Each and every week, we, the pastors, recieve questions from all of you. Often times many of you share the same questions. Most of the time these questions are answered by us not with a long position paper but with short quick thoughts over the phone or through email or standing around after church on Sunday.
In order to better serve all of you and to make our answers to common questions more accessible, we will be starting a series of blog posts titled (5 Quick Thoughts). In each post we will attempt to answer important questions we are being asked with 5 Quick Thoughts in response.
In our first post, we answered the question, "What Is Predestination?".
1. Examine the Aim of Your Question.
This question might arise from a pure heart, but an evil heart might ask the same. A pure heart comes joyful and ready to generously give. An evil heart wants to know the requirement. "What are the dues I must pay? What are my financial obligations?" A pure heart raises a legitimate question, "I want to give all I can directly to the Kingdom, but I need also to care for my children and my wife. Given my other responsibilities, how do I determine how much of my income do I offer to the church?" The evil hearts thinks, "How much must I give back to God, and how much may I keep as mine to spend on what I please?" From which heart does this question arise? What kind of heart do you possess?
2. Search the Scriptures.
Some would answer the question, "How much should I give to the church?" with confidence, "You are required to give at least 10% of all God gives you." These would build their argument on the pattern and requirement for giving in the OT along with passages in the NT such as Matthew 23:23-24
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (ESV)
In this passage Jesus did not teach that men should stop tithing now that He had arrived. Instead, they needed to do acts of mercy and justice in addition to their tithing.
Others would contend that giving requirements in the NT are not given in terms of percentages but in terms of the heart. Each should give not out of compulsion but according to his or her capacity. Members of the church should act justly and give generously so that those who serve them through administration and teaching receivejust payment for their work. As individuals make offering they should do so with joy in their hearts and the glory of God as their hope. For those who take this position, the condition of the heart determines the acceptability of the offering rather than the amount.
At this point, I bring up the two prominent ideas in the church not to debate them but to encourage you to form your own opinion. Christians have and will continue to debate this, but each Christian must search the Scriptures and then obey them. You are bound to the Scriptures, so then you must study. Seek understanding. Come to an opinion- a conviction, then with a clear conscience obey. If you conclude God requires 10%, start giving 10%. If your study leads you to place greater emphasis on the heart, go pray. Ask God to make you generous and then give generously and justly. Give according to your capacity so that at the end of the week you might say before God, "I have given all that I can with joy, a pure heart, and love for God's glory.
3. Submit to the Expectation of Your Church.
I imagine in every church there exist an expectation to give. Some churches expect members to tithe at least 10%. Others, such as Christ Fellowship Northwest, stop short of identifying a percentage and instead call their members to give from a pure and generous heart with a clear conscience. When determining how much you should give, you must consider your church's expectation of you. If your church holds that each should give at least 10%, you committed yourself to this when you joined the church. If the church gives you greater freedom in determining the amount you give, you owe to the church your faithful giving and contribution from a generous and pureheart.
In either case, failing to give at all would be a violation of God’s order and design and a sinful failure to keep your word by failing to meet the expectations you committed yourself to by becoming a member of your church. If you are unsure of the giving expectations at your church, humbly go to your leadership and ask. When you learn of the expectation, happily submit yourself and trust the Lord.
4. Evaluate Your Financial Decisions.
Towards what goal or end does your money get spent? What percentage do you spend on your home? How much does feeding and clothing yourself and your dependents require? What percentage of your income goes to personal hobbies or entertainment? Do you give more each month to TV subscriptions than to the church? Do you spend more on your yearly vacation than to the ministry of the church each year?
By examining your financial decisions, you will begin to see and know your heart with greater clarity. The direction of your money will reveal the direction of your heart. So then, sit down and take the time to identify where your heart rejoices in spending cash. Then, if necessary, adjust your giving.
5. Seek the Wisdom and Counsel of Others.
Approaching others in the church for counsel and advice will most often prove insightful and encouraging. Go ask others in your church community how they determined how much they would give. You may even want to ask someone you trust to help you think through how much you can give. Knowing that our sinful flesh will lean toward stingyness and consumption rather than sacrificial investment in the church's mission, inviting others to speak into your giving habits may provide healthy accountability.
If you do a little research at Christ Fellowship Northwest you will find that in the lastquarter of our 2023-2024 fiscal year 69 different households contributed to our regular offering. These 69 households gave on average $365.84 each month. For my household, we set aside each month about 13% of the funds God entrusts to us so that we might give them away. Some of that 13% goes to missions, some to our church’s building fund, some to general tithes and offerings, and some to the various needs of others that arise unexpectedly.
As a family we did not set out to give away 13%; instead, we have on a yearly basis prayerfully considered how much we can give to each category. Each year God tends to stretch us and challenge us in this area. And, each year He proves Himself faithful to meet our needs. Beyond just meeting our needs, God has given back to us treasure infinitely more valuable than the little funds we have given away. We watch him each year take our little contribution and turn it into a harvest of loving fellowship, changed lives, and the increase of God’s glory seen and enjoyed by others as the gospel extends to more and more people.
As you learn from others in the area of giving, do not let their example bind your conscience unnecessarily. Instead, hear their testimony as they bear witness to God's faithfulness and be encouraged with joy to give generously according to your means with a pure heart, a clear conscience, and an eager expectation that God will do a glorious work that far surpasses the glory of your offering.