Giving: Some Things God Says
Harry Pickup, Sr.
via The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 11, Sept. 1952.
Many Christians are still squirmish about sermons on giving, even though the New Testament has more to say about this subject -- with warnings against violations fo the divine instructions concerning it -- than the subject of baptism. The first sin-scandal within the church soon after the day of Pentecost, was connected with the financial program. Ananias and Sapphira, as recorded in the fifth chapter of Acts, did three things:
- They agreed together about their attempted deception,
- They kept back part of what they proposed to give (they
said they gave "all"), and
- They both lied after they were caught.
Failure to carry on a Scriptural program of church finance can become the downfall of an otherwise Scriptural congregation. This is true not only because that the few who carry the greater part of the financial burden of the church may become discouraged in time, but it is also true because of a wrong attitude toward the Lord's work which can result in a spiritual breakdown.
There are a number of principles which govern this question which I am discussing, and I conscientiously believe that no member of the church can do his full duty in respect to his worship until and unless he understands and applies these principles. I shall discuss them under the several headings which follow and shall give the Scripture which I believe teaches the principle.
Jesus Teaches That Giving Is A Matter Of Faithfulness Or Unfaithfulness In The Matter Of Stewardship
"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (money), who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you hae not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:10-12).
It is very plain to see in this that Jesus regards all the property and money which we have in this world as belonging to God, and that God regards us as stewards who are only given custod-y of this property and money for a limited time. Jesus shows in this parable that this property is NOT OURS -- it belongs to another, God. The point is that if we don't know how to use what God has give to us -- as stewards -- then He will not give us the eternal inheritance which should be ours. What God lets you earn, the money you receive for your work and the house you purchase with the fruits of your labors, are God's, not yours. What He proposes to give to us hereafter, is our's. If we can't take of His by the proper use of it, then He will not give us ours.
You can see from this principle that you can spend this money which God lets you earn, on yourself and family -- if you choose to do so -- and not use the proper amount of it for the Lord's work, just as you please. But such unfaithfulness in stewardship will rob you of your eternal reward. In brief, my brother, it is give, as God has prospered you or be damned! I realize that's strong language, but it is the teaching of Jesus on the matter of stewardship of money and possessions you are allowed to have while upon this earth.
God Expects Us To Give -- And Orders Us To Give -- As The Lord Has Prospered Us
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gather-ings when I come" (I Corinthians 16:1,2).
Please note that the word "order" is used. The English word here is translated from the Greek word "diatasso" which is a strong word that actually prescribes limits. The dictionary says that the word means: "To give commands, to prescribe." The word appears in the work of Jesus when he "directed" (dietaksen) the people to give to a child which He had healed, something to eat (Luke 8:55). According to Paul's reference to the matter, the Lord did "order" (dietaksen) the ones who preach the gospel to live of the gospel. The speech which Jesus made to His disciples in the 10th chapter of Matthew, when He sent the twelve on the limited commission, is referred to by Matthew as the Lord's "commanding" (diatassown) them (Matthew 11:1). Paul said the Lord's coming had been "ordained" (dietageis) (Galatians 3:19).
There are more than a half dozen other examples which I could give all of which show that what Paul said about the first day of the week collection -- or contribution -- was an order, a command.
Well, most people accept that: they believe to contribute of their means on the first day of the week (as stated in I Corinthians 16:1, 2) is a command. I am not only making this point -- for I believe you accept the fact that we should contribute on that day; the point I am making is that the Lord has ordered you to give as you have been prospered! We are great believers in the fact that Sunday is the TIME to give, alright; where we fall down is that the order also extends to the AMOUNT we give. God ordered that too.
I am not prepared to state, today or at any other time, that I can -- by faith, which comes from hearing God's Word -- say that the Scriptures teach in so many words what that exact amount is. What I am going to say is that the Holy Spirit had ORDERED YOU to give as you have been prospered.
I read the following recently: "He does not mean to suggest any proportion by His law. As God hath prospered him. Really He means, Let your preparation for others be according to your sense of God's goodness to you."
Allow me to commend this statement to you. The ORDER, therefore, not only to the church at Corinth, but also to the church at any place, is that each member give on the first day of the week according to his sense of God's goodness to him.
God's System Of Giving Is One Of Equality
"Now therefore perform the doing of it (referring to their contribution for the poor saints) that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (II Corinthians 8:11-14).
We accept this principle in all other walks of life. In our social contacts with others, we believe and practice the principle of equality. Each person pays his or her share of any social event that involves the action of the group, and no man would hesitate about giving hsi share, because it is one of those self-evident moral principles that all human beings acknowledge at once. There is equality: tose wo are better able to give than others give more (as they are prospered, so to speak), and those who have smaller incomes give less (likewise, as they are prospered). This principle, with regards to church finance, is just as Scriptural as dropping your money in the contribution on the "first day of the week."
I do not think I should have very much respect for myself if I had to carry around in my soul the humiliating conviction that I was giving less, in proportion to my ability to support the financial needs of the church, than the other members. But how is the proportion to be determined? The answer comes back, of course, "Let every one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him," and that's right. The rub comes when each of us decides what would be right according to what we receive.
If I am left to determine this by myself, I may be apt to underestimate what is my proportion -- based upon my income. My
own selfishness might also prompt me to overestimate what you
ought to give as your proportion. How then, can we settle the
matter? Why friends, it is perfectly obvious that such could be
easily left to somebody who is entirely disinterested in the matter. This
should be somebody who can help me decide the
matter without being biased by selfishness -- who can look at me, and at
that other brother, and make a fair disinterested estimate of the relative ability of each.
Well, it just so happens that God has someone in His church who would be perfectly unbiased, unpreduced and very fair in this -- or any other matter. In fact, some of the reasons for appointing them to the office they hold in the church are that they are vigilant, sober, not greedy of filthy lucre or gain, not covetous, patient, apt to teach (hence they know what the Book teaches) and on top of all of this they are "not a novice" hence they have had lots of experience. Obviously, I refer to the elders of the church. One of the jobs of the elders is to watch for our souls, hence they could certainly be depended upon to tell us just what amount we should Scripturally give out of what income we have.
So far as I know there has never been anyone to object to the duty of the elders to "watch" for the souls of members, but when it comes to having anyone to counsel with members on how much they ought to give, there are a lot of people who say that "My contribution is nobody's business but mine and God's." There is a sense in which this is true. There is a sense in which ALL of your conduct is nobody's business but yours and God's but there is another sense in which this is absolutely NOT true.
For instance: idleness and gossipping is not only the business of the guilty Christian and God; it is likewise the business of the elders and the church. Paul states that such a one should have the fellowship of the church withdrawn from him, and the reference is II Thessalonians 3:6-12.
In I Corinthians 5:6-13 Paul tells the church to purge itself of any person -- who is a brother -- guilty of a long list of sins. Listed in this group is the covetous man. Is covetousness nobody's business but the covetor's and God's? No, it is the business of the church as well. If there is a possibility that one should slip into ANY of these sins -- and certainly in the matter of money, there is a great danger -- why wouldn't it be right for the elders to asist the members in deciding what is proper? Why should these bishops of God's flock be held accountable by God for dealing with all the sins in the catalogue of which members may be guilty -- and help them to avoid them, and yet not be required to assist the members in this?
As I read through the New Testament, I find that the sin of covetousness or stinginess, is more frequently held up to condemnation by the Lord and the apostles, and dealt with in sever-er and more terrific terms, than any other sin in the whole category. Indeed, a covetous man is more unlike Christ than any other wicked man in the world. A drunkard, may -- and often does -- have a good deal of kindness and good-heartedness about him. A man who kills another in a heat of passion may -- in many ways -- be a good kind person; but if a man is covetous stingy, penurius, miserly with God, he is farther away from Christ and His attitude toward things, than all the rest. Jesus gave up Heaven and come down to earth to live. While on earth He gave up all of the things that ordinary mortals consider desirable, and finally gave His life for the benefit of others. But the covetous man, this poor wretch who wants everything for himself -- except a small pittance which he drops in the contribution basket to salve his conscience -- is actually not giving anything. Not only is he unfaithful in the matter of stewardship, having forgotten that the money is nto his at all, he has a very poor conception of God's goodness to him, in the matter of his prosperity and has absolutely no regard for God's commands relative to equality.
The fourth principle which I want to discuss with you, my brethren, is that of:
God's System Requires Cheerful Giving
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man accordingly as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:6,7).
I doubt if a pasage of Scripture in the New Testament is abused more than this passage -- unless it be the one I discussed in the second heading of the lesson. Cheerfulness must grace all the giving done by Christians, in order for it to be acceptable to the Lord. The Lord DOES NOT love a grudging giver, and God also DOES NOT love a stingy person. Some people seem to think they can escape the judgment of God by saying to themselves that they can't give cheerfully (what they really ought to give) so they will give a little and be cheerful.
Don't think you can escape the judgment of God by doing it tath way. It is true that God doesn't want your contribution if it is given "grudgingly" but God doesn't want YOU -- even though you may be a very cheerful little person about the pittance you give to Him -- unless you give according to your prosperity. The part of the passage that condemns this fellow is the first part: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly."