“For God loves a cheerful giver”2 Corinthians 9:7
You may have heard of “giving an offering,” or “tithing” before. It refers to giving money regularly to your local congregation and to God’s work. While these two terms are often used interchangeably today, they do have slightly different meanings. Some Christians nowadays refer to the regular giving of money to the church as “tithing,” and “offering” denotes a special giving beyond the usual amount. However, I will refer to the regular giving of money as “offering” to distinguish it from a literal “tithe” or “tenth,” as explained later.
While giving an offering is not a requirement believers in the New Testament, and therefore the time in which we now live, must fulfill, offering is an excellent thing to do.
Let us look back to the Old Testament. There, God commanded the Israelites to tithe a portion of their possessions and money (Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29). A tithe is one-tenth or 10% (the origin comes from Abram in Genesis 14:20). The Israelites were also commanded by God to give other offerings in addition to tithes, such as festival offerings, the temple tax, and the various animal offerings as prescribed in Leviticus. Giving God a share of your possessions and money was a required part of life for the Israelites in the Old Testament and up to the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
With that, we know a lot of changes were ushered in for God’s people, including no longer strictly observing the Mosaic covenant and Jewish ceremonial laws such as tithing (Romans 7:6). Neither Paul, nor any other New Testament letter writer, ever mentioned that Christians should literally “tithe,” as giving a tenth was no longer commanded or required of God’s people. However, Paul still urged the churches to give money or offerings for the Lord’s work.
Why is this? First, the fact is that money is needed to pay the costs of a church building and to provide income and support for pastors, missionaries, and Christian organizations – namely, the work in the kingdom of God. Second, offering money acknowledges that what we have belongs to God. “For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). We are dependent on God for everything, including money. Third, the Lord has done so much for us – don’t you think we should give Him an offering out of gratitude? He provides us daily with the physical gifts we need, as well as spiritual blessings, not to mention salvation and eternity with Him! He died on the cross for us so that we could be free from sin – what a gift! The Lord blesses us abundantly, and so it is only right that we should gratefully return a portion of His gifts to Him and to the church.
How much should we give? There is no set amount. While a tenth is no longer commanded, many Christians today choose to give approximately that amount of their pay cheque or income. A tenth is a good starting point. If you can give more, that is a wonderful blessing! However, if you’re not able to give a tenth, give what you can. The Lord knows how much you’re able to afford. Recall the story of the poor widow who gave only two little mites (Mark 12:41-44). While the value of her offering was less than a penny in today’s value, she sacrificially gave all that she had (100%!), and Jesus commended her for it.
The important thing is not how much you give, but how you give. How willingly are you giving your money and offering to the Lord? 2 Corinthians 9:7 states: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity.” If we feel reluctant to give an offering, we shouldn’t do it. If we feel forced to give our money, or we feel our parents or congregation want us to, then we won’t do it with the right heart attitude, and our offering will be looked at by Jesus as of little value. If we decide to give money, then we should do so cheerfully, as Paul exhorted us to.
When should we give? Throughout the Bible, we are continually reminded in various ways to put God first. Our allegiance, our thoughts, our time, our efforts should be His first (Matthew 6:33). Likewise, we should strive to give an offering as soon as we receive a pay cheque, if possible (see 1 Corinthians 16:2). It is too easy to buy the things you need or want first, and then discover you hardly have any money left to give as an offering. God does not want our “leftovers;” He wants our “firsts.” It is a great idea to first set a portion of money aside from your pay cheque for the Lord and then go buy what you need and want. Although it is a test of faith, don’t you think the Lord will provide for you, even though you might be giving a lot of money away to Him (see Malachi 3:10)? As the old saying goes, you cannot outgive God.
God will bless you for your offering – whether it’s big or small – as long as it’s done cheerfully! In verse 11, Paul mentions that “your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (NIV). In other words, offerings bring glory to God! God desires glory, and He is worthy of all glory and thanksgiving! I heartily encourage you to give offerings regularly to the Lord with cheerfulness, generosity, and gratitude. The Lord’s work on earth will be furthered, you will lay up treasure in heaven for yourself (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19), and God will bless you for your giving (see Proverbs 3:9-10).
Chilliwack, British Columbia