What kind of giving does God want us to practice?
BIBLE READING: Exodus 35:1-35
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. Some brought to the Lord their offerings of gold—medallions, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind to the Lord. (Exodus 35:22)
God is pleased with personal giving. Those who spun cloth made a beautiful contribution to the tabernacle. Good workers take pride in the quality and beauty of their work. God is concerned with the quality and beauty of what you do. Whether you are a corporate executive or a drugstore cashier, your work should reflect the creative abilities God has given you.
BIBLE READING: Ezra 2:64-70
KEY BIBLE VERSE: When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders gave generously toward the rebuilding of God's Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests. (Ezra 2:68-69)
God is pleased when we give generously. As the temple reconstruction progressed, everyone contributed freewill offerings according to his or her ability. Some were able to give huge gifts and did so generously. Everyone's effort and cooperation were required, and the people gave as much as they could. Often we limit our giving to 10 percent of our income. The Bible, however, emphasizes that we should give from the heart all that we are able (2 Cor. 8:12; 2 Cor. 9:6). Let the amount of your gift be decided by God's call to give generously, not by the amount of your leftovers.
BIBLE READING: 2 Cor. 8:1-15
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. (2 Cor. 8:2)
God is pleased with regular giving. The Corinthian believers excelled in everything—they had faith, good preaching, much knowledge, much earnestness, much love. Paul wanted them to also be leaders in giving. Giving is a natural response of love. Paul did not order the Corinthians to give, but he encouraged them to prove that their love was sincere. When you love someone, you want to give him or her your time and attention and to provide for his or her needs. If you refuse to help, your love is not as genuine as you say.
Sacrificial giving imitates Christ. There is no evidence that Jesus was any poorer than most first-century Palestinians; rather, Jesus became poor by giving up his rights as God and becoming human. In his incarnation God voluntarily became man—the wholly human person, Jesus of Nazareth. As a man, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. He did not give up his eternal power when he became human, but he did set aside his glory and his rights. In response to the Father's will, he limited his power and knowledge. Christ became "poor" when he became human, because he set aside so much. Yet by doing so, he made us "rich" because we received salvation and eternal life.
Giving requires careful planning. The Corinthian church had money, and apparently they had planned to collect money for the Jerusalem churches a year previously (2 Cor. 9:2). Paul challenges them to act on their plans. Four principles of giving emerge here: (1) your willingness to give cheerfully is more important than the amount you give; (2) you should strive to fulfill your financial commitments; (3) if you give to others in need, they will, in turn, help you when you are in need; (4) you should give as a response to Christ, not for anything you can get out of it. How you give reflects your devotion to Christ.
Deciding how much to give. How do you decide how much to give? What about differences in the financial resources Christians have? Paul gives the Corinthian church several principles to follow: (1) each person should follow through on previous promises (2 Cor. 8:10; 2 Cor. 9:3); (2) each person should give as much as he or she is able (2 Cor. 8:12; 2 Cor. 9:6); (3) each person must make up his or her own mind how much to give (2 Cor. 9:7); and (4) each person should give in proportion to what God has given (2 Cor. 9:10). God gives to us so that we can give to others.
We should give responsibly. Paul says that we should give of what we have, not what we don't have. Sacrificial giving must be responsible. Paul wants believers to give generously, but not to the extent that those who depend on the givers (their families, for example) must go without having their basic needs met. Give until it hurts, but don't give so that it hurts your family and/or relatives who need your financial support.
Handbook of Bible Application.