I teach on stewardship and generosity at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, and I ask one question in my initial stewardship lesson that always raises eyebrows and catches people’s attention, “Why give to the church?” I can also see that it makes some people uncomfortable. It isn’t a question that most expect since our senior Pastor is reluctant to preach or teach much about giving.
There is something both right and wrong about asking that question. It is a good question because giving and stewardship is, or should be, a part of worship and all of life. Nevertheless, there is something wrong about having to ask that question because Christians are supposed to be generous, giving and sharing people, aren’t they? Yes, they are supposed to be generous. However, people also are not supposed to go over the speed limit and we all know how well that works.
However, there is another side of that question, “Why give to the church?” Instead of asking why we should give to the church perhaps we should ask a different question, “Why does God want us to give?” That is actually a good question considering that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, Psalm 50:10, and He owns the hills themselves.
Have you ever wondered about that? Why would the Creator of the entire universe, the One who gave us everything we have, including every breath every minute of every day, want some of it back? If God wants more money, He could just create it – or He could just take it, couldn’t He?
Answering that question, “Why does God want us to give?” is difficult for parents when two of their kids are in college, one parent has lost a job due to illness or injury, the medical bills are rolling in, and the car broke down … You get the picture.
Why would God want sacrificial giving when every day is a fight just to meet expenses? Is it that important to give when there is only little bit left over after the monthly bills? What is the reasoning behind that, God?
We may never know the answers. God is sovereign and does not owe us an explanation, Isaiah 46:9-11. We probably couldn’t grasp the full explanation if He tried.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Despite that, He has given us some indications in His Word so that we can start the process of understanding why He really does want us to give back to Him. Here are a few of what appear to be reasons God may have.
It Has Always Been About Him
What we see from a reading of the scriptures is that God intended our giving to be for His glory.
2 Corinthians 9:11-13
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.
Generosity is not our natural default setting. Paul (Philippians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:20, among others) and James (James 3:14 and James 3:16) both wrote strongly against selfishness, and the reason is obvious. If God gets the glory when we are not selfish, then He gets no glory when we are selfish.
This works in the real world. The Idlewild Foundation has a scholarship fund that began in 2012 in an amazing way, a way that illustrates this point. A couple felt led by God to donate $1 million to start a fund to allow Idlewild members who are active in ministry and have a financial need to get an undergraduate or vocational education. The amount alone is attention grabbing, but the rest of the story makes this even better. They had this on their hearts because they had not been able to complete high school and wanted others to be able to have a better start than they had. Best of all, they insist on being anonymous. Why? Because they want God to get the glory. They understand that it was God who made their wealth possible. Deuteronomy 8:18.
The result of their generosity has been fascinating. Others have seen it and have donated, the original donors have given additional money, and as of the end of 2018, more than the original $1 million has been given in over 370 scholarships. The good news is that the Foundation still has close to $1 million in the scholarship fund. The better news is that generosity begets generosity. See God Loves a Cheerful Giver – So Be One! in our blog articles.
God’s goal for us is to become “other-centered” instead of “self-centered.” Philippians 2:3-4. In becoming as giving as Christ was towards us, we give all of the glory to God.
It Isn’t About the Money
We know that God does not need our money. Psalm 50:10. However, He does need us to realize that our lives should never revolve around money. In fact, money competes with God.
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The question for the day is “Who is winning that competition?” When we choose God, He is glorified and we are in obedience to Him. Go back and reread 2 Corinthians 9:11-13.
The best way to tell who is winning is to reflect upon your reaction to the last money given to your church. Were you the joyful giver God loves, 2 Corinthians 9:7? Was your giving a tithe or a tip? Do you pay attention to church finances so you can know that your gifts to God are well handled? Is there any reason why you are not giving more than a 10% tithe, assuming you give at least 10%? God has never set an upper limit on your commitment to Him.
Is there discomfort or doubt about increasing your giving? If there is, I challenge you to search God’s Word for any indication that God has said you would never be pushed outside your comfort zone or called to sacrifice. The opposite is true. See John 16:33, Romans 5:2-5, Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:2-4, and 1 Peter 4:12-13.
2 Timothy 3:12
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Those who have stood firm for Christ have historically faced many trials, many to the death. See Hebrews 11:7-40. Your money and possessions offer you no safe harbor in times of trial. Their comfort is temporary and weak. Only God has promised he will never leave or forsake us – and kept that promise. Hebrews 13:5. He wants mature and strong followers; He can use them to reach many people. Those who rely on their money and possessions have missed an important part of His message to us. Our treasure is God and our relationship with Him through His son. If our trust is in money and “stuff,” it will fail.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It has never been about the money; it has always been about Him. Place your trust in Him, join Him in His work to restore people to Him, and support His church and His people with all that you have.
However, do not stop there because there are benefits to giving to God.
Giving Is a Blessing
God told us that he loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7. He has also indicated that there are blessings and rewards for those who obey. Acts 20:35. Perhaps even better is the promise that we will reap blessings if we choose to sow blessings.
2 Corinthians 9:6
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
This is not the prosperity gospel; it is the gospel. Nevertheless, it is important to note that God does not promise a dollar for dollar or a two-dollar for one-dollar return on your generosity. That is why this is not a prosperity gospel. However, it is a blessings gospel because we do receive treasures in heaven. Matthew 6:19-20.
Personal experience says that it is a lot of fun as well as a blessing to give and be generous with what God has given to us. The best part of generosity is that it is far from being about money. It is about our attitude, our time, our labor, the talents, skills and expertise God has given to us and last, about money. Giving Biblically is not just money. In Deuteronomy 15:10 Moses tells the Israelites,
10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
He told them to give generously but he did not say what they were to give. Give what is needed the most and is best for the circumstances. Moses does, a few verses earlier, make it clear that what they give or lend should be “whatever they need.” Deuteronomy 15:8.
God does in places say we should give food or clothing, see Proverbs 22:9, Matthew 5:40, and Luke 3:11. That should never be interpreted to mean that is all we give and do, because the whole tithe was to be brought to the storehouse, Malachi 3:10, and not given to the poor. Instead, the point of generosity and God’s call to help those in need is to be a blessing to those in need and a light in a dark world. Proverbs 11:25 and Matthew 5:14-16.
Moreover, we can see that we are to be generous with our hearts, our judgments, our forgiveness and our money. In other words, we are to be generous with all that God has given us on every occasion. See 2 Corinthians 9:11.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I have given countless hours of service to God: legal services as well as teaching, writing, presenting, and even manual labor such as painting, pulling weeds and what is commonly referred to as sweat equity. However, I have never given any time or anything else to God that He has not redeemed that time and gift many times over. I would not take a minute of the time or a dime of the giving back even if I could.
No, God doesn’t need our money, but part of our relationship with Him involves giving. There is a saying that isn’t from the text of the Bible but it certainly comes from the heart of God.
You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.
That is a true statement in every sense of the word. We love because He first loved us, I John 4:19, and similarly, we give because He first gave to us.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.