In the first century of the Christian era the Macedonian believers, who were numbered among the poor of this world yet were rich in faith, yielded themselves entirely to the Lord. They demonstrated the sincerity of their love by giving liberally to the needs of the early church, and thus set a glorious example which demands the attention of 20th-century Christians.
Modern conditions naturally bring modern problems, even in the local church. In addition to our responsibility in the matter of the temporal needs of poor saints, there are many other necessities which call for constant financial support. Many local churches now-a-days, for example, either rent or own a building and there is consequently a regular charge for rent or other expenses to be met. Then there is the cost of advertisements, preachers’ travelling expenses, gifts to evangelists and to those who are proclaiming the gospel in unevangelized areas. Moreover, the Sunday School and other departments of the work call for the support of the Christians who constitute the local assembly.
Appeals should never be circulated
Appeals should never be circulated for donations, and annual subscriptions should not be solicited. Such methods would not only be unscriptural but an insult to God our Father, who has promised to supply all our need (Phil. 4., 19; 3 John 7). Collections for Christian work should never be taken from unbelievers who accept our invitation to attend the Sunday-evening gospel service. The attitude of the child of God should ever be “We seek not yours but you.” Remember that The Macedonians first gave their own selves unto the Lord.” The most convenient and appropriate time to take up an offering is usually on the Lord’s Day when Christians meet together for the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 16. 2).
The income of the local church is the responsibility of the individual Christians who make up that assembly. Unfortunately the responsibility of the individual is not always realized. The fellowship of believers is enjoyed, and the ministry is appreciated, but these benefits are only possible as a result of some expense and the members of the assembly should be prayerfully exercised concerning the defraying of such expenses.
The measure of this particular branch pf giving must obviously be determined to a great extent by the current need. If a local assembly of Christians has heavy financial commitments, the amount of the weekly gift made by the individual Christian would naturally be greater than if the local expenses were comparatively light. Such a weekly gift could be made out of the total regularly Set aside by each individual as the Lord’s portion of his or her income.
What is the Lord’s portion?
The preliminary step is for us to deckle what the Lord’s portion really is, and how we may cheerfully discharge our responsibility to Him in the matter of Christian giving. There can be no rigid rule in this matter. It is a question which must be dealt with by the individual believer under the guidance of God in the light of His written word. Some few months after the writer had received Christ as Saviour he was enabled, after some prayerful consideration, to break with the habit of smoking. As cigarettes and tobacco were no longer necessary he soon discovered that the money which was previously wasted was now saved and could be used to the glory of God. On discussing the subject of systematic giving with devoted Christian, it was observed that, as the Jews gave to God one-tenth of their income under the dispensation of the law, this proportion should be the very least which the Christian should give in this day of grace. From that time forward ho kept a small bag, into which he began to regularly deposit at the very least one-tenth of his income from all sources.
The Christian doctrine of giving summarized
The Christian doctrine of giving may be summarized thus: 1) It is a grace, i.e. a disposition created by the Spirit (2 Cor. i. 7). (2) In contrast to the Law, which imposed giving as a Divine requirement, Christian giving is voluntary, and a test of sincerity and love (2 Cor. 8. 8-12; 2 Cor. 9. 1, % 5, 7). (3) The privilege is universal, belonging, according to ability, to rich and poor (2 Cor. 8. 1-3, 12, IS: 1 Cor. 16, 1-2). (4) Giving is to be proportioned to income (2 Cor. 8. 12-14; 1 Cor. 16. 2). “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee” (Deut. 16. 17). “Whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord” (Ex. 35. 5). When we have decided in the presence of God what proportion He would have us give, so let us give, not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9. 7).
In Mark 12. 41 we read that “Jesus sat over against the treasury.” Let us remind ourselves that this Divine observer of the treasury is none other than He whom God gave for the salvation of the world. This is the very One who loved us and gave Himself for us. He is the One whose omniscient eye ever beholds what I place in His treasury. If the eye of a fellow-believer causes reflection of mind and exercise of heart in my giving, what effect will be produced by the thought of Bis eye being ever upon me? He who sat over against the treasury beheld haw the people cast money into the treasury. He is more concerned with HOW we give than WHAT we give.
The Lord lovelh a cheerful giver
Scripture never says “ The Lord loveth a GREAT giver," but it does say, “The Lord loveth a CHEERFUL giver,” and again, “He that giveth, let him do it with liberality” (Rom. 12. 8. R.V.). Our Lord Jesus saw a certain poor widow cast in TWO MITES which make a farthing. What comfort this should be to the very poorest of God’s family! What was the Lord’s comment? “This poor widow hath cast in more than all they which have cast into the treasury.” Many who were rich gave much: she only gave two mites. But because He was looking at the motive of the begirt and nut at what they gave, lie could rightly say that she had given more than they all. The rich gave of their abundance but the poor-widow gave of her want and did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Our Master estimates our gifts and service by what they cost us in effort and self-denial; it follows that the “easy offerings of superfluity” will not count for very much when we are called into Christ’s presence to give an account of our stewardship.
Christ’s teaching about money
“The basis of Christ’s teaching about money,” says Dr. A. T. Pierson, “is the fundamental conception of stewardship” (Luke 12. 42; 16. 1-8), Man is not an owner but a trustee, managing another’s goods and estates, God being the one original and inalienable owner of all.
In prayerfully distributing from the funds which we have set aside as the Lord’s portion we should remember, in addition to the, expenses of the assembly, the poor (James 2. 15, 16); the Lord’s ministering servants (1 Cor. 8. 4-11); visiting preachers and those who are proclaiming the gospel in unevangelized areas.
The purchasing and distribution of Scripture literature and tracts should also claim our attention, and the children of God should never forget hospitality (1 Peter 4. 9).
When the nation of Israel walked with God, they paid their tithes heartily and regularly. When Israel was spiritual, Israel was liberal; when Israel was carnal, Israel was stingy. In all dispensations we are exhorted to “honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase” (Prov. 3. 9; 1 Cor, 9). The giving of our offerings (according to 1 Cor, 16. 2) should be:-
(a) Systematic – “first day of the week”
(b) Personal – “every one of you”
(c) Deliberate – “lay by him in store”
(d) Conscientious – “as God has prospered.”
The lack of giving amongst Christians may in some measure account for the low spiritual tone of the whole church at the present hour. Having been unfaithful in the unrighteous mammon, we cannot bis entrusted with the true riches.
If every true Christian gave as much to God as the Jew gave, any financial problems, which may exist, would be solved in the twinkling of an eye.