Are You a Cheerful Giver?

Cheerful Giver

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

The current attitude that is hitting the pew is the idea that since God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) then you only need to tithe whatever amount you can “cheerfully” part with, whether it be two percent, five percent, ten percent, or none. Is this true and is this biblical?

Some people interpret these thoughts and behaviors to mean if they don’t resent the amount they are tithing, and as long as they can feel happy, content, and generous about whatever amount they tithe, then, they can say they are “cheerful” givers. I do not believe that is what God intended at all. Look at the text in context. Since all that we have comes from Him, we should be cheerful and grateful that He allows us to keep the gross majority of what we are given.  We should focus on being cheerful for what He has done for us! So many countries, governments, and agencies require a lot more from us than God does. The fact that He allows us to enjoy such a large part of His blessing should be a great source of happiness to everyone. Yet, so many begrudge Him even the little they are willing to return.

This concept of giving out of our conveniences is directly in opposition to what Scripture says (although nicely convenient!).

Our giving “cheerfully” is the response of our gratitude for what He did for us, not a convenience to our wallets! We may not be mandated to give an exact amount or percentage, since we are under grace and not the law as the Puritans argued, but they gave way more than a mere ten percent! So, look at this verse in its context (2 Cor. 9:6-15), especially verse six, and you will see that this popular thinking is wrong!

This passage is an illustration of farming (Job. 4:8; Prov. 11:18; 22:8; Hos. 8:7; 10:12). Thus, when you give, your gift will be used as a seed that grows into a crop. The more you give, the more bounty there will be in the Kingdom. Both the seed of the gift and the maturity of the person who gives will grow. This is what Paul calls sufficiency, which means to be content in all circumstances. The opposite would be to be self-sufficient, and the book of Jeremiah tells us how much God hates that!

Thus, we need to strive to see the beauty of giving and be cheerfully motivated. And, by the way, this passage has nothing to do with tithing; it was about giving to the poor!

 

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How do we Increase Giving in the Church?

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Mark 12:41-44; Acts 2:44-45; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7

Simply put, from over twenty years of research and practice in this subject and a Ph.D., in it, it all comes down to two words, maturity and gratitude. The ones who give are going in their faith. Growing mature in the precepts of God’s Word and the practice of a real living faith. The ones who do not are not. The precursor of this and comes from this is a realization of the magnitude of how much we have been forgiven by our Lord, so we feel indebted, and thankful. Mature and thankful Christians, as in real followers of Christ, will realize they are stewards of God’s resources and will give back. While, immature believers, those who want to have only their needs met and their ears tickled, will be selfish and thus stingy.

Thus, the role the church leadership needs to go back to the basic call of our Lord, make disciples, feed the flock!

Once we form a more mature faith, and develop a strong sense of gratitude for the grace flowing in us, what should we do about our stewardship? How can we best respond with the goods given to our care? How much do we keep for ourselves, how much do we give away; how much is for us to play with, and how much goes to the work of the church? There are no concrete answers here; it is a call and a response of our heart and faith. We are given the general parameters from Scripture; it is up to us to figure out how to apply them. And it is the job of the pastor to preach the Word, set the example and allow the Holy Spirit to convict. Yet, this is hard for most, even me, and the source for most debates are nothing new. This subject is now, and has been very controversial. It has been a bitter debate since the formation of the early church, perhaps because most people like to do things their own way and do not like the real true Truth of the Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Thus, relinquishing control, especially with their pocketbook is muted from the desires of the flesh. So, we can see all kinds of crazy teachings from every conceivable perspective. But what we need to do is see what God’s Word says, pray, and go from there.

God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves and refuse to give back.

Especially when, what we are called to be using His resources to model and promote the Word of Christ and the service of those around us and the world. Too many Christians have bought into the consumer-driven culture and the megalomaniac and prideful pastors who lead so many astray. Such atrocious rebels of God call and Word, seemed to be blessed. But in fact, their reward is worldly and not eternal. And the ‘blesser’ is not the God of the Bible. And the sums of money they received was supposed to go to outreach and missions, doing as Christ called in the Gospels, helping the poor, not helping the rich. Thus, the spire away from maturity continues to fall. The Christian community has become greedy for selfish reasons and too selfish to give. While insisting that only their needs be met, unconcerned with what are the real need for the community and the call we all have. Then the local church with good pastors suffers from this, as their people tend to sit back and do little and give little.

To turn this around will take revival, that begins with real prayer and the teaching of the Word and the silencing of the nonsense that is out there in the pulpit and the weak Christian’s heart.

To begin, the church leadership starts with a recommitment to the faith. To surrender to Christ’s Lordship and publicly repent. Now they have maturity and gratitude. Then, form the vision and follow through to know our Lord and teach His precepts wholeheartedly, Who is Christ and what He has done. And also have seminars on family budgeting and money management. So, the people have the maturity and gratitude and are in the know. Then, teach and model the joy of giving and what stewardship is about. Then, model it regularly by all the church leaders and have testimonies about giving sacrificially and transformed lives. Then, teach how to give. Then, after the previous steps are made, ask people to give, who are now growing in the faith. Now you have a church where there is ample giving and one that is willing and able to roll on its call.

 

The Providence of Stewardship

What is a good way to have good Stewardship? We talked about gratitude, now, one more key word, Providence!

Providence (Genesis 50:20; Job. 38:1-41:34; Psalm 103: 19; Daniel 4:34-35; Acts 2:22-24; 14:16; Romans 1:26-32; 11:33-36; James 1:13-17)

Providence is the doctrine that gives us the knowledge and comfort that God is Sovereign, and thus, He is in control. We are not mere rats in a meaningless maze, where there is no divine plan or purpose.

God, indeed, is in control. Thus, he is in control of our lives and in our finances, if we allow Him to do so.

He does, indeed, have a plan; there is no stray molecule in the universe that does not have His hand of control over it. So, let Him have your checkbook! Be wise with His principles!

Jesus tells us that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs on our head–or the number of hairs we do not have. Therefore there is no chance, no luck, no gambling, no fate, in the worldly sense, to what if or what may have been or what is, as all things happen according to His plan.

 Providence gives us the comfort that Christ is in charge; there are no accidents or mistakes. All we are and have is for His glory and we are His steward.

Or, you may feel you have made a lot of bad decisions in life. If you feel you made too many money mistakes or feel overwhelmed, angry or even prideful that you are entitled, get over yourself and fall to your knees to the Providence of Christ!

Well, you have–we all have made bad choices—but God is still working things out for good (Rom. 8). Therefore, we have no need to dwell upon the past, complain, or play the what if games or fight with our loved ones. Just reboot to His plan and precepts and see your life change for the better, in stewardship and in life!

 How would a healthy biblical view of Stewardship, Gratitude and Providence help you and your church?

Is tithing for today? PII

 

View your promise to give to God that which is referred to as your tithe, like an income tax. Although it is not mandatory, it is a reflection of your character and response to His grace. As the government so nicely swipes away your hardearned money from the top of your paycheck, consider joyfully setting also the top 10% of your net, or better yet, the gross income, for the Lord’s service– before the bills, expenses, and entertainment.  Do not include the tithe in your budget. Make your budget on the net assets you have after the tithe and taxes. Then, you will have a more realistic budget and keep yourself from getting into debt.  That way, it is done and out of the way. Then, carefully decide to whom it should go. The primary responsibility is first to your local church, and second to ministries that are doing the Lord’s work.  Remember, the people who set aside the first fruits of their resources to God are dedicating themselves to God, and not themselves to themselves. 

The tithe was fair and is still fair today. Every one is on the same playing- paying field. So the rich paid more and the poor paid lees.

If our taxes worked that way we would have a balanced budget and be a nation out of depth and not even have to pay income tax, if we went to a 10% national tax on all goods and serves sold! All you have to do is divide 10% from the gross national product and compare it to what the IRS gets annually and what the national depth is.

(Reference and History from “History of the Christian Church” by Schaff; “A History of Christianity Vol. I &II” by Latourette, “The IVP Bible Background Commentary,” by Keener, and “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church”)!

Is tithing for today?

Tithing is a very misunderstood as is Stewardship. Postmodern thinking in Evangelical Christianity is to, think we “give.” But in actuality, we “bring!” it is about being obedient to what God has told us clearly, He bless us and we in turn are to bless others. It is all His to begin with, so we must adjust our thinking and lifestyle to correspond to a deeper spiritual formation in our thinking and behaviors. 

The answer is no–as a forced obligation. The answer is also yes–if it is a response from the heart.

We are not obligated to give any amount. But, when we have the right mindset, based on the Word of God and a heart that flows with gratitude for what He has done, yes, we will want to give all that we are able to. I believe that in the debates, occurring over the centuries since the early church, and now to the classrooms in seminary, and to the message boards I pursued, money and religion have always gone together.

Money and religion have always fought each other in people’s pride and inclinations.

Just as Jesus’ anger with the money changers in the temple and Luther’s outrage with the selling indulgences in the pre-Reformation period, to the TV preachers we have today saying, “if you give to me, God will give to you ten times as much,” it all comes down to motivation, greed, and the idol of money. We will bow to money or we will bow to God. The question is what do you truly worship? Where is your motivation? Where is your heart?

And, so the controversy continues, as the presumptions and feelings of men take over sound reasoning and dialog. I call you to search the Scriptures and see for yourself what God requires of you. As for my family and me, we will give all we can with our time, talents, and treasures for His glory. What about my opinion of ten percent? I agree with the Puritans and the early church. Give what you can, but not as an obligation; it all belongs to Him for His glory! Ten percent is a good place to start! Good stewardship is where we start! Sometimes you may not be able to give much. When I was in school I could not give most of the time, so I augmented more volunteer time. Today I am a missionary and struggle day to day. God has provided for my family, but not in any kind of abundance or what we call in the US, “discretionary income.” So, I volunteer in areas in my church outside of my pastoral responsibilities and give what I can of the treasures the Lord has given me. Even in my poverty, after doing my taxes, I realized I did give just over ten percent, and I do not know how I did! He provided

A discussion on Biblical Stewardship PII

            One of the key principles I want to get across to you is the difference in what we have, and what God has. We basically have nothing; we own nothing, we earn nothing, we gain nothing. God is the true owner of all things; He is the One who owns it all. Consider this. When you die, will there be a trailer with all of your stuff following you to the pearly gates? The answer is, no! After all, your eternal reward is far, vastly superior to what you have here. Even if you were Bill Gates, with billions of dollars, and were able to take it all with you, once you got to Heaven, you would not want to even look at it, much less keep it. As it would just be like rotting stinky junk! Would you rather pick a nonworking rusted car from a junkyard, or have a brand new luxury car? What God has for you is far better than what you would want to take! All you would end up bringing is trash (Deuteronomy 8:18; Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 6:16-20)!

The Egyptians believed that they could take it with them, but if you go to the Museums in Cairo you will see all of their grand stuff still there, here on earth! We have to see life as a training ground for eternity; we are given property, material possessions, gifts, abilities, and most importantly, relationships. It is what we do with these, what we learn from them, and what we impart to others that will become the true treasure. It is not the deed, title or pink slip; it is not the bank statement, or our brokerage account that matters. It is what we do with what is temporarily given to us that is important. That is where the treasure is earned, and learned. God is the owner; we are the managers. Let us use and manage His goods wisely, to prepare us for what is still to come (Psalm 49:16-17; Matthew 16:27; 25:21-23; Luke 19:12-19; 1 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Corinthians 4:16- 5:10; Revelation 20:6).

When we give, we are giving what is not really ours to begin with. It is not ours to keep, nor is it something we would even want to bring with us to eternity. We give what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose! This is authentic stewardship in action, and the real practicing of our faith. It is the practicing of our faith that is inseparable to the exercise of what we are given. These two combine synergistically to build our maturity, and our standing before our Lord. You cannot build your faith while ignoring your responsibility, just as you cannot build your faith by just focusing on material goods, even if you are doing it faithfully. Material things are not wrong to have when viewed rightly. It is when we think of them as important that is considered stupid in God’s eyes (Proverbs 23:5; Matthew 6:19-21; 19:21-30).

A discussion on Biblical Stewardship



As Christians who take the Bible seriously, we also need to take to heart the seriousness of being a wise steward. Stewardship is an act of worship and gratitude by the Believer, in response to His grace. In so doing, we acknowledge God’s power and authority over our lives. This leads us to realization of and response to His love, by caring about what He brings into our lives. This includes everything–our relationships, spiritual gifts, time, material goods, our monies, and even our very being. This act of stewardship is in response to the marvelous gift of His amazing, wondrous Grace given to us.  We begin by being thankful, and our thankfulness leads to the care of everything in our lives. Thus, our gratitude for what we have leads us to faithfully take care of the business of life. Gratitude is also worship, and our response to God for first loving us.

            In my experiences and observations, I have observed, with sadness, that most people in evangelical circles do not see stewardship as important.

A common response to the subject of stewardship is that all we need to have is a good heart, or be sincere in our faith. Our money, and how we manage life is irrelevant. But, is this true? Is God only concerned with our heart? If so, what does that mean? Well, when you read the Bible, you can see that it has a totally different definition of stewardship than what is popular in the church today!

God is concerned with what is in our hearts, and a good heart has responsible character assigned to it. That is what being a good steward means.

This is shown to us by our role in taking care of creation, the testimony of the Law, and the Psalms, to name a few. Stewardship, in Hebrew, means “house law and rule.” It means that the person who is hired is to manage the affairs for the owner. This means that the property, resources, money, and previsions are under the steward’s control and responsibility. They belong to God, and are entrusted into our hands. Thus, all dimensions of management are under the word and theme of stewardship! So, all that we do in the affairs of our daily life is under stewardship too! Is God concerned with what is in your heart? Yes, He is, and being a good steward will show that you have a good heart!

Thus, as good stewards, we cannot be wasteful. Being a bad steward was under penalty of death in Biblical times. Fortunately, we are under grace, and Christ’s atonement covers us from God’s wrath when we mess up, but that does not mean we are to be careless. We are not to go around thinking all we need to do is think we are good, just as we cannot think we are good at our job or school, and be late all of the time, or slack off. We have to think carefully about the most prudent way to allocate and manage the gifts and resources He puts in our care! This is in response to what He has given to us–abundant grace and love, and His mercy and care. We must understand that being bad at stewardship is wasting what God has given, and even wastes our lives, and opportunities, too! We are just to have a good heart? If you are not responsible, chances are, no, you do not have a good heart.

Stewardship means we must take care of His Word and world carefully, honestly, diligently, and faithfully in the character as revealed in His Word. 

It means remembering that God gives us everything, including Himself. So, how do we manage all of this with Biblical precepts and principles? One good way to view stewardship is to see what He gives us as a loan. We are to manage it with the attitude of giving back to God, of honoring Him, just like the Parable of the Talents teaches (Matthew 25:14-30)!