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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary


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God is the giver of life and the ultimate provider of all that is necessary to maintain and enjoy life. This includes money and other possessions (Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 6:26-30; 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:17).

Since God is the ultimate owner of all things, his people should acknowledge that whatever they possess they hold on trust from him. They are answerable to him for the way they use these things, and by giving a portion back to him they express their thanks and worship. The offering, however, is also a sacrifice. It must be costly to the offerer personally if it is to be a genuine expression of devotion (Genesis 4:3-4; Genesis 28:20-22; 2 Samuel 24:24; Malachi 1:8; Philippians 4:18; see SACRIFICE).

Amounts and motives

This element of devotion does not mean that a people must create feelings of heroic self-sacrifice or wait for the right mood before offering their gifts. Giving can be regulated and still be an act of devotion. The offering of tithes by Israelites was regulated, but it could still be an expression of the offerers’ devotion. God was not pleased, however, when people offered tithes in a spirit of self-satisfaction (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Luke 18:12). Israelites further expressed their devotion by making voluntary contributions in addition to the compulsory tithes (Numbers 29:39; Nehemiah 12:44; see TITHES).

Christians are not governed by the law-code of Israel, but the principles behind that law-code are written upon their hearts (Romans 7:6; Hebrews 10:16). The New Testament does not teach the Israelite tithing system for Christians, but it does teach that the amount Christians give should be in proportion to the income they receive (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:3). It encourages Christians to give regularly, generously, and with thoughtful planning; though they should also give cheerfully, not grudgingly, and not under compulsion (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

God does not want to drive people into poverty (2 Corinthians 8:13), though he commends those who give more than they can reasonably afford (2 Corinthians 8:3). God views a person’s gifts not in relation to their market value, but in relation to the offerer’s total financial capacity (Mark 12:43-44; 2 Corinthians 8:2). He is not pleased with those who give in a way designed to deceive people or win people’s praise (Matthew 6:2; Acts 5:4). He promises his special care and a lasting reward for those who give generously because they love God and their fellow human beings (Matthew 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12; Philippians 4:17; Philippians 4:19).

Generosity should be a characteristic of all those who know that they have salvation only because Jesus gave everything for them (2 Corinthians 8:9). Once they have responded to his grace by giving themselves to God, they will find that giving brings pleasure. They will even look for ways to increase it (2 Corinthians 8:4-5; 2 Corinthians 9:7; cf. Acts 20:35).

Distributing the contributions

In both Old and New Testaments, monetary and other gifts from God’s people were used for two main purposes. These were the service of God and the help of the needy.

The tithes of the Israelites supported the Levites and priests, the servants of God in the Old Testament religious system (Numbers 18:21-28). On certain occasions the annual tithe (or perhaps an additional tithe) was shared also among the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 26:12-15). God’s people were not to limit their giving to such occasions, but were to help the poor at all times. Giving to the poor was a way of giving to God (Deuteronomy 15:10-11; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 19:17).

Christians likewise are to give to the poor and needy, particularly those within the fellowship of the church (Luke 6:30; Luke 6:35; Luke 12:33; Acts 11:29; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:26; Galatians 6:10). In addition they are to support financially those who carry out Christian service for them. This applies both to those who serve them in pastoral and teaching ministries in their own churches (1 Corinthians 9:13-14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18) and to those who go on their behalf to other places in the service of the gospel (Philippians 4:14-16; 3 John 1:8). If those who have the right to this financial support choose not to take it, gifts may be directed elsewhere (1 Corinthians 9:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 9:18; 2 Corinthians 11:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). Sound wisdom and spiritual insight are necessary if gifts are to be distributed and used to the glory of God (Acts 6:3; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Philippians 4:18; Philippians 4:20).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Giving'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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