One of the very first commands God gave man was to give. Cain and Abel were asked to give a sacrifice to God, appropriate to His will. God, explaining to Cain why his offering was not acceptable, states in Genesis 4:7,
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.
Giving an offering to God was not just a matter of convenience or the “thing to do,” giving was a serious action with serious consequences. If the giving was unacceptable, God explains, “sin lies at the door.”
In Exodus 36, as the Tabernacle is being established, Moses has to restrain the people from giving any more (v6-7) for the building, because of the abundance already given. The command they had been given in Exodus 35:5 was, “whoever is of a willing heart.” This was to be from the heart, of a free will. No two gifts were judged more or less pleasing, if they were given in the right spirit. All gifts of a willing heart were acceptable.
The law too, made provision for offerings. Deuteronomy 14 details the principle of tithing. A tithe of grains, wines, oils, and flocks was to be given to the Levites as their inheritance. In verse 23 we see the reason God instituted this mandatory giving, “that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
We also find provisions made in the law for freewill offerings. Leviticus 22:18-25 instructs those under the law to make sure whatever offering was given whether of burnt offering, peace offering, or as a freewill offering, must be without blemish to be acceptable. The freewill offering could not be used, any offering for that matter, as a way to rid a flock or herd of all its weaklings. It had to be a sacrifice, something with cost.
When Christ came, bringing us the law of liberty and grace, He too made provision for giving. In Luke 21 we see him giving instruction through the example of a poor widow. Though what she gave was not worth much in physical sums, Christ commends her for giving, saying,
Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.
We see great faith in this woman. She knew that if she gave her all to God, God would provide.
Giving, an expression of the grace in God, has been and continues to be an essential principle for the people of God. They cast their bread upon the waters, and seek opportunities to do good to all men. They distribute to the needs of the saints, and entertain strangers. In all things they see their abundance as a great gift from God and desire to produce righteous fruit leading to thanksgiving by both the giver and the recipient, all to God’s glory (II Corinthians 9:10-15).
Christ’s church showed this giving spirit from its very beginning. In Acts 2, after three thousand souls were added to the number (Acts 2:41), we see,
now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (2:44-47)
This glimpse of the church in its earliest form might leave us thinking it was to be some sort of communistic society. However, earlier in this chapter we read about various nationalities represented in Jerusalem for Pentecost. It appears that the formation of the church threw a kink in travel plans. Residents of the area around Jerusalem, seeing a need, established provisions for all the brethrens’ needs. There was no expressly written decree from the apostles, as we find in later chapters. The brethren showed a desire for the well-being of each other, and willingly gave of themselves for the benefit of each other. It cost them something. Men sold land and other valuables, giving up their own desires for an opportunity to help the brethren. Giving is to be done from the heart. As opportunities arise, we are to freely sacrifice of our own blessings to display our love for one another.
As we have opportunity, let us to good to all, ESPECIALLY to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
In later days Paul writes to the brethren at Corinth with a method for the orderly collection of funds by the congregation. The brethren heard of the trials besetting the congregation at Jerusalem. They wanted to assist, and probably wrote to Paul requesting he provide guidance. Paul writes in I Corinthians 16:1-4 to tell them exactly what he told the brethren at Galatia. When the brethren came together, whatever amount they purposed in their hearts they were to put in a common fund (a collection of the saints). Then when Paul arrived, the congregation would not have to hurriedly gather the funds together. God is a God who delights in order (I Corinthians 14:26-40). Therefore, it is fitting that our monetary giving ought also to be done in an orderly manner, set aside to the congregation in such a way that it is readily available when a need arises. According to Paul, the method best fitting for the congregation is to set some monetary portion (already determined according to how we have prospered by God) to the congregation when together on the first day of the week.
The principles of giving are well established throughout the scriptures. There is no doubt that giving monetarily to the congregation ought to be done, and that the spiritual benefits from such a sacrifice far outweigh the physical cost. While the principles are well established, the method is not. Though we see Paul encouraging the brethren to handle this on the first day of the week and to do so orderly, we do not see him telling them exactly how the funds were to be collected (Did they pass a basket around? Did they cast their funds into some set aside location?). Nor did he instruct them any further on how much to give, except to say that they ought to give as they had prospered. What we do know is this is a free-will offering the congregation engages in together on the first day of the week. It is an opportunity to share with our brethren to God’s glory.
There are many issues this article could not address in full. Anyone who may have questions which were not fully addressed please leave a comment, or if there be found error with my words, may the scriptures show us the truth.
A giving spirit is so vital. Without it, “…sin lies at the door.” May we all seriously consider how blessed we are, and desire to share with others in our good fortune.