The call to be saved is the call to be part of a giving community. For the Christian God is a giving God. Jesus, who is God incarnate gave himself first for us. So being part of both the universal and local church is therefore to belong to a giving community. The Christian is therefore expected to participate in the following kinds of giving: Giving as in thanksgiving, fundraising, pastoral support, helping the poor and the needy and giving as in tithing.
1. Thank God with your money
The value of expression of gratitude or thanksgiving cannot be downplayed in human life and in the practice of our Christian faith. God expects us to give financially, as part of our attempt to express our gratitude to him. This desire and expectation challenged the Psalmist to ask himself: What can I repay the Lord for all his benefits (Psalm 116:12). And as part of his expression of gratitude, to promised to pay his vows to God.
2. Be involved in fundraising activities
Another kind of giving relates to the involvement of fundraising activities especially in the context of the church. We are to take part in fundraising activities such as contributing money to build Auditoriums, buy musical instruments and towards evangelistic and mission related activities.
Fundraising periods therefore constitute the time to meet needs and worship God in highnesses. It is against this background that Paul challenged the Corinthians to give using two big examples: that of the Macedonian churches (Philipi, Bereans and Thessolonica) and that of Christ (2 Corinthians 8). The Macedonians gave to support the needy Jerusalem Church at the time.
In the book of Haggai, the Israelites were admonished to examine their priorities by contributing to the building of the Temple.
3. Be a tither
Another kind of giving that has often generated controversies and thus misunderstanding among some Christians is tithing. When one recognises that all that he or she has, belongs to God, then giving God at least one-tenth should not be a problem.
A careful study on tithing in the scriptures reveals that both the Old Testament and the New Testament encouraged it. In the Old Testament Abraham out of faith tithed. Then Jacob later through this same faith and trust in God followed suit. As part of the law, God demanded that the Israelites also Tithe in Leviticus 11. It was also explicit in the prophetic books (Malachi 3) where the Israelites were expected to tithe for heavenly opened windows. Jesus did not condemn the faith and obedience of the law needed on tithing and thus implicitly encouraged it in Matthew 23:23.
Samuel Kirk Mills insightfully brings out the purpose of Christian Tithing by writing that,
The purpose of Christian Tithing shows the use of the tithes. It is God’s economy for meeting the living subsistence of His delegated Priests (Pastors, Bishops Elders, General overseers) by whom the High Priestly Ministry of Christ on earth is served; and the maintenance of the Temple of God, which includes both the physical buildings, and the children of God in whom he dwells.
Tithing therefore shows our obedience and trust in God that all that we have belong to him. In fact the context and teaching of Malachi on tithing suggests that it serves as a weapon against the devourer. God promised to defeat the devourer and thus prevent the Devil from attacking God’s children who were faithful. In this case, God promised to protect the lives, business and family of those who were faithful in tithing (Mal 3:10 – 11). They were also to receive divine favour as in opened windows of heaven. This is also true today.
4. Give to support pastors and ministers of the Gospel
This kind of giving is very crucial in the African context and for that matter amongst African immigrant churches in that it is least taught. Some pastors fail to teach on this kind of giving simply because they don’t want to be seen as carnal men or women of God. Could we be justified in saying that such pastors are not teaching their church members the whole counsel of God? Denying church members of support to their pastors is preventing them from exercising their biblical stewardship mandate to their ministers. For if the family of Levi was to be cared for by the rest of the other clans then Christians have the stewardship mandate of caring for their pastors.
Three main reasons underscore the need to support our ministers of the gospel. In the first place, God’s word commands us to support ministers. Implicitly, the example of Abraham teaches us to support our ministers (Gen 14:20). Moses also taught about supporting ministers (Numbers 18:21-24). As Jesus sent his disciples to evangelize, he commanded them to be fed by the people to whom they ministered unto. To Paul, supporting pastors is the responsibility of every church member (Galatians 6:6).
Secondly, God’s work demands that the minister be supported. The nature of the pastoral ministry requires a divine calling and professional training. What this implies is that ministers are to be supported so that they will have total commitment and concentration on the work of the ministry (Acts 6:2-4).
The third reason is that God’s blessings and prosperity demands that his ministers are financially cared for. Before Paul could pray for the Philippian Christians, they had sown into his life and ministry (Phil 4:19). In the case of Abraham God blessed him with Children, financially and materially and physically in good old age. For he had financially supported Mechizedek (Genesis 14:20). The Shunamite woman had a miraculous encounter after supporting a man of God (2 Kings 4:8).
5. Give to the poor and the needy
The Bible makes it clear that God is concerned about the poor and needy and the oppressed. In the Old Testament, the Lord God is the champion of the poor and the needy. He reveals himself as their refuge, their help, their deliverer, and their provider (Psalms 40:17, Is. 25:4, Luke 1:52-53, I Sam. 2:8).
When God revealed his law to the Israelites, he provided a number of ways to dealing with the poor amongst them: God forbade charging interest on loans to the poor (Lev. 25:35-36); taking their cloak as security for loan; they were to be paid their daily wage so they could eat; all debts of the poor were to be cancelled at every seven years (Deut 15:1-6); During harvest time, grain that dropped on the ground was to be left so that the poor could feed on it. In fact, the edges of the farm were to be left unharvestered for the poor (Deut 19:9-10, Deut. 24:19-21).
God also instructs us to show deep concern for the poor and needy in the New Testament. Much of Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and disadvantaged in the Jewish society. This includes the downtrodden (Luke 4:18, Samaritans, Luke 17), those with leprosy and widows.
The early church established a caring community that shared their possession so that no one was in need. When they increased in number that made it impossible for the apostles to see to their needs, deacons were appointed to attend to the needs of the widows and the caring ministry. Thus in exercising our financial stewardship mandate, giving to support the poor and the needy is a way of partnering with God.