New disciples, especially in new churches, learning to obey Jesus’ commandment to give generously, want to do so and will ask for teaching on how to give wisely. As you prepare lessons for them, consider guidelines like the following.
1. God owns everything, and we are His stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:11
David said it best: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.” God owns all things, and we believers are to be faithful stewards of what He entrusts to us. Jesus illustrated this with a parable:
A man, before taking a long trip, entrusted his possessions to three servants: five talents (very valuable coins) to one, two to another, and one to a third. Upon returning, the servants gave their accounts; the one who had five had gained another five for his master; the man who had two also doubled his, but the man with only one coin was afraid of his master and foolishly buried the coin in the ground. The master praised the first two and gave them much larger responsibilities, but said to the third, “You wicked, lazy servant… you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my return, I would have received it back with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents… To everyone who has, more shall be given… but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matt. 15:14-30).
2. “Let no debt remain outstanding.” Romans 13:8
Debts make one a slave to his debtors. It is hard to focus on God’s work when fretting about how to pay one’s debts. Christians sometimes borrow unwisely to buy what they don’t need; this destroys happiness and causes severe strain between husbands and wives. No one can be a good steward of God’s property when in debt, because one owes something to others besides God. Debt twists one’s thinking about what one earns and owns, and life becomes tiresome. Pause now and make realistic plans to stay out of debt.
3. Be content with what You Have. Philippians 4:11-13
Being content with what we have helps us enjoy life. Much misery grows out of coveting more wealth. Most wealthy folk yearn for more and more, never satisfied. Their craving becomes painful. The rich commit suicide more often than the poor. God wants us to be happy with what we have and to enjoy it. This relieves pressure and brings peace to our hearts and homes. Some Christian workers fall into the trap of serving to earn money rather than to show their love. Peter warned shepherding elders against this in 1 Peter 5:1-4.
4. Invest in your eternal future. Matthew 19:21
Jesus said to lay up treasures in heaven. Churches have received large donations when a member has tithed lottery winnings; in every case, the devastating result was that others stopped giving as they should. Some pastors worry about urging people to tithe without appearing to fuss too much over money. The New Testament does not require tithing; that was in the Old Testament Law. New Testament passages that deal with how much to give do not even mention tithing, Nevertheless, tithing does have a biblical basis and a Christian is free to make tithing his standard for giving; God normally blesses those who do.
Fundraisers often shame believers into giving more, making them feel stingy and guilty if they don’t give then and there, embarrassing them publicly and threatening them with being unspiritual and disobedient to God’s law if they don’t tithe. The New Testament approves none of these ploys. To motivate people to give, Jesus only promised rewards in heaven; when He taught how much to give, He never recommended the tithe.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians 9, urged believers to give what they can give willingly and joyfully. The Old Testament law required tithing to provide for priests and Levites that served in the temple and governed. Some Evangelical wrongly teach that believers are not under the law but under grace – except for the law of tithing!
Believers give generously without having to scold, push or nag them when they love their congregation, their leaders and God, and know that their donations are used to bring sinners to Christ, spread His Kingdom, and meet dire needs.