About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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1 Corinthians 16:2

Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 16:2 "to set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income" (NIV).  I know that some will argue the point that what Paul said here is in reference to giving of offerings over and above the tithe.  I  understand that Paul was in the midst of a special fund raising effort to  help the poor saints in Jerusalem , so one might view this giving here as being over and above what one would normally give. Yet since there is no mention of tithing in the New Testament for Christians, you can’t say that this example of giving was over above tithing – over and above normal giving maybe, but not over and above tithing.


Whatever the case, I see this as another example of  New Testament thinking concerning giving of money.  The idea is to “set aside some money in relation to your income”. There’s no mention of any certain percentage here.  That’s up to the individual doing the giving.  This may appear to be percentage based giving to some people, but I don’t think that’s  Paul’s intention.  Paul was simply asking the Corinthians to do their best to give according to how much money they made.  The percentage would differ from person to person.


I see Paul’s request for help as being voluntary and Holy Spirit led, as seems to be the practice of first generation Christians.  Jesus has freely given to us and He wants us to freely give to others,  especially to those in need.  Paul makes this clear in 2 Cor. 9:7 when he said, “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give…”


It is interesting to me to note that more New Testament verses are devoted to Paul’s special fund raiser for the poor than any other circumstance concerning money.  If you study most church’s spending habits, helping the poor is near the bottom of the list of expenditures.  This isn’t New Testament thinking.    

2 Corinthians 8:2-4

Read again what Paul says in 2 Cor 8:2-4.  He said, "out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity ... they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability". (NIV)  Paul was speaking of the Macedonian Christians who gave way beyond their financial ability to help their poor brothers in Jerusalem .  


Notice the words Paul uses here about these people. They were going through “severe trials”, and  living in “extreme poverty”, yet they gave with “overflowing joy” and “rich generosity”. 


So let’s be clear.  When I say that Christians aren’t obligated to tithe, and shouldn’t give “under compulsion, I’m  not saying they shouldn’t give.  Our whole life should be one of freely giving because Jesus has freely given to us, and money certainly isn’t the only aspect of giving.  

The Poor Widow


Remember the poor widow who gave her last penny at the Temple in Jerusalem . (Luke 21:3)  Jesus commended her for giving.  He didn’t tell her that she shouldn’t have given.  He didn’t tell her not to give the next time she was in town.  I take this to mean that “poverty is no excuse not to give”. 


Some people, including Christians, say “I’m too poor to give.  I need to be given to”.  This is the welfare mentality that in the long run keeps poor people poor.  This is not New Testament thinking.  Poverty is no excuse not to give. If you have absolutely no money to give, you could be like John in Acts 3:6 who said, “silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you…”.  If you’re that poor, I’m sure you have something else that you can give.   Everybody has something they can give.      



The Macedonians


Let’s look closer at 2 Cor. 8  where Paul speaks of the Macedonian Christians.  I’ve already pointed out that they gave with “rich generosity and overflowing joy from their extreme poverty”.


In 2 Cor.8:3 we see that the Macedonians gave “beyond their ability to give”, much like the poor widow in Luke 21.  Paul used this sacrificial giving as an example for others to follow.


Verse 4 says that “they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in the service of the saints”.  These people viewed giving as a “privilege” and they “urgently pleaded” with Paul to give.  They couldn’t give fast enough, and they certainly didn’t need to hear a long winded tithing sermon to motivate them.     


Verse 5 tells us that the Macedonians “first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us…”.  That’s the key.  You give yourself to Jesus first and He inspires you to give to others.  You might say that to the degree you’ve given yourself to Jesus will be the degree in which you give to others.  So really, your generosity is more of a reflection on your commitment to Jesus than it is  a reflection on your commitment to the church group you’re associated with.  This is what all church leaders need to learn.  Helping people give more of their lives to Jesus reaps better results than twisting their arms to tithe.    


In verse 7  Paul encourages the Corinthians to excel in the “grace of giving”.  Giving is an act of grace, and it often takes God’s grace to help us give as we should.


In verse 12 Paul says, “for if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”.  This makes it clear.  Giving is a matter of a willing heart which places the emphasis on our motivation,  not on the amount we give or don’t give. 


From this passage we learn that New Testament thinking concerning the giving of money is that poverty is no excuse not to give.  Giving is an act of grace and often takes God’s grace to help us give.  We give because we’ve first given our lives to Jesus and we shouldn’t feel bad when we can’t  give as much as we’d like, and we shouldn’t make others feel bad when they can’t give as much as they’d like. 

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