Following God means following his commands and following his generous examples of giving.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only son..." John 3:16 (ESV)
We may ask, "Well how much exactly does God want us to give? Where does tithing 10% of your income come from?" If this is the only line of questioning, we may be missing the point.
Recall the Old Testament command of tithing God required His people to offer a tenth of all that God would give them back to Himself. Everything comes from Him in the first place, so why would He ask for it back? So that we would know that it all came from Him.
When we give a tenth back, we're saying that we indeed know this. The tithing command asks you if you believe God gave everything that you have.
"Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." Malachai 3:8-10
God tells His people they're robbing Him. They're refusing to give Him what belongs to Him. They're refusing to believe that He gave all they have to them.
He is not a stingy father who wants to take from them. He's a father who wants to give. So he tells them to test Him, to bring their tithe so that He will open up the floodgates of blessings upon their heads. But he gives a condition that they bring the whole tithe. He's not a father that will give in negligence. He is generous with provision and blessing.
Everything written in the Old Testament finds fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus is the full blessing that God promises to those who seek Him.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)
We received such a blessing in Christ, because of God's Generosity. We obey God's commands, including commands to give, in joyful response to what God provided in Jesus.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
The story of the Bible is not, "give and then you will be blessed," it's, "you have been blessed, therefore give." God is not withholding anything from you. He didn't even withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. How would He not, along with Hom, grciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)? How should we respond to a truth like that? What should our giving look like in light of that truth?
Should our giving remain the same as the Old Testament? Should we just keep on tithing at ten percent, because that's what He commanded back then? That would communicate that nothing new has happened! If our questioning remains focused on how much, we're still missing the point.
The gospel ought to change our question from, "how much should we give" into "how much should we keep!" Have you ever asked yourself why God has blessed you so much? What does He want us to do with all of it?
Giving is a physical pointer, a demonstration, to the gospel. We give to missions because the gospel says when Jesus died on the cross He had people in mind from every tongue, tribe and nation. The Bible tells us that we are blessed so that we may be a blessing to the nations.
We give to the church, because Jesus gave to the church. We give up our first fruits and tithe because God gave His first fruits, His Son, to the church. We give to orphan care, because we’re reminding ourselves that while we were orphans, Jesus came to take us to the Father. We give to the poor and needy, because we’re pointing to the truth that says when we were poor Jesus came to meet our needs.
When we give to the point that it hurts, not just out of our excess, we're pointing to the truth that Jesus, though He was rich, gave it all up, so that we would become rich. By giving, we're pointing to the reality and the truths of the gospel.
The question is what kind of gospel are we pointing to through our giving? I'm afraid the American church is pointing to a sad gospel. The average American church member gives away 2.58% of their income. Twenty-five percent of the average church member gives nothing at all. What kind of gospel is that pointing to? We have to preach a better gospel.
Our giving starts, not when we get jobs. It starts when we get saved. There's beauty in giving when you feel like you have nothing.
"And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Mark 12:41-44 (ESV)
God doesn't need your money. If he did, he would be much happier with large sums of money because His desire not your money, but your heart, He sees the widow and is more pleased with that. She gave out of her poverty, because she knew that her treasure was found in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy.
There was once a small band of believers, two thousand years ago. History would say they flipped the world upside down. Unbelievers would write about them, calling them, calling them crazy, not caring about their money, selling their possessions to care for the poor. Why were they able to do that? Because they knew they had been blessed in Christ, because of the gospel, with every spiritual blessing. They were full and able to give. So with their giving, they pointed to an awesome gospel.
What if we did it again? Let’s flip the world upside down!