I thought a note about an important church life topic from someone in the laity might provide a break for our pastoral staﬀ who blog so faithfully throughout the year. My topic for this guest blog is: “what does it mean to be a faithful Christian giver in the year 2023?”
Faithful giving is a matter of the heart. One’s attitude and actions surrounding money and the idea of giving to God are a good measure of one’s spiritual maturity.
According to Anchorage Grace leadership, weekly giving has been relatively strong over the last months. Annual giving, as we near the end of the church ﬁscal year, is very near the annual budget set last June. God has blessed the ministry of Anchorage Grace Church through the people of Grace as more and more individuals and families give regularly, demonstrating a growing spiritual maturity among the congregation. For those still struggling with faithful, Spirit led, worship-focused giving, this blog may be for you.
Ancient Israel struggled with rebellious hearts throughout its history as God’s chosen nation, and their rebellion was measurable in its behavior related to money and possessions. Malachi 3:6-11 gives this perspective:
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.
This passage contains an indictment, a challenge, and a promise from Yahweh to his people after their return from captivity. After the temple was rebuilt, God’s people quickly fell back into their former pre-Babylon ways. Malachi called the people to repentance. The priesthood had become corrupt, which led to stale worship, widespread divorce, civil injustice, and neglected tithing. Where do we see this type of faithlessness today?
My desire in this blog is to focus on God-pleasing giving this side of the cross of Jesus Christ. We are not bound by the tithing commands of the Mosaic Covenant, but New Covenant Christian home led by a faithful Christ follower should most deﬁnitely prioritize regular giving as an act of worship. Israel’s worship of the LORD had become routine. God’s people were neglecting God’s Mosaic Covenant command to give a tenth of their ﬁrst fruits as an act of worship in order to feed those who served in the temple. The Israelites missed both the importance of heartfelt giving in their personal relationships to Yahweh, and they lost sight of His purposes for blessing them through their corporate giving.
Disobedience always brings painful consequences. If the people of Israel gave their full tithe, temple servants could serve the Lord and the people without want, and they would have enough to care for the needs of the poor, sick, widowed, and orphaned. This was God’s design, but as He points out through the prophet, the people were robbing him by not bringing their full tithes and contributions. As a result, not only were the temple staﬀ le in need, but the people were failing to realize all God had for them because of their disobedience as we see in verse 9: “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.”
Nearly three thousand years later, God has not changed, Verse 6 oﬀers: “For I the LORD do not change, therefore, you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” God, in his mercy, remained patient with his chosen people, even when they robbed him.
God is still patient today, yet, when we fail to give generously back to him as one indwelled with His Holy Spirit under the New Covenant of grace, we only cheat ourselves and miss the blessing God reserves for those who are obedient in this area of worship. And, just as in the time of Malachi, if every one of our families “tithed,” our church would have enough to fulﬁll the mission God has given Anchorage Grace, “grow believers into mature Christ-followers so we can be everything God intends us to be.”
So what is a tithe, and are we supposed to tithe as Israel was called to do? A tithe under the Mosaic law was one-tenth of the produce from the ﬁeld, the livestock, and the monetary income of God’s people. They brought it to the temple as a contribution to feed the Levites, who were those who served in God’s house. There are other tithes recorded in Deuteronomy 14, potentially levying a full tithe of nearly 22% of annual income given to the Lord.
The church today, of course, is not under the Mosaic law, and therefore, we are not obliged to tithe as Israel was commanded to do. However, we are to give faithfully to God’s work as an act of love and worship and a spiritual understanding of the reality that God owns everything and provides freely to us as New Testament believers.
So if I’m not commanded to “tithe,” what does faithful New Testament Church giving look like today? A good aphorism to keep in mind is this: “always give faithfully, sometimes sacriﬁcially.” If you’re unsure what to give, one-tenth of the income your family brings in over a given period of time, a week, a month, etc., is a good starting point. Your faithful giving is up to you to prayerfully consider as a Holy Spirit-ﬁlled Christian. Your sacriﬁcial giving also becomes a matter of your heart before God as needs arise within the church.
The Apostle Paul speaks to New Covenant giving in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14:
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial oﬀerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Paul was reminding the Corinthians that like the Old Testament tithe, New Covenant giving supports those who minister.
So, what and how do we give? We give after prayerfully determining what we believe God is prompting us to give. If you’re still unsure, just start with 10 percent!
Settling this faith issue once and for all is so important in every believer’s Christian walk. Giving is an act of worship and faith. Believers love to worship the creator and sustainer of the universe! When we see that He is the One who owns everything, the One who has blessed us with everything we have, we then must choose. It is a conviction and a choice—do I believe God has blessed me with a job, a home, savings, investments, a car, a boat, snow machines? Or do I believe I have earned all of these things through my talents, smart investments, and hard work? If the latter, then you believe it is you who decides where and how to spend your hard-earned money. If the former, then you are overwhelmed with God’s blessing, and you desire to steward those resources wisely in order to advance God’s kingdom. You understand God sovereignly owns and controls everything. He doesn’t need your help; he doesn’t need your money. But He wants you to have the proper attitude toward the resources He’s entrusted you with. A proper attitude is for your good and the good of others.
With inﬂation continuing to take a bite out of everyone’s ability to live these days, faithful giving may have become an even greater challenge. But what did God say in Malachi? “…put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” He wants to demonstrate his power through our giving.
Do you have the faith to give trusting God like that? Do you trust God knows your needs and is willing to provide beyond what you may ask or think?
In most churches giving is much like the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. 80 percent (or more) of the weekly giving comes from about 20 percent of the membership/regular attenders. Just imagine what would happen if 30 percent, 40 percent, or 80 percent of God’s people gave faithfully and sometimes sacriﬁcially?
So, you say, if that is so, why doesn’t God just ﬁll AGC’s budget? He will, through you.
In closing, here are a few practical considerations as you settle the call to give before God:
- When determining what to give, do you base it on your net income or gross income?
- Giving should be regular, consistent, and private. This is an act of worship to God, it is between you and God. From a practical point, I give through automated withdrawals. Our giving is automated, so I don’t debate with myself each month how much I’m going to give.
- You should carefully consider what organizations to give to, but the bulk of your giving should be to your church, where you are a member or where you attend regularly. God convicted me of this about 10 years ago. Because of my military service, we didn’t really have a home church, so we gave to many para-church organizations. Once we started attending a church regularly and became members, I was challenged to focus our giving on that church and its ministries. We still give to other Christian organizations, but the bulk of our giving is to AGC.
Americans are the wealthiest people on earth. Most of us have never really wanted for anything. This is God’s blessing on our nation and on us as individuals. God has given Christians the spiritual principle of generosity and thankfulness through the act of giving back to him what is rightfully his. The act of giving is a sanctifying process that strengthens our faith and trust in the One who owns everything. Giving a small percentage of our income back to him is our spiritual act of worship. Bring the whole tithe into God’s house.