Motivation and History of Giving

Looking to inductive analyses and meanings in New Testament 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 

This discussion section centers on an inductive analyses of 2 Corinthians chapter eight as compared to research with “The Works of the Early Church Fathers” from the Early Church.

A Template Of How the Early Church Gave.

  • …Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy…
  • …and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity…
  • …even beyond their ability…
  • …Entirely on their own…
  • …privilege of sharing in this service to the saints…
  • …they gave themselves first to the Lord…
  • …keeping with God’s Will…
  • …in faith …excel in this grace of giving…
  • …I am not commanding you…
  • …you through his poverty might become rich…
  • …you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so…
  • …the gift is acceptable according to what one has…
  • …not according to what he does not have…
  • …eager willingness …the willingness is there…
  • …your plenty will supply what they need… 

How did they give? Well, it was not just a mere ten percent, because they gave abundantly out of deep poverty (NKJV)! In fact, they may have even given more than they should have! But, they did it because of their love for Christ and knowledge of what He did for them! Their motives were astonishing to other people around them. They need to be our “norm” too. Not that we should give beyond our means, but we should give with a sense of the awe of what Christ did for us. The early church had whole-hearted surrender to Christ, which is the abandonment of our Will to His (Gal. 2:20). They gave everything. What do you give, and where does it come from?

A warning:  beware of your motives!

Do not give because you expect to get! God is not a divine bellhop, and He is not required to give you anything. Yet, He does, out of His love and grace! Some very bad teaching has been sneaking in like a snake its way in our churches and airwaves, called the “Health and Wealth” gospel. It says that if you give your money to the preacher, God will give you ten times more, or whatever amount they come up with. They tell you that “Jesus wants you wealthy,” “Jesus wants you rich,” “Jesus wants you prosperous,” and “God wants you rich!” (Direct quotes from Christian Research Institute by several different preachers!) This is not the point of the passage in 2 Corinthians! And furthermore, nowhere in Scripture is this idea found or even alluded to, nor is there even a passage you can twist to say this. It is completely made up! Such teaching is to rationalize the greed and sin of men. This is not the spirit of the Corinthians. They did not even have enough to give what they gave; but they gave anyway, not to get something back, not so they could become wealthy, but because they had given themselves to the Lord, their God, their Savior. We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to greed and the lust of power and money. Our churches are in trouble financially; less than ten percent of the churches tithe any amount over two percent, while others get rich from false promises based on greed and not found in Scripture! Yes, God will usually bless you when you give to Him! I have, in twenty years of pastoral ministry, rarely seen otherwise, but the gift must come from a willing heart, not a “get back, or get rich” attitude. Our riches come from being in Him, not in money or things! Remember, the Lord delivered us from the materialistic attitude and earthy riches for a much greater richness that we could never possibly fathom–that which is to come!

If He does give back to you, it is because of your motive, your heart! Or, He may let the devil give to you, but watch out, because you may have nothing in the hereafter! Jesus says, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap… (Luke 6:38)

Jesus says to us, “give and it will be given to you.” What is the context? For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. This passage is dealing with hypocrisy! Remember the analogy: as in real estate the most important thing is location, location, and location; as in Scripture and our interpretation of it the most important thing is context, context, and context!

Maybe God will give all of your money back plus ten times.  Maybe He wants you in poverty as He lived; maybe He wants you rich. But, in my experience and from Scripture, I have seen Him not only give back to you what you sowed in the first place; I have seen God take care of your needs! We have to learn to trust Him when we give, and He will increase the fruit of our righteousness. So, do you see anywhere in Scripture that God will make you wealthy if you give, or if you ask? NO!It says, He will meet your needs, and He will fill your life with Himself, which is a greater richness than any amount of money Bill Gates has! We are to seek righteousness because this is the great wealth!  

A Look in Church History

The early church prescribed a tithe for all of its members who were able to pay. They saw ten percent owed to God as the absolute minimum from a person’s total income, the least anyone should be able to do. Even Monks had to pay.

Later on in Church history, it was believed and practiced that one was to live the most modest life possible, sell his possessions, and give to the poor based on the passage in Matthew (Matt. 19:21; Gal. 5:1). They saw tithing as law, but we were not under law. In addition, they believed that since everything belonged to God, we should just give Him everything. By the time of legal Christianity, the ideas of tithing had changed so much that the application of giving ten percent was accepted and practiced in all the provinces and nations that were Christian. By the Eighth Century, the Holy Roman Empire took over and the tithe became the tax to Rome, in addition to any governing tax. In the twelfth century, the Monks got a reprieve, so, not only did they not have to pay tithes, they also were able to receive them (before it became the obligation of families to care for them).

At this time, controversies over what a tithe is, how much the Christian was to give and the Church was to receive, was highly intense. The main opponents to tithing were those who did not want to give versus those who did; between those who wanted the tithe for themselves versus those who did not want their money wasted on corruption. By the Middle Ages, tithes had become as complicated as those in Jesus’ day. With specific regulations, twisted out of the context of the Scripture and levied on the poor, such as tithes to the church, the priests, vicars, and personal tithes– were extracted from their produce, for which each category had different regulations (just like our IRS tax code today), different from hay, to corn, to wood, to monies. Then in the pre-reformation, intense conflict arose with tithing; it then escalated during the Reformation. Just a generation after the Reformation, more controversy arose, especially in England where there was a state church. This escalated into the English Civil War. What was the issue and why there was a civil war? A whole county fought over tithing! This was one of the reasons that led the Puritans to flee. The Puritans desired the tithe to be voluntary and not mandatory, just as Scripture prescribes. The state tithe in England lasted up until a few decades ago– to support the state church!

Consider this. Without faithful giving, we would have no way to finance the spread of the gospel, missions, evangelism, social programs, kids and youth programs, or even the building of the Church. Not just the buildings, but the people, programs, and opportunities to do as our Lord has called us to do would suffer! We could not impact our neighborhoods with His love, or minister to the needs of men. Yet, our neighborhoods are suffering from violence, the breakdown of the family, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse–the list goes

on–while most of the neighborhood churches sit, doing little to nothing. There is no vision, no programs, all because of one thing that is missing–no money!

Here is something else to consider. The “smart” economists say that if we removed the nation’s income tax system and went to a “flat rate” of ten percent across the board for everything, our US National budget will be plentiful–and balanced! All we would have to do is divide ten percent from the gross national product, compare it to what the IRS gets annually, and what the national debt is. But, we probably will not see this happen due to political jockeying; it is too simple, and it would work. The rich would pay more because they buy more. The poor would pay less, and so forth. It would be a level playing field. The tithe is on the same level playing/paying field, too. It was, when first instituted, and it is still fair today. Everyone is at the same standard; there are no favorites.

 

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