Principles of giving

In 2 Corinthians 8-9, the apostle Paul provides a number of principles about financial giving that honor the Lord.  We are typically shy when talking about giving and the need for giving, but Paul wasn’t.  From these two chapters, we have at least a dozen principles that should guide our giving:

  1. Give as an example to others  (8:1)
  2. Don’t let “poverty” keep you from giving [always seek to give something] (8:2)
  3. Give generously and voluntarily (8:2-3)
  4. Recognize the privilege of giving  (8:4)
  5. Make yourself the first gift  (8:5)
  6. Making giving a spiritual discipline — and give to keep them “balanced”  (8:7)
  7. Give as a demonstration of your love  (8:8-9)
  8. Give in proportion to your ability  (8:12)
  9. Give so that your needs may be met and that you may be able to give more  (9:6)
  10. Give cheerfully and joyfully (9:7)
  11. Give because it brings glory to God  (9:12-13)
  12. Give because it is an adequate response to Christ’s gift  (8:9; 9:15)

In his classic work, Desiring God, John Piper has offered a timely admonition for us to consider as we think about our giving habits:

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level two. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on, and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a six-digit salary must be accompanied by a six-digit lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of His grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do.

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