Please Give

Tithing

What is grace giving? The purpose of this post is to discuss the nature of grace giving as found 2 Cor. 8-9 and also to discuss some principles of giving in the New Testament. Grace giving has to start with an understanding of the purpose of giving. Paul writes, “…but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor 8:4). Giving is an act of service for God’s kingdom (2 Cor. 8:19-20).  It is a ministry opportunity to minister to the saints (2 Cor.8: 4).

Grace giving, secondly, starts with an understanding that everything one has is of divine grace. Belleville writes, “It is only as God blesses and enables that we are able to give in the first place.”[1] God gave grace to the church in Macedonia in order for them to give beyond their ability. The word grace appears nine times between chapters 8-9 showing the need for grace in the act of giving.[2] God gives most and because of it believers are to give in order to follow God’s example. In addition, Garland writes, “God is lavishly generous and abundantly supplies us with everything necessary to have enough for our own need and to be generous with others.”[3] In other words, grace giving has an understanding that God will supply all that we need in order for us to give beyond our ability. God will and does bless so that we can give.

The third element of grace giving is it does not refer to any amount of money, rather it is giving according to one’s ability and beyond one’s ability.[4] It is not ten percent or twenty percent of one’s income. It is not giving out of the surplus, but out of one’s condition. For the Corinthians it was giving according to their ability. Grace giving does not compel a person to “go into debt, to become disadvantaged or overburdened,” rather it is giving out of generosity even if it is a small gift.[5]

The fourth element of grace giving is it has theological consequences.[6] Paul uses words like “grace,” “privilege,” “partnership,” “sharing,” “love,” “blessings,” “ministry,” to describe the ministry of grace giving.[7] It is not giving money for the sake of giving. It is a ministry to the poor yet through it the giver will experience fellowship, partnership, joy, and so many more benefits. God says it is better to give than to receive.

The fifth element of grace giving is it is done with gladness of heart not under compulsion or grudgingly because God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Garland writes, “God, who knows the heart, values only those gifts that come as a free expression of the deepest part of our souls.”[8] If a person gives out of a grudging heart it does not matter the amount, that attitude would cancel out the gift.

The first principle we can learn about grace giving is giving is in proportion to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Cor 8:12). The Old Testament required a person to give a portion of one’s income, but the New Testament principle is give according to what one has. This principle is important to grasp because “it is not the gift — neither the fact of it nor its amount — that is “acceptable to God, but the sincere motive that inspires it, namely “willingness.”[9] This principle illustrates that giving is not dependent upon one’s resources, rather it is dependent upon God’s grace given to a person. Our giving should be in proportion to God’s grace.[10]

The second principle of giving is giving is an individual matter that one purposed in the heart (2 Cor. 9:7). Other people should not know what one gives. Jesus says, “Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt 6:3). There is no need to boast about giving, rather it is a private matter.

The third principle of giving is it requires resolves.[11] It is not to be done based upon emotion or carelessly. Don’t be convicted to give while the offering bag is being passed around. That type of giving is based upon emotion. Rather purpose in your heart what you will give before that time comes.

The last principle of giving is “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). Belleville writes, “The principle is clear: we harvest in proportion to our planting—or, to use a contemporary maxim, ‘we get as good as we give.’”[12]

Biblical giving in the church is hard to find in modern day evangelical Christianity because pastors and teachers have not taught their people on how to give. Maybe it is time for a change. Point people back to the Bible to inform them about grace giving, so that God will get all the glory and honor.


[1] Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 210.

[2] Ibid., 211.

[3] David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, Vol. 29 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1999), 407.

[4] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 368.

[5] Ibid., 381.

[6] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 369.

[7] Ibid., 369.

[8] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 406.

[9] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle To The Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1997), 412.

[10] Scott J. Haffmann, 2 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan House Publishing, 2000), 344.

[11] Belleville, 2 Corinthians, 237.

[12] Ibid., 236.

Please preserve the unity

In the last two months around the Dallas area, I have heard that various churches have split due to various reasons. There is a time and a place for church split. For example in church history, there have been three main church splits all for fundamental doctrinal reasons: 553 over the incarnation of Christ, 1054 over the authority of the church and Scripture, and 1517 over redemption/soteriology. Fundamental doctrinal reasons should be, in my opinion, the only reason for churches to split. In today’s culture, churches split for selfish reasons: different visions, money, location of a new church building, the new senior pastor, wanting to be a senior pastor, and so many more. If we can’t have it our way, then we will try to make it our way one way or another. How dumb of the body of Christ. We have let the mantra of our culture shape the church. What a pity. We are the light of the world shining in the darkness, but because of endless church splits, our light is being dimmed.

The church is the body of Christ, why are we dividing the body of Christ? The plea of the apostle Paul is “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). The battle cry of the apostle Paul is twofold. First, Paul calls us to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit. The idea of being diligent is to spare no effort, to do our best, and to take/make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit. This is counterculture. We are too quick to give up and split the church. Paul urges us to give it our all to what… preserve the unity of the Spirit.

The second part of the battle cry is to preserve the unity of the Spirit. The word preserve has the idea of to keep, to preserve what is already in existence. It is not the establishment of a new entity, but rather to keep and not lose or destroy something already in our possession. We are the body of Christ and we have to make every effort to preserve the body of Christ.

The local church must do everything within her power to be diligent to preserve the unity of the church. The church is one body. When one part of the body hurts, the whole body does not function as it’s supposed to. In like manner, if one part of the church hurts, then the whole church is not going to function as it’s supposed to.  One would not cut of an arm if it suffers a broken bone, rather one would do everything in one’s power to restore it. If that arm, however, suffers from a flesh-eating bacteria that would spread to the whole body if it is not cut off, then yes, it would be better to cut that arm off ­­–– only after all possible remedy have been tried –– than risk death. In the same way, the local church has to do everything in her power to preserve unity in the Spirit when “petty” differences exist. Fundamental doctrinal differences such as, half the congregation does not believe in the Trinity and the other half does, without any possibility of reconciliation, then yes, split the church. I am not promoting church split. I hate it. I abhor it. I detest it, yet I am not callous to the fact the sometimes it is necessary. We have taken church splits too lightly. The battle cry is to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Oh love ones, please preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Please Read God’s Word

The last post was a petition for Christians to pray because prayer is one of the most beneficial disciplines in the Christian faith. In this post, it is a petition to read God’s word. I want to say that there is a relationship between how powerful a person’s prayer life is and their knowledge of God’s word. Prayer might be the fire, but the fuel to the fire is God’s word. One author describes the relationship in this manner, “Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God’s Word, prayer, though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in reality, flabby, and vapid, and void. The absence of vital force in praying, can be traced to the absence of a constant supply of God’s Word, to repair the waste, and renew the life. He who would learn to pray well, must first study God’s Word, and store it in his memory and thought.” Again, Bounds writes, “The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer is placed, and by which things are mightily moved. God has committed Himself, His purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word becomes the basis, the inspiration of our praying, and there are circumstances under which, by importunate prayer, we may obtain addition, or an enlargement of His promises.” Is there a relationship between prayer and God’s Word? Yes.

The apostle John writes, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 Jn. 5:14-15). The stipulation to answer prayers is God hearing us, but God only hears us if we ask according to His will. How does a person know God’s will? For the most part, I believe, God’s will is revealed in and through His word by the Holy Spirit. The promise is if we pray according to God’s will, then we know that God hears our prayers. The result is God will answer our prayers. What an amazing thought. Again, the apostle John writes, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7). One commentator writes, “effective prayer is based on faith in Christ and on His words remaining in believers. Christ’s words condition and control such a believer’s mind so that his prayers conform to the Father’s will. Since his prayer is in according with God’s will, the results is certain – it will be given you.” Praying and reading God’s Word go hand in hand. If one reads God’s Word, one is driven to prayer. God’s word has the ability to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4;12). When one spends time in the presence of “Holiness” it will show the presence of filth in one’s life, which would move us to prayer.

Oh, love ones, please read so that we can pray effectively. How is Bible reading going for you? Do you want a powerful prayer life? If so, please develop a ferocious reading life of His Word. Please read God’s Word. Don’t forsake it. It is essential to the Christian life. Without it, everything else will fall apart. May we be a generation that loves God’s word by reading it. Please read, understand, digest, and practice God’s word in order to ensure a great prayer life.

Please Pray

Luke 11:1

What is one of the hardest disciplines in the Christian faith? Arguable, I would say prayer. Yet, it is one of the most beneficial disciplines in the Christian faith. If prayer is one of the most beneficial disciplines, then why don’t we pray more often? Maybe the reason why Christians don’t pray as often is because we don’t believe that God is able to answer our prayers. Or perhaps, we have become too self-sufficient that there is no need for God and prayer in our lives. May this post about prayer encourage us to pray more.

Luke 11:1 reads, “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of his disciples said to Him, ‘Lord teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” The necessity of prayer in the Christian life is clearly in view in this verse. The necessity of prayer can be seen in the disciples’ need to learn how to pray. I think, however, the better view to show the necessity of prayer in the Christian life is the simple phrase, “It happened that while Jesus was praying…” Think for a moment, if the Second person of the Godhead, the God-Man needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray? Jesus prayed for his disciples (John 17), for himself (Luke 22:39-46), and at times the Scripture simply records for us that Jesus prayed.

The life of Jesus is filled with prayers. One cannot escape that fact. It is throughout the gospels. He often prayed all night and at other times arose a great while before dawn to pray to his heavenly Father. I think Jesus is onto something, maybe prayer is expressive of the relationship between a child and the Father. As one author puts is, “For those who know God best are the ones who speak to him most of all.” Christianity is a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. How many of us express this intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father? Not only is prayer an indication of how intimate a believer’s relationship is with the Father, it is also an expression of faith.

One author puts it best, “Prayer, in many ways, is the supreme expression of our faith in God and our faith and confidence in the promises of God.  There is nothing that a man ever does which so proclaims his faith as when he gets down on his knees and looks to God and talks to God.  It is a tremendous confession of faith.  I mean by this that he is not just running with his requests and petitions, but if he really waits upon God, if he really looks to God, he is there saying, ‘Yes, I believe it all, I believe that you are rewarder of them that diligently seek you, I believe you are the Creator of all things and all things are in your hands.  I know there is nothing outside your control.  I come to you because you are in all this and I find peace and rest and quiet in your holy presence and I am praying to you because you are what you are’.” What type of prayer do we engage in? It is a prayer to get things or is it the type of prayer that will stretch our faith? It is not wrong to pray to receive things. Another author puts it like this, “Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to make those things holy, which already have been received from Him. It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things, sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.” How is your prayer life? Do you even pray? Jesus prayed. His disciples prayed. Do you pray?

The Plead for Community

Community

There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. The Christian faith is a faith that expresses itself through community. We can see this on display through the Trinity. We know that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have eternal fellowship with each other: John 1:32, 15:26, 16:7, John 1:18, 3:11, 32, 5:19, 29, 37; 6:46; 8:38, John 10:15, 7:29, 17:25; 1 Cor 2:11-13, Eph 2:18. These passages portray an intimate relationship that the Godhead enjoy with each other. The Trinity is the model for our personal fellowship with each other. Fellowship and community only exist with a plurality of persons. Our God is Three in One. That is why we have in Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone…”

Adam was created in the image of God and being created in the image of God Adam has to be relational in order to reflect the Trinitarian God that created him.  Adam reflected the image of God in his stewardship, in his obedience, but he could not reflect the image of God in the relational realm until Eve was created. The application is this: To reflect a Trinitarian God in fellowship we need each other.  A theologian once said, “God did not create you to have a private relationship with Him. He created you to have a relationship with Him lived out, enjoyed, endured with other human beings.” Again, there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.  If you are then you are living in sin and going against the design God has created you for.

Think with me for a moment, if Adam had a perfect relationship with God but he was not “happy” until Eve was created, how much more do we need relationships? A professor at Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Man is fully man when in relationship with God and the human community.” We are meant to be relational.  We are to exist in a community. The call to live is a call to live in community. Sadly, however, we Americans are becoming more isolated and individualistic in nature. In doing so, we are becoming less and less human. We are very individualistic, yet the call from the Trinitarian God is if you want to fully live out your humanity you need to be involved in a relationship with the Creator and other human beings. It is only when the Christian life is lived out in a community that we will experience the maximum joy because we are living according to our design.

Oh my Christian brothers and sisters seek community and live in the community. Be involved in the church, in your community, in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. If you want to find fulfillment, start practicing community living.