A while back I examined how I view what the Bible says about personal finance. There was a brief introduction to something I like to call God's Provident Plan, and I planned on looking at several aspects of God's Provident Plan in a 4 part series. This is the last post in that series in which I'll share what I've discovered about personal finance in the Bible. In past writings we examined the importance of contentment in Christ, God's exhortation for diligent work and good stewardship, and we gave a Biblical view of prosperity. Today, we'll take an in depth look at what the Bible says about giving.
Giving is the pinnacle of God’s Provident Plan for personal finance. All other aspects of His Provident Plan point to this end. I’ve touched on this throughout and you may have noticed that pattern.
Through our contentment in Christ, we spend less so we have more to give. Our hard work provides more income so we’ll have more to give. By good stewardship we avoid wasting what God has given us so we will have more to give. Our prosperity comes from God not so we can make ourselves richer but so we can give even more. God’s Provident Plan is completely focused on others – on how we can glorify God by laying down our lives and our wants for the needs of others.
It is through our giving that we speak the loudest as to whom we serve – God or Money. This is the area of our finances where we are most likely to show God’s love to others and have the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus. When we fully grasp God’s Provident Plan, we’ll see that giving in the New Covenant actually has nothing to do with tithing or percentages. It’s not about requirements, rules, obligations, or blessings or curses.
Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion or commandment but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.
Giving that honors God starts with giving yourself to Him first. Consider the Christians in Macedonia. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul says:
1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV)
These Christians were only able to give as generously and joyously as they did because they gave themselves to God first. They fully subjected their will to His will. This was not motivated by a command or requirement – their giving flowed out of their response to the love of God. As Paul urges the Corinthians to give to the needs of the poor brothers in Judea in 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 he says:
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 (NIV)
The most powerful motivation we can have for giving generously to glorify God’s name is to look at His abounding and extravagant love in sacrificing His Son for our sins. We need only look at the gift Jesus gave us when He died on the Cross and freed us from the condemnation that we deserve. Focusing on the generosity of God enables us to understand the joy of sacrificial and generous giving that’s motivated by pure love.
This is why we give under grace and not a commandment. God is seeking our devotion to Him – not our money. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says:
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)
Cheerful giving comes not from observing laws and commandments. It’s a response motivated by love as God’s Spirit dwells in us. God cares for the poor, and when His Spirit dwells in us then we’ll begin to care for the poor just as He does. Our cheerful and joyful giving shows that God’s love, concern, and compassion for the needy is present in our hearts. The motivation of love is so important in our giving that in 1 Corinthians 13:3 Paul says:
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)
In the 72 verses I’ve found where Jesus teaches about giving, I’ve only found 8 where He talked about tithing. Instead of focusing on percentages, Jesus talked mostly about generosity and giving that’s motivated by love. For example, in Luke 6:32-35 Jesus said:
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners' love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners' do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners' lend to ‘sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:32-35 (NIV)
I can’t point to some Bible verses and expect that to motivate you to love your enemies, do good to them, and give to them. Loving your enemies doesn’t happen by following some rules and guidelines. The love Jesus is talking about here does not come from within you or by your own power – it comes from God. The same is true of generous, joyful, sacrificial giving that pleases God – it happens when God’s Spirit lives in you and your focus is completely on serving Him.
Following God's Provident Plan
Following God’s Provident Plan for our personal finances has enormous implications for our lives. It goes against every motive the world gives us for why we should manage our finances well. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for us, we look at what’s in it for God and others. But we know that the rewards God has for us far outweigh the deceitful and false promises of worldly riches.
As you walk with God and grow in the likeness of Christ, I pray that His Holy Spirit will open your eyes to the truth of His plan for your personal finances. Just as we must give ourselves to God in every other area of our lives, we must also learn to follow His will for our personal finances. We are all at different points in this journey, but we can encourage and admonish each other to remember the riches we have in Christ and live in a way that shows where our hearts are focused.