Good Giving

Good Giving

It’s getting to the end of the financial year, so your email inbox will soon be full of EOFY giving appeals. And then, in a couple of months’ time, if your church is behind budget, you’ll be hearing appeals to raise your giving. What does God’s word say about being a good giver?

Give Gratefully

The first thing to get right is our motives. We mustn’t give out of guilt or cold duty or in order to get something back. Rather, we should give out of gratitude, because of what God has given us. God has given us everything we have materially:

Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

1 Chronicles 29:12

He has also given us everything we have spiritually:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3

God has been exceedingly generous to us. And that generosity leads us to be generous, too.

Firstly, it makes us grateful. In Luke 7, a ‘sinful woman’ crashes a party that some Pharisees have given for Jesus. She brings a bottle of expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus’ feet. It’s a generous act—why does she do it? Because she’s grateful. This woman knows Jesus has come to forgive people like her, so she responds by giving to him in adoration. As Jesus puts it,

I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

Luke 7:47

The woman’s gratitude makes her generous.

Secondly, God’s generosity to us changes us. Humanity without God is naturally greedy:

Having lost all sensitivity… they are full of greed.

Ephesians 4:19

But once we’re forgiven, we no longer have to live that way; instead,

you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires … and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22, 24

In other words, when God forgives us, he also helps us to be who we were meant be—people made in his image. And because God is a giver, part of us being in his image means being givers:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Ephesians 4:28

We don’t just give because we’re subjectively grateful to God, but because the gospel objectively changes us to be more like him.

So the first thing to do as we consider our giving doesn’t involve a spreadsheet. It involves a Bible and prayer. Before you do anything with your money, reflect on what God’s done for you, thank him, and ask for the chance to be generous to others.

Give Generously

Once we’ve reminded ourselves of why we give, we then need to work out how much to give. And the Bible’s emphasis is: be generous. Intriguingly, unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament doesn’t set a percentage of how much we’re to give away. Rather, it simply tells us to be generous:

Since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:7

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Of course, what generosity looks like will be different for different people. Some will be able to give a lot, others much less. The amount itself doesn’t matter:

If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

2 Corinthians 8:12

But whatever our circumstance, we’re to push ourselves to be generous.

What does this look like in practice? In my family, towards the end of each year my wife and I work out what our combined incomes will be next year, what our expenses will be, and then how much we can give away (first as a percentage, then as a figure, always trying to give a bit more than we’re comfortable with). But the key is to be intentional. Working out consciously what you’ll give away, and then sticking to the plan, is the key to actually giving.

Give Widely

The New Testament calls us to give to a wide variety of things. One cause we should give to is the local church:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and, ‘The worker deserves his wages.’

1 Timothy 5:17–18

Another, if we can, is gospel work beyond the local church. The Philippians are a good example of this. They gave to help Paul plant a church in Thessalonica:

As you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

Philippians 4:15–16

We should also give to the needy: Christians first, but then also non-Christians:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:10

What does this look like in practice? Easy: just take the amount you’ve decided to give, divide it between your giving areas, and start giving!