“Me first” giving

When my husband preaches on giving, he doesn’t apologize. Why should he? Jesus talked about it, and it comes up in Scripture from the Old Testament to the New.

A phenomenon I have noticed is the kind of giving evidenced in many circles today. I’ve labeled it “me first” but it could be called “Jerusalem” or something else. Let me explain. We’re going to cover two kinds of giving:

  1. Personal
  2. Church

I hope you’re curious.

1. Personal—What we personally give. When we have a “me first” giving plan, we cover our own expenses first and then give God the leftovers. Do you know what usually happens? There’s not much left over, and rarely does the giving to God amount to a tithe (tenth). Do you know why this phenomenon? It’s because the Bible outlines how people should give, and “me first” isn’t it.

What is it? Let’s see what the Bible has to say. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:8-10). Some commentators say (and rightly so) that, in the New Testament, we are not under the Law but under grace.

Some say that the tithe isn’t a rule for the church—although Jesus said tithers do well (Luke 11:42) and in Hebrews, Abraham is praised for tithing.

1 Corinthians 16:2 says to give regularly, and Philippians 4:18-19 talks about the church people’s generous offering as being an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Then, Paul assures those who gave: my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

When you read all that the Bible has to say on this subject, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that God expects generous, joyful giving—and the tithe is a starting point.

2. Church—What the local church gives. “Me first” giving in the church is characterized by a “Jerusalem first” mentality. Spend all the money on the local church (our Jerusalem) and then what’s left over in larger circles around Jerusalem: Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (from Acts 1:8).

The problem with this thinking is that this verse actually says, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. There are several ands and a both in there—see my highlights—which means that we’re to be witnesses in all those places simultaneously. Our church’s responsibility is to our community and all the circles around it, including foreign missions.

What we find in churches with a “me first” mindset is that they spend virtually all their money on the home front and very little on evangelism elsewhere. This results in token evangelism outside of their community.

It’s easy to get into wrong giving habits.

Some have explained, “I can’t give this month because such-and-such came up, and I must pay this bill.” Sadly, these are the same people who don’t tithe and have things come up quite often.

Or they say, “The New Testament says we’re to give as God prospers us, and God hasn’t prospered me this month, therefore I can’t give.” Those same people have never given on a regular basis, and seriously, God hasn’t prospered them? The Bible says He “daily loadeth us with benefits”, including salvation (Psalm 68:19).

“I am poor. God can’t expect me to give.”

Jesus and His disciples were near the box where people placed their offerings, and a widow put in two mites. And he (Jesus) called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:43-44. The story includes verse 42.) I am sure Jesus blessed her and supplied all of her needs. Aren’t you?

Why the disconnect about giving?

The problem is that we’re going at it backwards.

A biblical giving plan obeys Scripture.

  • Give a tenth—first—from your total income. Jesus said, But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Luke 11:42).
  • Give on Sundays. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (1 Corinthians 16:2).
  • Give generously—with a joyful spirit. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
  • Help others—especially other born-again believers, widows, and orphans. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).
  • A biblical giving plan requires faith in God’s provision. I love this testimony from David in the Old Testament: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25). God promises to meet our needs. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11). But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Instead of “me first,” let’s think “God first”—and then watch how God works. I know He will bless.