Three men were discussing how to determine how much money to give to the Lord. This first man drew a circle on the ground, took all the money out of his pocket and threw it in the air; whatever landed inside the circle was the Lord’s and the rest he spent. The second man disagreed; he said the proper way to determine how much was the Lord’s was how much fell outside the circle. The third man, being more “spiritually mature,” threw his money in the air, and, when it landed, he said that whatever God wanted, He kept. Therefore, whatever fell to the ground was his to spend!
Obviously, that is a facetious way to approach how much a person should give to the Lord.
However, many do not even think about giving and tithing as much as these three men. Let’s take a look at what God’s Word has to say about giving and explore three levels of giving as a framework for establishing your own giving plan.
According to research conducted by George Barna, the current per capita giving among evangelicals in North America is about 2.5 percent. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average giving of all Americans is 1.7 percent of adjusted gross income. The obvious conclusion from these two statistics is that, on average, Americans give nowhere near a tithe amount of 10 percent. Not only that, but even evangelical Christians do not give anywhere near 10 percent either.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul writes, “On the first day of the week, each one of your should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
This verse admonishes the Christian to give regularly, “on the first day of every week,” and in proportion with his or her income.
Proverbs 3:9–10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
Therefore, it is my conclusion that a Christian should give regularly and proportionately, as God has prospered him or her, and from the gross of his or her income, including the investments that have grown in value.
The beginning point of giving is an amount of at least 10 percent. That is not to say that the tithe is the law, nor is it the end. It is, however, an amount that can be given in recognition of God’s ownership and, therefore, should be a starting point.
There are three levels of giving for the believer – the “should give,” “could give” and “would give.”
The “should give” is proportionate giving.
We are to give in proportion to the way God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2). Although an argument could be made for the tithe, or 10 percent of one’s income, nowhere in the New Testament is a percentage given. It’s not limited to 10 percent; it’s only limited by how God has prospered you – which may mean giving way beyond 10 percent.
The second level of giving is the “could give” category, or put another way, sacrificial or planned giving. We all could give more if we chose to give up something else – a vacation, a certain aspect of our lifestyle like eating out or even liquidating assets. A prerequisite for this to happen, however, is for a person to know where he or she is financially. If one doesn’t know what he or she is spending, it is difficult to know where to sacrifice and what to cut back on.
This is why a spending plan will enable a person to give more if he desires to.
The third level is the “would give” category, or precommitted giving. Some call this faith giving or giving with an attitude that says, “God, I would give You this if You would bring it in for me to give.”
Unless you have a plan that allocates your income and outflow, you’re not going to recognize God’s blessing when it comes, which may be in two ways: He can increase your income or decrease your expenses. By doing either, He enables you to give more. The point is you must have already determined how to give the surplus before it happens or chances are good that you won’t give.
We always have more ways to spend money than we have money available. And unless you plan to give, you won’t. It takes a “precommittment” to give.
Giving never causes spiritual growth.
Rather, giving is a function of spiritual growth. Don’t think that by giving, you’re growing spiritually.
The significant givers I see are those who are already growing spiritually. If you are progressing in your relationship with the Lord, you already have a desire to give to His kingdom. Now it’s time to do something about that desire.
As Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians in South America once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Plan your giving, and then follow through wisely. It is an investment you’ll never regret.
Rob West is the training and communications director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that equips and disciples Christian financial advisors. For details, e-mail [email protected].
The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.