What Does The Bible REALLY Teach About Giving and Offerings? #Nocharlatans #268
Hello friends and happy Lord’s Day to you! I am rejoicing that this Sunday, our air quality in central California appears to be better, and it looks like we will be able to meet in person for worship – outside, in our church parking lot – where we’ve been meeting. We had to take two weeks off of meeting for the air quality and I am eager to get back together with our people. Join us at 11am on Facebook Live: VBC Salinas!
When I was a kid, my family would almost always have lunch together on Sundays after church. We didn’t have a ton of family meals together, but the Sunday lunch meal was extremely regular, and the conversation of my parents usually revolved around church that day. I do not recall them ever criticizing the sermon, with one exception. They seemed to struggle a bit when the pastor would talk about money, giving and offerings. The passage of years since then has robbed my memory of the details of those conversations, I just remember that when the sermon was on giving and offerings, that there might be some negative things said about that. FYI, we actually went to some solid and biblical churches at this time – the very opposite of prosperity gospel churches that try to manipulate people into giving with false promises and lies. I can only imagine the conversations that we would have had if we had regularly attended one of those religious organizations. I’ve heard similar complaints from church members over the years in various churches that I attended while in college, and while serving in various church ministry roles. I can also remember my dad, who had several ministers and pastors as good friends, mentioning that if he ever went to lunch with a minister or pastor, the other person would seem to expect him to pay for their meal – even to the point of awkwardness.
I didn’t expect to become a pastor/minister when I was growing up, but once I did, I guess I made a couple of very strong, but subconscious choices: #1 I decided to never be a mooch when eating lunch with other people (because it is honestly kind of silly for a pastor/minister to expect others to pay for their food) #2, Even more subconsciously, I decided to avoid talking about giving and offerings – almost to an extreme amount. My motivations here were partly good. For one, I had seen a good bit of the dangers of the health and wealth and prosperity movement – and other churches and ministries that try so hard to separate true believers from their money by false promises, guilt trips and manipulation. I want no part of that, and consider such behavior a horrible stain on the Body of Christ. And yet, I also didn’t want to make people uncomfortable about money, imagining them going home to lunch with their families after hearing me teach/preach about giving, and fussing about the message at the lunch table. That sounded pretty awful, so I just avoided the subject, unless I was somehow forced to teach on it by some circumstance or another.
At some point, several years into being a senior pastor, a fellow minister and pastor challenged me with the words of 2nd Corinthians 9, and suggested that my lack of teaching about giving – though noble in seeking to avoid manipulation and guilt – was also robbing Christians of God’s promised blessings for those who give! As I read 2nd Corinthians 9 over and over, I came to realize that he was absolutely right. We learn in today’s passage that giving is not a burden, but it will be an activity that brings the blessing of God. I still don’t want to guilt or manipulate people, but I also don’t want them to miss a blessing of God, so I try to teach on giving from time to time. Let’s read our focus passage today, and see if you can see some of the blessings of giving in there – as well as the warnings against giving by compulsion, guilt, or manipulation.
Wonderful, challenging and encouraging chapter! I believe John Piper has rock-solid theology on giving and offerings, so we will close out with a selection from a message he preached on this chapter a few years ago:
If God approves so heartily of joyful generosity, we may be sure he will bless it. There are thousands of stories of wealthy people who have given far and away above the tenth of their income and have found themselves unable to out-give God. But verse 6 does not mean that if you give to God you will get rich. The Macedonians are the model in these chapters, and it was their poverty that overflowed in a wealth of liberality. Just what it does mean to “reap bountifully” is shown in verses 8–11. But first, Paul says in verse 7: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” This reiterates the point of chapter 8: cheerfulness not compulsion, Christmas joy not the church tax is the right motive for giving to the church. The statement, “God loves a cheerful giver,” is shocking if we think that God loves all men in the same way. But he doesn’t. He loves all in that he gives life to all, and reveals himself in nature to all, and in Christ made atonement for sin that can be offered to all. But those who love him and are called according to his purpose and who cheerfully give because Christ has made them rich in love and joy—these God loves uniquely, in that he works everything together for their great good and turns all their generosity back upon their head with limitless blessing. Not so that they build bigger barns (houses, cars, etc.), but so that they do more generous good works.
Verses 8–11 explain:
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He scatters abroad; he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
In these four verses Paul explains in what sense those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully. They will reap bountifully in that God will never allow them to give so much that they can’t give more. Or to put it positively: the more you give, the more God will enable you to give. This truth is stated three times. First, in verse 8: “so that you may always be able to provide for every good work.” Second, in verse 10: “God will increase the harvest of your righteousness,” that is, he will enable you to put out even more for righteousness’ sake. Third, in verse 11: “You will be enriched for generosity.”
The truth is plain—it is a promise. You may have much; you may have little; the promise remains: the more you give for the sake of others, the more you will be enabled by God to give. Let me stress that Paul is not promising to make generous Christians wealthy. He is promising to make generous Christians capable of even greater generosity. There is a mentality that says: with the increase of income there should also be an increase in the material signs of wealth. In the last 30 years these signs usually included a larger house further out in the suburbs; a larger car, usually one of the luxury lines; a yearly switch in wardrobe to keep current; an application for the Gold Card; an array of expensive entertainment and recreational items; and so on. This mentality says, “Buy it because you can afford it and should look like you can.” But that is just the opposite of the mentality of this text.
I believe this text implies that God does not oppose our income climbing from $10,000 to $50,000 to $100,000. What he opposes is when his beneficence to us is bottled up in excessive worldly possessions and investments. If God increases our income, he is not putting his stamp of approval on a life of luxury; he is commissioning us to the exhilarating and joyful mission of tremendous and creative generosity. Make as much as you want, and give as much as you can.
The last phrase of verse 11, as well as verses 12–15, describes the great outcome when God’s people overflow in generosity:
This will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God. Under the test of this service you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others; while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
The great outcome of Christian generosity is that the needs of the saints are met, the gospel of Christ is acknowledged, many thanks rise to the heavenly Father, and he is glorified in the world.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
In addition to 2nd Corinthians 9, our other Bible passages are 2nd Samuel 16, Psalms 70-71 and Ezekiel 23. Let’s read them now…and Pg-13 warning for that Ezekiel passage.