3 Guidelines for Giving

Date: May 5, 2023

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38


“Dear God, I’m having a tough time financially, and I’d like a refund on some of the money I’ve given to you. Do you think you could arrange it for me?” In reality that’s what a single mother of four children had in mind recently, but the church who had been the recipient of the money tends to feel that God doesn’t make refunds.


Here’s what happened. Janie Lear was 14 years old when she began attending a certain church. She enjoyed being part of the youth fellowship and read her Bible, trying to understand spiritual principles for herself. She also listened to the pastor, and, says Janie, a couple times a year he would talk about giving. The message that came through to her was, “You should tithe if you want God to bless you.” In the event that the word “tithe” is new to you, it’s a biblical concept. Under the law given by Moses, God—not church leaders who needed to pave a parking lot—instructed His people to set aside a tenth of their income or produce, and this tenth was known as a tithe.


The instruction of the law reads as follows: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD: it is holy to the LORD” (Leviticus 27:30). The tithe was for the temporal needs of the priests and the care of the temple.


But in 70 AD the temple was destroyed, and gradually the practice of giving a tithe or a tenth was adopted by the early church. Whereas giving a tithe or a tenth was obligatory under the law, it became an act of worship or gratitude for the church. Paul gave instruction to the church at Corinth. Here is what he said: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made (1 Corinthians 16:2).


In Paul’s words, I see three guidelines for giving: 1) It is to be regular. He stresses, “the first day of the week” or Sunday, the day of the resurrection. 2) It is to be personal. He says, “each one of you.”   Apparently, none were too rich, and neither were any too poor. Then, 3) It is to be proportional, “in keeping with his income.” But obviously, if you don’t have any income, you don’t have to give.


That’s why Janie Lear, whose husband is no longer there to help with raising the four children, asked the church she had been attending to give her back the $1800 she gave. And did she get her money back? Not right away, but she did get some food coupons at a local grocery store, and she did get a list of welfare agencies she could contact.


When a newspaper reporter tried to get in touch with the pastor, he was not available. Surprise, surprise! After a local newspaper carried the story, the church—possibly embarrassed over the publicity—did give her back the money.


Frankly, I rather doubt that that will keep Janie from giving again, but I suspect she will think twice about trying to collect from either God or the government. What Janie may have missed is that God’s blessings do not always come in the guise of dollars, pesos, or rubles. She may discover them when she tucks her four kids into bed, or discovers that there is enough to feed them, and the old car keeps running, and there are no trips to Emergency with sick children. God’s bookkeeping is much different from ours, but He is debtor to no one. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) And, God still keeps books that are accurate.


Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.