumes of
one’s character; it speaks of one who is practicing righteousness and harvesting the
righteous character of Christ, who is our righteousness.
The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is
righteous. (1 John 3:7)
This is more than imputed righteousness; this is practical, living righteousness
that brings pleasure and glory and thanksgiving to God.
Eleventh , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of cheerful-
ness, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We could say that this is a subset of the law of love, for it is a matter of the heart. If
one loves, then one will manifest this love through a giving heart that gives
willingly and cheerfully and not under compulsion.
The word cheerful comes from the Greek word hilaros , which means “propitious or
merry as in hilarious.” In fact, we can see the similarity in the Greek word hilaros
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and the English word hilarious , which means “noisily merry, even boisterous.” In
other words, there is great emotional merriment in one who gives cheerfully. This
is the kind of giver that God loves. Merry givers give with an open heart, and no
one needs to tell them when to give, what to give, or how much to give. We could
say that such a one has a “big heart” just as our heavenly Father has a “Big Heart.”
Twelfth , the spiritual law of giving is based on the principle of grace.
I saved this one for last, for, like love, it sums up all the other principles of giving.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which
has been given in the churches of Macedonia… (2 Corinthians 8:1 NASB)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ , that though He was
rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His
poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB)
And God is able to make all grace abound to you , so that always having
all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every
good deed…. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB)
(13) Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God
for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for
the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, (14) while they
also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing
grace of God in you. (15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift ! (2
Corinthians 9:13-15 NASB)
Notice how Paul wove grace into the matter of giving. We give as an act of grace,
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became poor that we might become rich in
character. Before Christ entered into our life, we were poor in character, even
bankrupt. We had nothing to commend us to God. But when Christ broke into our
life, He gave us His life so that we could become rich in His character, so that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now, by His grace we are to abound in His grace that is manifested in an
abundance of good deeds. Good deeds are more than giving money to others; there
are countless ways to manifest the grace of God to others.
In conclusion, what is grace? I wrote a chapter on grace in my book titled The
Purpose and Plan of the Eons (Volume 3, Chapter 4, The Word of His Grace ), and
in it I offer a definition of grace and an explanation of how I derived this definition.
Grace is “the overwhelming power of God that takes the ugly and
transforms it into the joyously beautiful.”
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Dear brethren, when by the grace of God, we help others by our loving, sacrificial
giving, we are taking what could be viewed as an ugly situation and turning it into
something joyously beautiful, not only for the recipient but also for us the giver.
May God receive all the glory and honor as we follow the spiritual law of giving!
BWD
Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott
LITV
Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
NASB
New American Standard Bible
Article: #26, November 2009
by: Stuart Pouliot
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CV
Concordant Version