giving under grace in freedom with priorities

Our adult Sunday school classes have been moving through our church covenant and this week’s section addressed giving: We will regularly and cheerfully give of ourselves and our resources to support the ministry of this church and its expenses, relief of the poor, and the advance of the gospel through all nations.

As is often the case, affirming is one thing but practicing is another. What was interesting was that in our brief discussion we seemed to have in essential agreement on two principles: (a) we have no rules/regulations for the amount that we give (b) we have no rules/regulations concerning the recipient(s) of our giving. In sum, Christians are free to give according to the dictates of their conscience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I have no qualms w/ affirming the explicit freedom in Christian giving. However, I wonder if the emphasis on conscience-driven giving doesn’t create the (false) impression that Scripture is largely silent on this issue. The New Testament (NT) actually has much to say on this matter and we would do well to see and emulate the biblical pattern. [for the purposes of this post I’m assuming that OT directives for giving either (i) were fulfilled in/by Christ’s work and/or (ii) have found their full expression in the giving that results from a new covenant heart] Consider the following:

1) Jesus taught that certain acts of “religious” giving actually nullify God’s word for the sake of tradition (Mk 7:9-13).

2) The Spirit-led church in Acts gave to meet the needs within their immediate fellowship (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32, 34-35)

3) The Corinthian collection spoken of in 1Cor 16:1 and 2Cor 8-9 was a collection for the Jerusalem church.

4) We find specific instructions (i.e. commands) as to how, when, and from whom widows are to receive financial support (1Tim 5:3-16).

5) We’re told that men who labored in preaching/teaching should be compensated by the beneficiaries of their ministry (Gal 6:6; 1Tim 5:17-18).

6) We’re commanded to do good to all, especially to those who are in the church. (Gal 6:10)

7) We ought to receive and support those who have gone out to spread the gospel (3Jn 5-8)

The point to be made in all of this is that Christians do find biblical parameters for their grace giving which means that true Spirit-led giving should bear some resemblance to the Spirit-written Word. The next post will consider what this might mean for us in practice.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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