How Much Should I Give?
2 Corinthians 9:7; Proverbs 3:9-10
2 Cor 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)
Who owns it all? We are stewards of what God has placed in our care. Who gets to decide if we give, where we give and how much we give? Of course, God does.
Why should you give to the local church? We are members who want to see the mission of the church succeed. The owner, God, has placed us here to do our part in seeing the local church become successful at loving God, honoring Him, and at loving people and helping people to become disciples, that is faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We give to the local church because we are part of the team.
We continue to think about our stewardship and giving today. How much should we give. The easy way to decide is to look for a law or a rule to follow. It takes a little more effort to listen to God’s Spirit. He lives in you if you have accepted the truth that God gave His Only Begotten Son so that if you believe in Him you would have everlasting life. Life is brought to us when we are born of the Spirit. The Spirit of God comes and takes up residence in us. He loves us and He leads us.
Spend time with Him. Praise Him. Offer thanksgiving to Him. Sit down with Him and go over your financial situation. Look at your income. List your expenses. Set up a budget. If you already have one, review it. Look for ways you can spend the money God entrusts to you in ways that will glorify Him more than they do now. Trust Him to lead you.
If you are married, do this together. One of you may have the primary responsibility in spending and managing your finances, but both of you need to be involved in making the major decisions of how you spend what God has entrusted to you. Talk to each other about your finances. This is one of the ways you are to share intimacy.
If you have never set up a budget and need help, ask for help.
When you are setting up the budget, the first thing you should list is how much you will give to God.
Why should this be first? There is a principle called first fruits. It was first mentioned in the Bible with the giving of the law.
3 This is the share due the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep: the shoulder, the jowls and the inner parts. 4 You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, 5 for the Lord your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord's name always. (NIV)
This is just one of many passages that speak of giving to God the first of our income, our firstfruits. As you are praying about how much to give, keep this idea in mind.
There is another passage I want to read that speaks of firstfruits.
It is Proverbs 3:9-10.
Prov 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (NIV)
The principle of firstfruits works like this. When you get income, or your crop comes in, God comes first. How do you honor God in your finances? You put Him first. The first thing you do when you get your pay check is give a portion back to God.
As you look at the passage in Proverbs you may have noticed that honoring the Lord with your firstfruits comes with a promise. I believe this promise and God will stand behind His promises. If God makes a promise, you can count on it.
Let me offer a word of caution. Be careful that you do not give for the wrong reason. We must be sure our motives are correct. Why give? To honor God. This comes first. It is an added bonus that He will bless you if you do. Be careful that you guard your heart and are not giving primarily to get the blessing. Who are we loving if we give in order to get? We are loving ourselves. It is okay to enjoy the blessing, but let that be an added bonus, not the primary reason you give. Give to honor Our Heavenly Father.
Do you see how this fits in with putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit? The old man, the flesh, who we are when we do not listen to God, will think first of self and second of others. We must put off this tendency and begin checking our motives. Loving God comes before loving self. Honoring God must be the primary reason we give, not because God will bless us if we do. He does promise to bless us, and He will keep His promise, but we are to check our motives.
When the Children of Israel returned from their captivity in Babylon after 70 years of bondage, Nehemiah came to lead them. There is a book in the Old Testament about this time and it is called, surprise, surprise, Nehemiah. Around chapter 10, Nehemiah led his people in making a commitment to the Lord. He was leading them back to what he had learned God expected of His people. Read with me from Nehemiah 10:35-38 and consider part of the commitment they were making as they repented of the nation’s sin and committed themselves to following the Lord once again.
35 "We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
36 "As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.
37 "Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our [grain] offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. (NIV)
Nehemiah was leading them to restore the principle of firstfruits. They were even recommitting themselves to give their firstborn sons to God. In the law, God had given them a way to redeem their sons. However, the principle is, everything belongs to God and we are to give the first part of everything we have to God.
We have the Spirit. We follow Him. He leads us. He is our Lord. The laws are to help us understand our relationship with God. The laws are to help us as we are following the Spirit. If we are following Him we will keep the law. We are not to keep it legalistically, but we are to listen to God and He will help us to honor and love Him. He will use the law to help us look at our heart to see if we are loving ourselves or loving God and others.
If we are loving God and others instead of ourselves, we are listening to God. If we are putting ourselves above God or others, we are listening to the flesh.
Have you done any checking lately to see who you are listening to? As we think about our finances, this is one of the checks we can make to see who we are putting first. Is God leading us or are we still trying to please Him in our own wisdom and strength. Following the rules is not enough. We are to be listening to and following the Spirit.
Think about this as you consider the idea of firstfruits: When you give the first of your crop, you have no idea how much crop you will have. You cannot figure a percentage if you do not know the total.
Think about it this way. Giving is one of the ways that God teaches us to trust Him. When you give to God first, you are trusting Him to make the rest of your paycheck meet your needs. This is one of the ideas behind firstfruits.
How much should I give to God? You have to trust God to help you decide how much to give and you must trust Him to meet your needs with what you have left.
Making a budget helps you to save money and it is one way you have to help you give first to God. Firstfruits is an important principle to keep in mind as you pray about how much you are giving to God.
Who owns everything? God does.
Why do we give? To Honor God.
How much should we give? I begin that answer with the idea of first fruits. Give to God the first and best.
Next week will look at the principle of tithing. I will not tell you how much to give. It is not my place. I do want to help you as you seek God’s guidance in what to give. The principles I share will help you to listen to what God wants to tell you to give.
Praise Him. He is Lord. He loves us.
Give to Honor Him. Give Him the first fruits.