Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Portrait of a Biblical giver

In the book Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation, author Charles Lane paints a picture of what a truly Biblical, generous giver looks like using the following 6 characteristics:
  1. Intentional. If we are intentional about our giving, then it means we have developed a plan and follow through with that plan. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give..." In order for us to give as we have decided, then we must have made a decision to give. This is intentionality. If you find yourself digging through your wallet for a spare few dollars at the time of offering, then you probably need to work on your intentional giving.
  2. Regular. In order to be a regular giver, we must establish a pattern of giving and be regular in that pattern. For example, if you receive your paycheck once a week, then it would make sense for you to give each and every week. If you receive a paycheck at set pay periods (such as the 15th and 30th of each month), then it makes sense to give the Sundays following each pay period. If we are intentional in our giving, then we will establish a giving plan. If we are regular in our giving, then we are following the plan that we have established.
  3. Generous. Generous giving is the core value of financial stewardship. It is difficult to imagine a committed disciple of Christ who is giving only a mere 1-2% of their income to God's Kingdom through their local church. It is equally difficult to imagine a tither who isn't serious about his walk with the Lord. If our heart is truly in God's Kingdom work, then that's where we will place our money. If I desire to grow in my passion for God's Kingdom, then that's where I need to place the money He has entrusted into my care. Money leads, then hearts follow. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth about the generous example of the Macedonian churches: Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Would someone be able to write this about you? That in spite of financial hardship, your joy in the Lord results in rich generosity? For the majority of American Christians, I think a verse about our churches would read something like "Out of difficult financial times, their joy led them to desire to give generously, but they just couldn't." In spite of financial difficulties, we must learn to be generous givers. You can't outgive God!
  4. First. Another core value of stewardship is "first-fruits" giving. The concept of first-fruits giving comes from the Old Testament when God commanded the nation of Israel to give the "first-fruits" of their crops at harvest time. Obviously, we no longer live in an agrarian society and function today on a monetary system. For us, the concept of first-fruits would be best applied that as we receive financial compensation for our work, that we should set aside what we have determined to give, and give it at regular intervals before we pay any of our other bills. If we do not accomplish our giving first before everything else comes along, it's never going to happen. We will end up giving God our leftovers instead of giving the very best of what He has given to us.
  5. Proportional. The Bible never asks believers to give specific amounts of money. God always calls us to percentage or proportional giving. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were asked to give a specific percentage - the tithe or 10%. In the New Testament, we see a call to give in proportion to God's material blessing on the individual. For those that are poor, percentage giving can be a comfort because although the gift may be small monetarily, it is still a sacrificial, generous gift. For those that are wealthy, though, giving proportionately can be a struggle for some. More often than not, the poor person probably has an easier time giving $5.00 then the rich man has giving $50,000.00! The tithe (10%) is a great starting point for Biblical, proportional giving for everyone.
  6. Cheerful. Believers can give cheerfully when they have mastered the first five stewardship values. I know in my own life, when I finally understood what generous giving looks like in the life of a believer, my intentional, regular, and generous gifts became a joyful experience. I no longer resented the gift. I enjoy giving back to God what He has given me to manage.
So what does your giving portrait look like? Are you displaying the 6 characteristics of a Biblical, generous giver?

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