The Grace of Giving
Eric Parmenter, Honiton, England
Liberal in giving
With regard to giving to the Lord, we have some striking examples in both Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel had to be restrained in their giving towards the tabernacle project. When God wanted a sanctuary in which to dwell among His people, He allowed them the favour of providing for its making. They responded, men, women and the rulers; all felt a responsibility to give. They gave willingly, cheerfully and liberally. We stand back and admire the fruit of God's grace; working in the hearts of these people who responded spontaneously to the opportunity given to them. There was no stint on their part, and God has put it on record for all to read.
In the gospels, both Mark and Luke record an incident that provides another example of the grace of giving. The Lord sat one day over against the treasury in the temple. He was observing, unobserved, how the people gave. Rich men came and Mark comments in chapter 12. 41, 'Many that were rich cast in much'. Then came a 'certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing', She, 'cast in all that she had, even all her living'. We have no hint in the gospel story that the woman knew she was being watched. Jesus called the disciples, and drew their attention to that which had happened. But He did not tell her. The children of Israel in the Old Testament gave for a particular project. The widow gave out of the fullness of her heart in the interest of God's house and His service. The Lord said to His disciples, 'This poor widow cast in more than all they which have cast into the treasury'. That simple account of giving has helped many lonely, poor and sorrowing hearts to give. Many times a few pence has been turned into gold by the Lord 'who sat over against the treasury'. God can do much with small amounts. Is a similar spirit of simplicity and spontaneity found in our giving to the Lord?
Turning to the epistles, among the Christians in the churches of Macedonia we find a joyful, sacrificial liberality in giving. 'Out of their deep poverty' they gave and kept on giving. They did not calculate what they could spare, neither what they could afford. Their giving was an expression of the living reality of God's grace in their hearts. Paul identifies the motivation for their giving, 'First they gave their own selves to the Lord', 2 Cor. 8. 1-6. At Philippi the saints demonstrated a similar spirit of generosity; their giving was not out of sympathy for Paul in his imprisonment. It was a genuine offering to God, an exercise that was spontaneous and sacrificial.
The grace of giving in the Corinthian epistle is set against the backdrop of the example of Christ; 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich', 2 Cor. 8. 9. Also, the practical James in his epistle challenges his readers to consider the lavish giving by God; 'He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not', Jas. 1. 5. Paul joins in with, 'He giveth us richly all things to enjoy', 1 Tim. 6. 17. Lavish generosity marks the giving of God and we do well to take this to heart. Generosity with cheerfulness is a Christian grace.
Why should we give? Christian giving reflects the effectiveness of God's grace in our lives. Every Christian, like the prodigal son, has experienced the embrace of the Father, and the kiss of forgiveness and reconciliation by the Son, and the identifying ring of family relationship by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Appreciating these precious truths in our hearts, we have a responsibility to give of our substance to support the Lord's work and His servants.
How much shall we give? The Bible gives a clear answer. 'Let every one of you lay up in store, as God hath prospered him', 1 Cor. 16. 2. In this chapter there are certain important features about giving. We are to give money. The only money God has is what; we have. Then, we are to be systematic 'On the first day of the week'. It is to be a real part of our worship and thanksgiving. Next, it is personal; 'Let everyone of you'. This suggest that each one was to go away alone and settle his account with God in this matter of 'how much'. Lastly, it is to be sacrificial; 'As God hath prospered you'. The exact amount is not stated, that is left between you and the Lord: according to God's faithful provision there should be a real dedication of a part of our salaries to His service. Is it honouring to the Lord to put in the collection bag on the Lord's day morning what will not even buy a computer game on a Saturday afternoon or a pizza meal on a Saturday night!
To what shall we give? In addition to meeting our responsibility to give to God in the weekly collection, there is a whole sphere of Christian work that needs support from Christians. Here are some suggestions.
Workers serving at home. There are those who serve God in evangelism. They are involved in tract distribution, visiting, as well as conducting series of Gospel meetings. Sometimes they serve away from the public eye in the more remote parts of our land, and are therefore more deserving of our financial support. Some working as Children's evangelists are involved in a heavy itinerary of School Assemblies, Summer Camps, and Holiday Bible Schools. All these activities are costly. Regional Postal Bible Schools are operating in different counties. Lesson material, stamps and stationery have to be paid for to send out the lessons and correspond with the pupils. Some brothers work in the prisons, holding weekly Bible Classes for the prisoners. They give away Bibles and New Testaments, also Bible Courses; again all these activities have their measures of cost.
. . . not always is it money that is required . . .
Workers serving abroad. We call them Missionaries. There are a variety of needs in countries overseas. Not always is it money that is required. Food parcels, clothing, and baby things are essential in some parts of the world. Let us seek to understand in an intelligent way where the need is seen most, and then do our very best to help.
Facing up to the challenge. Do we give regularly to the Lord's work, or is our giving only occasional and haphazard? is our giving personal? Do we ever take time to thank the Lord for His provision of our material needs, and then ask His guidance as to what to put into the offerings on the Lord's day? Do we ask Him to burden our hearts about one of His servants or some part of His work? Are we in the practice of giving God our small change, - how dreadful that would be! Sacrificial giving alone is really glorifying to the Lord. If every believer gave in this way, there would be fewer problems in maintaining assembly work both at home and abroad.