I once asked a friend what she thought was the most important consideration for Christian giving, and she said, “Well, it’s simple: everything you have, you have been given, so your only response is to give also.” Despite its fundamental truth, the one problem with my friend’s response is that it is actually quite simplistic. It fails to address other critical thoughts on the issue such as, what should I give—is it just money or am I obliged to give other resources, such as my time? How much am I supposed to give? Where should my giving go? This article doesn’t attempt to answer these questions directly. However, what follows are several gospel-centered thoughts that can help shape our view of Christian giving and help us give personal answers to the questions above.
The Foundation of Christian Giving
As Christians, all that we are and have are the result of the love that God has bestowed on us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the writer of 1 Chronicles proclaims, we can give to God only what is already His, since everything we have comes from Him (29:14). More directly related to the gospel, Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that Christ became poor, though he was rich, so that through His poverty those who believe in Him might become rich (8:9). This principle serves as the foundation for all our giving as Christians.
If everything we have comes from God, then it is important to see ourselves as stewards, rather than owners, of our resources. This is perhaps the key to giving voluntarily and cheerfully. Unfortunately, we tend to default into thinking of the money we earn as our own. The danger, of course, is when we then presume that we can do what we want with this money. But if we truly grasp that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” (Psalm 24:1) then we’ll know we ought to act as stewards and not as owners and be truly filled with joy when we give.
Now we know we should give joyfully, but how much should we give? Christians ought to give generously, and here we are inspired by biblical examples like the widow who gave her last mite (Mark 12:41 – 44), and the Macedonian churches, whom Paul praised for their sacrificial generosity (2 Cor. 8:2 – 3). We are still faced
with the question of how much is enough. Should giving be done to the point of personal affliction? While deliberating on this question, C. S Lewis concluded, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare” (Mere Christianity, 87). In other words, we ought to give sacrificially.
We should not give merely to soothe pressing requests and a guilty conscience. As much as is possible, giving should be done deliberately and on a regular basis to meet genuine needs. For instance, we could give weekly or monthly, probably in keeping with one’s income. This is what Paul advises the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 26:1. Such faithful generosity requires discipline.
To Whom and What?
As we grow consistent in giving, we should also start evaluating ways to give even more, both in terms of what we give and whom we give to. As Jesus died for the sins of others (us!), Christians should give of themselves out of love. Love moves us to give not just our money but also our time, energy, and care. This love for those around us causes us to give locally first—to family, our local church, and also our neighbors. Then our attention should shift towards the wider kingdom of God. We may need to search a little to find various gospel-centered organizations and people doing the works of evangelism or Christian education or missions. Since we ourselves were saved by the gospel, we should give in big ways to those advancing the gospel and the kingdom of God.
The Key to Giving
The principles of giving stated above all require one key element: a relationship with Jesus. Without a genuine relationship with Him, true obedience in giving is not possible. May the Lord loosen our grasp on possessions and grow in us a heart for His kingdom marked by radical generosity.