Having looked at one of the typical ways that giving is taught in churches, it is time to look at the other. As it is well noted, there is no Jewish Temple and no sacrifices. There are no Levites and no festivals. The majority of the reason people gave in Malachi was abolished by the Cross of Jesus Christ, just as the burnt offering (the shadow) was abrogated by the real thing. We are given several verses that apply to the New Covenant pointing out priorities to give, but 2 Corinthians 8-9 point best to the motivations as to why we should give. I begin by noting that Paul and others were taking up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem and dealing with the Corinthians and motivating them to finish their goals of giving. Most will talk of 2 Cor 9:6-9, but we go back a chapter to find the proper context behind a statement.
The Macedonian Example
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:1-6)
The Corinthians are told of the Macedonians. As the Scripture relates (underlined for emphasis), they were in poverty, but were generous to the point of pleading to be able to give. Note they weren’t pushed into giving (for this would make it into a “work”), but did it freely. And they did first by giving themselves to the Lord, trusting Him to provide for all their needs.
Abound In This Grace, Also
But even as you abound in everything, in faith, and in word, and in knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love in us, that you also should abound in this grace. I do not speak according to command, but through the earnestness of others and testing the trueness of your love. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, He became poor for your sake, so that you might become rich by the poverty of that One.
(2 Corinthians 8:7-9)
Paul then encourages the Corinthians to try to excel in extending this grace from God, the same as they know the other things. Extending grace requires faith and love. Giving is often a very real test of both of these things. They are presented with the example of Christ. Grace is much different than works, simply because grace is a predicated response from what we receive from the Lord. We are given richly from Christ. We can not outgive Him, but we are to give in response to what we receive.
Be Eager To Finish
And I give judgment in this, for this is profitable for you, who began before not only to do, but also to be willing from last year. But now also finish the doing of it, so that even as there was the eagerness in the willing, so also the finishing, giving out of what you have. For if the eagerness is present, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:10-12)
It’s good to purpose things and pledge to start them, but we should always be as eager to finish them. This is illustrated here. If we are eager, it’s acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one doesn’t have. Note how the preachers of giving as a work will drill that “tithe” is a 10% thing and you should be giving that no matter what, whether you have it or not (hence, the tithe is bad news for the poor). A lot of families are in debt at the moment. It’s a better priority to take care of that so you might be able to give than to find reasons to give money away and put yourself deeper in servicing of debt by giving away to others. The Lord will want you to be rid of the debt anyway.
Equality of Need
For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack. (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)
Giving is not meant solely for the other man, but for ourselves when we are in need. We think the day may never come, but the day will come when we need to be receivers of the gift of giving. We may not recognize it as those who are blind to the nature of grace or the Church, but we are in life together. It’s arrogance to think that we should not be in line to ever need from others one day, and definitely drives people away from the Church and Christ when there is a disdain of those that need. This is largely due to the burdens of the building and the clergy salaries, but of poor Christian attitude.
You Reap What You Sow
(skipping 2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5 because it talks about Titus and his plans to come visit)
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 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 9:6-8)
This is the generic rule that is often quoted of grace giving. Those that give will get back (spiritually or otherwise) according to what they put out. Ironically, this fits the tail end of the Malachi passage (3:10-12). With grace injected into giving there’s such a difference, as opposed to giving out of works. The tithe is often given grudingly or is felt that is needed. God loves a cheerful giver, as it could be said giving is another act of worship. Love is never forced. By giving out of grace, it’s a recognition of love given by the Father upon us by the things we have.
It’s human nature to be stuck into a mindset where works are required. This is the difference of the Christian faith compared to others. A dead religion and dead faith says there’s a checklist of things that one must do to be acceptable before God. This follows human nature, as if someone gets something there’s always an expectation of payment. This is far from the truth, as noted several times (Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:11; Ephesians 2:8-9). Men that should know better are encouraged by the burden of keeping their empires together into forcing giving into a work, denying the grace given by Jesus Christ on the cross and pushing people into the same situation as the Galatians. After all, there’s such overhead for operating church organizations, coupled with the idolatry these organizations are given, that the Lord will bring them into account for the use of the money on these organizations in the first place.
As for what giving should look like in our lives, it should be a response (planned or otherwise through the movement of the Holy Spirit) to the riches of grace we are given. Giving as a Christian is not limited to the growth of the land. A Christian should recognize that everything (including ourselves!) belongs to the Lord and we are only stewards of it. Our time, talent, and treasure is all subject to giving by the grace we are given in the Lord. As for money, this could be a small amount or nothing due to getting out of debt or building an emergency fund or whatever is that is truly needful. But as we give in faith and find that ends still are meeting, this might cause us to grow to desire to give more. Coupled with (what should be) a desire to remove one’s self from the world, other changes in expenses might open up more and more money ($5 a work day at Starbucks = $100 a month at least). There is no rule that 10% should be a cap or a norm. Some might have the faith to give 5%, some might have the faith to give 30 or 40%. Giving simply depends on the heart of the believer in terms of how much and where they are led to give to give God glory by their worship.