New Testament Giving: Not What You’ve Been Taught

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3 (ESV)

Did you catch that last phrase? Very clearly, this was a special collection for the persecuted believers in Jerusalem.

IT CANNOT BE TAUGHT from this passage that a believer should give systematically and regularly, as many teachers assert. To say so is to disregard the context! It can be taught, however, that special collections for needy believers/churches far away should be done with considerations of timing and planning, so that all who wish to give have opportunity. Also, from James 2-3, we learn that taking care for our own brother or sister in need is to show a faith that saves / delivers others out of plight, instead of being a faith that is merciless and dead, delivering no one out of anything.

It is true that God wants us believers to be givers. Since we have Him, how should it be otherwise? Yet, the New Testament indicates that we give in the following ways (2 Corinthians 9):

  1. With joy and grace, not out of reluctance or compulsion but what YOU decide
  2. To those who have need
  3. Out of what you have, not what you don’t have (yet)
  4. But not in a way that will cause you to suffer need yourself (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). [This matches James, who indicates we give out of our surplus, deeming it to be for meeting the needs of others by God’s providential design.]

In fact, all of the accounts & directives of giving in the New Testament (NT) are to help someone’s need, not to create a “general fund,” or to perform some rite that makes God pleased with us. There is no Theocratic tithe for New Testament believers. Literally, all of the accounts where giving is mentioned in the NT is for a special collection to help those in need, especially our fellow believers. Jesus does talk to the Pharisees in the Gospels about tithing, but often readers forget that he was speaking about the law to those under the law. And he was particularly telling them that they used tithing as a means of feeling self-justified, but that, they really had left out justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23).  So, that passage is not a great one to bolster teaching a tithe for NT believers.

There is no “tithe” mandated for the New Testament believer. That was for the theocratic Hebrew nation, under their Old Covenant; and the tithes served as taxes for the operation of the priestly system (Malachi 3:10). If you do not “tithe,” God will not punish you or withhold blessing from you—a New Testament believer—as He would have done the members of the ancient, theocratic Hebrew nation, Israel. Aren’t you glad?! Equally true, a New Testament believer cannot expect to be “blessed” by God for meritoriously giving. That is a pagan way of offering.

Instead, give…

  1. With joy and grace, not out of reluctance or compulsion but what YOU decide
  2. To those who have need
  3. Out of what you have, not what you don’t have (yet)
  4. But not in a way that will cause you to suffer need

…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. —Jesus, Luke 6:38

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever.”[a]

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:6-15, ESV)

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