Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
There is no commandment in the New Testament which gives us a clear and defined figure or percentage. However, the Old Testament does give specific commands which may be used as guidelines for us today. Most who use those guidelines live by the “10-percent” rule where they strive to give 10 percent of their income. This is because saints of the Old Testament were commanded to tithe one-tenth of their increase. (The word tithe actually means “one-tenth”.)
As I have studied the matter further, it would seem the “10-percent” rule would not be sufficient according to Old Testament text. There were actually three different tithes that were required of the people. First, one-tenth was given to the Levitical priests (Lev. 27:30-32). Second, one-tenth was given for the yearly feasts (Deut. 14:22-27). Third, one-tenth was given every three years to help the needy (Deut. 14:28-29). That amounts to approximately 23 percent. That is not to say we must give that amount of our income, but perhaps it gives us some idea as to what was meant throughout the New Testament instructions on giving.
New Testament Principles of Giving
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Paul instructs the Corinthian Church to give “as God hath prospered.” In other words, we cannot necessarily compare our giving to another in the church. We can only give based on what we have to give. In addition, it is implied that as the Lord prospers us with more, we should also give more. We often fall into the habit of giving a set dollar amount to the church each week or each month. In all reality, the amount we give should vary according to what we have.
2 Corinthians 8:7-11
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
Paul wrote, “See that ye abound in this grace also.” It is a godly mentality to desire to do more always. A disciple of Christ should always seek to excel even in giving.
2 Corinthians 8:12
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
Christian giving is not about dollar amounts or economics. It is about the individual willingness to sacrifice something of value in the Lord’s service.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
Our giving should not be a last-minute thought at church on Sunday morning where we look into our wallets or purses to see if we have any cash to give. Our giving should be purposeful and planned. When we prepare our budgets for the month, giving to the church ought to be a top priority.
Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
It honors the Lord to give our firstfruits. Individuals in the church should give their first and best–not what is left over in the end. Churches should also be reminded that we should not wait until last minute to raise money for any need. Often when something comes up, the deacons press the church to give more as they pass around the collection plate. That would not be necessary if we all gave like we should all of the time. Paul had written, “Let every one of you lay by him in store…that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Our churches should be prepared beforehand. For instance, what if, God forbid, a tragic illness was to strike one of the members? Perhaps their insurance fails to cover the medical expenses and the family cannot cover it by themselves. How is the church to help that family if our treasury lacks? It may be extremely difficult to raise the money we need in that moment. Or, what if the Lord blesses our church to outgrow the building? If we truly want such a thing to happen, then we should act like we do by preparing for it (i.e. saving money to eventually build a bigger church building).
To give some perspective on what proper giving according to biblical principles can do, allow me to provide some real numbers. These numbers may not accurately reflect any given church.
The average American family has an income of approximately $50,000 per year. If a church has fifteen families that totals $750,000 among them. If all fifteen families give according to the “10-percent” rule, they would give a total of $75,000 each year. If they give 23 percent, they would give $172,500 each year.
Based on New Testament teachings as well as Old Testament tithing commandments, the three basic uses of church funds should be the support of the ministry, paying general church expenses, and helping the poor and needy. When it comes to supporting a pastor, I feel he should never be given more than the average income of the church. In the example above, the pastor would receive no more than $50,000 per year. If the church gives 23 percent, $122,500 would be leftover each year to pay expenses, help the poor, and save for future need. Even if the church lives by the “10-percent” rule and gives their pastor the maximum amount, they would be left with $12,500 to pay expenses and so on.
Let me say again the reason for giving to the church is not for dollar amounts. It for the purpose of giving itself. Though it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, Proverb 3:10 does tell us that if we give our firstfruits, we will be rewarded with barns filled with plenty and presses bursting with new wine. Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” What the Lord blesses you with essentially belongs to Him. We should not ask what we want to do with it, but what would God want us to do with it.