Principles for Progress


The Context

The Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that the Lord Jesus had taught that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’, Acts 20. 35. The Lord Jesus gave Himself. What do we know about giving? It is sad to observe that, while there are exceptions, the saints are generally better off in the western world than ever before, yet perhaps sometimes give less than previous generations!

In an Old Testament environment tithing was expected. In the New Testament, however, everything the believer has belongs to God. The question is perhaps better expressed, what can we legitimately hold for ourselves?

We learn several principles from the scriptures about giving. God was unhappy with His people when giving was not sacrificial, Mal. 1. 7, 8. Unlike for the heathen round about, giving did not of itself equate to spirituality but it ought to have been an expression of it.

Giving will include the sacrifice and application of time and talents. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 we read of the Macedonian believers who were supporting the poor saints in Jerusalem. They ‘first gave their own selves to the Lord’, v. 5; their giving was an expression of grace in their poverty and was more than simply financial. Are you willing to give for God? While it is therefore not confined to financial giving, it certainly includes sacrifices of a financial nature. Just begin by thinking about the fact that heating and lighting in the building the assembly meets in needs to be paid for. Then there are matters such as insurance, tracts, prizes for children’s work, and so on. Are you practically interested in supporting the work of the Lord? That is before you turn to the support of those who have put their life on the line for the work of the Lord.

The Responsibility to Give

In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 the Apostle Paul teaches about our responsibility. He could have taken gifts from the assembly at Corinth but, perhaps because of their immaturity, he chose not to be a burden. In fact, he went back to work as a tentmaker, as well as preaching, to support himself, Acts 18. There is no shame in ‘the Lord’s servants’ supporting themselves, but the need to do so may be a shame to the saints! He teaches clearly that those engaged sacrificially in the spiritual work for God deserve to be supported in the material area of life. That principle might involve sacrificial giving to more than evangelists or teachers commended to the grace of God. It will include widows, 1 Tim. 5, and poor saints, 1 Cor. 16, who are still with us. This will certainly include supporting such who are living by faith in a special way and are dependent on the Lord exercising the hearts of the saints to support them.

God does not expect you to give what you do not have. Rather, God is interested in sacrifice and motive. Ten pounds from you might not be a large amount but could be assessed as worth more in heaven than £1,000 from someone else. That is borne out by the Lord’s assessment of the widow with two mites, Luke 21. 1-4.

Giving regularly and consistently is another habit we need to get into, as individuals and through the assembly. There might be needs you are aware of that no one else is aware of. Young believers should make it an early priority in relationships and marriages to prioritize giving. We live in a day when it has never been easier to transfer funds. Service organizations such as Lord’s Work Trust can arrange transfers to servants or works for the Lord very swiftly.

The Priority to Give

We learn in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 that giving was a regular activity of the local assembly each Lord’s Day. An individual saint’s offering was based upon what God had given him. It might only be a few pounds. Are you guilty of going out for food on a Saturday night and having nothing for the Lord on a Lord’s Day morning? The idea is that the assembly is prepared as need arises; interestingly the modern examples in Christendom of fundraising or making requests for financial assistance find no basis in scripture.

Practical Lessons

Do I give regularly and consistently to the Lord’s work and workers? Am I exercised and concerned about the work? Do I contribute to the assembly as the Lord has blessed me? Have I devoted myself to the Lord and His work?

May we be helped to give to God!