“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38)
In my two previous articles, EGYPTIAN CAPTIVITY, and BUSINESS, SPIRITUALITY, AND MINISTRY, I wrote on things relating to abuses in the church. I also said that the way we can come out of the captivity we are in is to know the truth. Why people get so easily extorted by their “Christian leaders” is because they don’t even know what the Bible commands a Christian about giving. If we knew what the Bible commands us in respect to giving, their be little success in the extortive schemes of such “leaders.”
I covered ministerial funding in the past article on BUSINESS, SPIRITUALITY, AND MINISTRY, explaining that we ought to be good business and career people and fund our own ministries ourselves. This does not mean that there are no occasions when we don’t need to give. And I plead that this articles should not be seen as directed to making us as Christians become unwilling to give. All that I seek to do is stop abuses and extortion in the church. We must still give with the right understanding of it. Forwardness in giving is a Christian virtue.
With this in mind, I wish to explain what the Bible teaches us about giving that we may give according to God’s will when the need arises and not be extorted. I’d talk on the passages that commands us about giving and also explain those portions that seem to say that people could make a living from preaching the Gospel.
Commandments About Christian Giving
“God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
While we are encouraged, both by example and actual commandments, to give throughout the Bible, much of all we have to guide us in the New Testament about how to give can be found in the 9th chapter of 2nd Corinthians. We need to study it carefully to see how needs in the church should be catered for.
Let us take a look at few things we can derive from scriptures about giving below:
1. Christian giving is according to what you purpose in your heart: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give…” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Giving is supposed to be according to what you have the mind of giving. This is very contrary to the tithe doctrine which is practiced in many climes that says failure to pay your tithe is to rob God, and that if you don’t pay it, the canckerworm and palmerworms would destroy your harvest and that there’ll be holes in your pocket and all manner of things that should frighten anyone who works hard for his money as well as those who love God and don’t wish to “rob” him. By this threat, people are forced to give.
However, we must give with a willing heart. Now someone may say that a Christian can give his tithe willingly, but the passage goes, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart.” You should define the amount of things you wish to give. Whether it be up to 10% of what you have, or below, or above. There’s no specification as to the amount. You must give according to what you desire and no one should press others to give more or less. So if Christian giving should be willingly according to what each individual purposes in his heart, then it of necessity excludes tithes, first fruit, and other types of giving that defines the amount you’re to give. The Christian has the liberty to define how much he’s willing to give, or whether not to give at all, in every given circumstance.
2. Christian giving is done cheerfully: “…God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Sometimes people are forced (not physically but by cajoling) to give to the extent of crying and preachers encourage it quoting the Bible where it says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5). But that doesn’t apply here. The giving that God requires of we Christians is not sowing in tears. Not even the Jews did God desire to sow in tears by this passage. This passage refers to labour not giving, but the leaders of today want people to give in tears. I can assure you that if you give in tears (and not cheerfully as God desires) you are throwing your money away. Don’t pretend to be cheerful, don’t persuade yourself that you’re not grieved, be very sincere to yourself, and in your sincerity consider if or not you’re grieved giving a certain amount. If you’re, please don’t give. But give what you know you are willing and cheerful to give.
3. Christian giving is done willingly not with grudges nor out of compulsion: “…let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity…” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
This is also in line with giving willingly. Don’t give what you are not willing to give. For this reason, I believe that their should be some level of secrecy (of course not classified secrecy) or anonymity in the way people are to give when the need arises. After all, Jesus says, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” (Matthew 6:3). Once you know people know what you’re giving, you can’t be sincere in your motive of giving it.
If there is a knowledge about what I give, I may give beyond my will just because I’m ashamed of the littleness of what I have in mind, or just to show off that I’m able to give (probably to make people see or think that I’m wealthy) I may give way beyond I had the mind to give. So some level of secrecy or anonymity is very important as it will increase the level of sincerity in giving.
We also are not to give out of necessity. If there is no secrecy or anonymity in giving then a form of necessity is placed on the givers. For this reason, we must remove every form of compulsion from giving, whether it be verbal, psycological, and of course physical.
4. Christian giving is to meet a need. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44 – 2:45)
Now this is key. You, as a Christian, give to a need and not for wages. All the times we see people giving in scriptures were for needs, not for wages. The Bible says, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44 – 2:45). If you ask me, if giving was for wages, the payment should have been done to the apostles who did many wonders and signs as we see in verse 43. Rather, they only gave to those in need. The apostles weren’t selling their preaching, signs, wonders, etc. Despite this incredible display of benevolence by the brethren, the apostles remained poor clearly confirming to us that they did not receive wages or any form of profit from the forwardness with which people gave. We can see proof of this clearly in the next chapter where the Bible records, “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none…” (Acts 3:6). He wasn’t lying. And though we still read further in the next chapter where it says, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:34 – 35). We have no reason to think that they became any richer by their services to God.
So we must know that Christian giving is to cater for a need or the needy and not for wages as is practiced today, for Christian ministry is not a career.
5. Give not out of covetousness: “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” (2 Corinthians 9:5)
Today, to make people give abundantly in many fund raisers, a lot of stories are told of how someone gave all the little he had in his possession and God blessed him greatly beyond what he could ever have imagined. With such stories, those raising funds stir up covetousness in the minds of the givers and out of covetousness they give. For this reason, they could walk past a friend in dire need, or ignore their unpaid employees, to give in a fund raiser in which they’re promised abundance of reward. They ignore the dire need of their friend, and their unpaid employees, because they’re not benevolent, but they give in such a fund raiser because they’re covetous. They are giving with what they think they’d get in mind. While it seems like they’re doing good in giving, greed, selfishness, and covetousness fills their hearts all the while. This is very wrong. We must give out of benevolence and not out of covetousness.
Jesus said, “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:34 – 36). So sheer benevolence is what should inspire us to give as Christians, not what we would get in return.
6. Giving to God is giving what he commanded us to give: “…be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1)
Many people think that every thing given in church is given to God. But Christian giving is giving according to the commandments of God. If God did not command it, it is not Christian giving. It is not giving to God.
We read in the fifth chapter of Ecclesiastes that when you go into the house of God, be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools. So we see that in the very house of God we can give the sacrifice of fools. And this we are told in the same chapter that it is evil. So Christian giving is giving according to what God has commanded not just because we give in a church. When you give tithe that God hasn’t commanded you, you give a sacrifice of fools. And that is evil and unChristian.
7. Giving in itself is not an act of honouring God. With that said it is easily seen that giving is not honouring God as some preachers interpret it. They usually quote Proverbs 3:9 to prove their point, where it says, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase.” Pastor Adeboye, in Open Heaven, his daily devotional, tried to define this honour as giving to someone what he doesn’t need bringing an example from honourary awards, that such awards are given to people who don’t really need it. So by this he meant to say you honour God when you give money to the church though God doesn’t need it. How wrong.
Well here’s the right understanding of this scripture. The Bible says, “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” (Romans2:23). If breaking the law of God by disobedience is what it means to dishonour him, it is obvious that to honour him is to keep his commandments. So what the Bible is saying in Proverbs 3:9 is that the commandment of first fruit should be kept, thereby honouring God. It is the fact that it is commanded that makes keeping it an act of honouring God not because giving is itself an act of honour to God. Where it is not commanded, giving it is not honouring him. This should also be considered with point 6 above. We should understand that the Old Testament is a shadow of the new as the Bible says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” While first fruit was commanded to be given in the Old Testament, it is a shadow of Christ who is our first fruit (1 Corinthians 15:20). We have no such commandment to give first fruit as Pastor Adeboye and many other preachers claim.
To honour God is to obey him. Not to come to church to give what he hasn’t commanded you. This also apply to annul all the foolish giving teachings that says you can celebrate, glorify, magnify, etc. God by giving. This they also say that if you are using this money to honour or celebrate God, it must be very big. You shouldn’t honour God with a small amount of money. This they mean that if you give a small amount of money to them, you dishonour God.
Let it be clear that you can’t honour God with money. If you wish to honour him, keep his commandments, love your enemies, forgive, be kind, flee from sin, resist the Devil, show to the world the holiness of our holy God. Live a life that when the world looks at you, they would give glory to your father which is in Heaven. This is what it means to honour God.
How Should Funds Be Solicited
“Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.” (2 Corinthians 9:5)
Having seen some of the things that characterises Christian giving, we can easily know how funds should be solicited. In soliciting for funds to cater for a need, we must solicit in a way that each and every giver gives in the spirit of Christian giving. Also in this case, we can learn a lot from how apostle Paul solicited for funds to cater for the need of the apostles in Jerusalem.
Just pass across the information about the need, saying how urgent, pressing, or desperate the need at hand may be, and let people give what they are willing to give. Anything beyond the mere passing across of truthful information is to press them to give beyond what they’re willing. And this is unChristian.
There should be no cajoling in soliciting for funds. People should not be promised good for giving and they should not be threatened for not giving. The good act of giving should be praised and not necessarily the giver, and those who don’t give should on no account be criticised or made to feel or look bad. I like how Paul presented his solicitation for the apostles in Jerusalem. He said, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8). He said God is able and not God will. So he didn’t promise any good to the givers, but directed his words to remove the fears that can hinder them from being forward to give.
We must also learn that if we solicit for funds it must be for genuine reasons and to meet legitimate needs. We must not instil fear or false hope in the givers. We must make sure that all who gives give in the true spirit of Christian giving.
Seemingly Confusing Passages About Giving And What They Mean
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15 – 16)
It is glaring that the Bible can appear confusing, but we must know that the Bible is not confusing in any way but appears so sometimes due to the limitations of our understanding. So I’d wish to touch on few things that seem to be confusing about giving.
1. The first and seemingly confusing one is this, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13 – 14). While the Bible is pointing to a salient fact here, we can not from it draw a commandment. For though it says clearly, “the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” yet, it didn’t say HOW they should live of the gospel. Is it that they are to collect money from the government, the church, the unbelievers they approach to preach the gospel to, etc. So it is not sufficient for us to draw a commandment. In the Old Testament, we see clear instructions for the priests how they should be catered for, but we see no instructions as to how we (for all Christians must preach the gospel or advance the Kingdom of God one way or the other) should live of it. For if we all are called to have one ministry or the other for the sake of God, then we all must live of it.
But here is what we should understand of this passage by considering these other of the following verses:
– “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Though in preaching the gospel we are worthy of wages, yet to accept wages is to abuse our power in the gospel. So are we commanded to abuse it in 1 Corinthians 9:13 – 14?
– “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:12). Accepting wages will hinder the gospel of Christ as we can see clearly today. So, did we get a commandment to hinder the gospel of Christ?
Summary is that preaching the gospel is worthy of wages, but if we, for any reason do, we hinder the gospel of Christ and we abuse our power. Though it is worthy of wages, it is never the less disobedience to receive such wages.
Further more we must understand that when Jesus sent his disciples out (in Matthew 10:5-15) saying that they should not provide for themselves but that they should accept the offer of people to cater for them, he said, “the workman is worthy of his meat.” Here we see clearly that preaching the gospel is worthy of reward. However, when he spoke about the ministry (which is characterised by his absence from this world) of the end time dispensation of which we find ourselves, we read, “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip…” (Luke 22:35 – 36). Here when Jesus clearly indicates that he wants us to provide for ourselves in serving him, he didn’t mean that in preaching the gospel we stopped being worthy. No, but as Lord, and seeing ahead to see the nature of the assignment, he commanded that we should provide for ourselves in serving. This is a sacrifice well pleasing to him. This is what Paul too was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:13 – 14. We are worthy of profit, but to use it would be both abuse of power and would be to hinder the gospel of Christ. This also agrees with what Paul says in Acts 20:33-35.
2. The second and seemingly confusing is: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” (1 Timothy 5:17 – 18)
While this indeed and categorically says those who labour in word and doctrine should be counted worthy of double honour, and honour has some elements of monetary reward attached to it. If we should write off the monetary aspect of the word honour, like I was tempted to do, the next verse confirms that the sense in which it was used has to do with monetary reward. Also Jesus refers to honouring parents in supporting them financially.
So I do admit that there should be monetary support for elders who serve well, but we must understand in what way it was presented and not take it the way most preachers like to present it. It is support (assistance) and not wages. There’s a world of difference between the two. So let us look at what it means indeed to honour elders.
First of all, to understand fully in what sense honour is used in the Bible here to refer to giving, we should go a few verses up where it also says, “Honour widows that are widows indeed.” (1 Timothy 5:3). When writing this article I did my findings on what to honour means, and I saw people (mostly preachers) rattling away in their writings about giving money to church leaders. One article gave list of people we should honour but no one mentions widows. It is a shame. If preachers are the ones omitting this themselves, it shows how self centred many preachers are today. If it is not preachers who do this omission, then it reflects how self centred preachers have very badly shaped the minds of people. But it is in the way that we see honouring of widows that we should see honouring of elders, only double and not more. When the Bible says honour widows that are widows indeed, can we really consider that wages? So we can see that honour is support. It is giving to particular need so that if there were no need at hand, there’s no point giving. For this reason, preaching cannot be a primary occupation of any preacher, elder, or whatsoever, just as widowhood is not an occupation. They must work to fend for themselves, but where there is a need at hand which they couldn’t avert, probably because of the time they spend labouring in word and doctrine, then we should give to cater for that need. We can’t place church leaders on salary or wages. It is unscriptural to do so.
Secondly, it says, “let the elders that rule well…” Leaders who are worthy of such support are elders, not just anybody who comes out of a seminary, not just anybody who starts his own church, but an elder must be genuinely so. In the third chapter of 1st Timothy, we see a description of what a bishop and deacon should be like. While it did not make mention of elder in this passage, I believe these descriptions qualifies an elder too. One among the things that describe people of such posts is this, “…not greedy of filthy lucre… not covetous.” (1 Timothy 3:3). When we see people pressing for money for any reason, they are automatically unfit to be elders. Let them leave and go after money that the church may have her peace.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Now, whether or not people should be paid for service to God, we know most certainly that people should not be cajoled, forced, etc. to do so. What ever is given to support elders, widows, and less privileged of the church must be out of free will and should be benevolently done. Any doctrine that stipulates how much should be given is not a Christian doctrine. No body is to make anyone feel bad for not giving. Church leaders should quit pressing their congregation for money with their sermons. If they have a problem with the money they have, they can as well leave the pulpit.
Anybody who thinks that earning a living from service to God would enable him to serve God better should think again. The apostles served God to a very great extent that has been unequaled, not with money, but with zeal, obedience, love, and the Holy Ghost. These are sufficient to serve God to any extent. Money can’t do you much good as it can do harm. As I explained in my previous article, EGYPTIAN CAPTIVITY, it is a poison. Making a living primarily from serving God will kill you for sure.
Furthermore, we all are members of his one body. I don’t understand how the eye can pay the ear to see on its behalf, or the leg pay the nose to walk, and so on. It is understandable that one member of the body can assist another member in some cases, say when listening to music with your earpiece on, when walking on the street, the eye have to do more work in ensuring you don’t get knocked down by an oncoming vehicle whose horn or sound you couldn’t hear. In such a case, the eyes only does more work in assistance without reward (so to speak). The cases where it is justifiable to be paid by another to serve God is very rare. Let every member faithfully do his work to the edification of the body of Christ and fund himself.
This is therefore my advise, serve God in the best of your capacity. If you don’t have enough money to serve him beyond what you’re already doing, please just continue to serve him in that capacity. Usually, what can hinder service is lack of will, zeal, love, and power of the Holy Ghost, not lack of money. So serve him only to the extent you can sponsor and where God does not provide through the free will benevolence of others or other means, just keep serving him in that capacity and be thankful to him.
If you have friends or people willing to work together with you in your ministry and bear the burden including financial burden, that is good. If people of themselves wish to donate to help your ministry, great. But don’t put the burden of your ministry on unwilling shoulders and remember not to make promises in any way to those who give to us, neither should we threaten those who don’t. Paul wrote, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” (Philippians 2:25). Epaphroditus was Paul’s friend who ministered to his wants. Ministry can also be supported by the wilful contributions of friends/companions. Paul referred to Epaphroditus as his companion in labour and in this capacity he ministered to his wants.
As for elders who oversee the church, they should understand how to delegate things to others so as to have time to work for a living. Things that pertain to doctrine and edifying the church should be spread to many while they handle key things. They should not try to be wealthy in this world. They should look at the apostles of our Lord how they remained poor even in the midst of people who were so forward to give.
There are many things to say about Christian giving, but the bottom line is that no one should be forced in any way to give and everything must be done in obedience to God. Christian giving is done wilfully and out of a benevolent mind as God has commanded.
May God help us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prayer: Dear God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that you make your children forward to give and much more forward to serve you, and may in active service for your dear name find it more blessed to give than to receive. Help us to understand truly how and when you want us to give. Shun the extortion and abuses of wolves in sheep clothing from our midst. This we ask in Jesus matchless name. Amen.