By Frank Santora, Crosswalk.com
What is it that you love to do so much that you are willing to wreck your budget for? Dine at a fine restaurant, score tickets to a major league ballgame, award winning Broadway show, or escape town for a weekend ski-retreat? Maybe you love to take the whole family out to catch the latest blockbuster movie, or visit a big amusement park.
We usually don’t complain about the cost of our favorite restaurant, a highly sought after game ticket, the new blockbuster show, or a luxury weekend. Whatever it is, when it comes to spending our money on something we value, we can usually find a way to justify, or at least overlook, the expense of it!
But it is not unusual for people to complain, or even get offended, when they are asked to support the work of God and give at church. Clearly, the topic of giving has received a bad rap in the church. However, God expects us to love His house more than any of these things – and that means giving big!
We learn from Scripture that we are supposed to love God’s house passionately:
“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8).
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever” (Psalm 23:6).
As Christians, we ought to have such a passion for God’s house that we are most excited about giving when we are participating with God and His work by giving to God’s house! And make no mistake about it, our love for God cannot be fully expressed apart from our giving to God’s house. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving!
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
What Does It Mean to “Give Big”?
God invites us to give in two ways: by tithes or offerings. People are often confused, but it is important to understand the difference between these two. Tithes are not offerings and offerings are not tithes.
When we “tithe,” we give 10% of all of our financial increase to the Lord, through our local church. This increase can come into our lives from our job salary, birthday gifts, family inheritance – even church raffle winnings!
Tithing is not the same as giving an offering because it is simply returning to God (for His purpose), a small portion of what He has previously provided to us (for our purpose). In fact, the prophet Malachi wrote that God considers the failure to tithe as theft.
“’Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ ‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings… ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (Malachi 3:7-8, 10).
Why would God view failure to tithe so sternly, as to call it robbery? From Leviticus, we can see that God considers the tithe His, and that it is a holy thing.
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30).
Furthermore, there is a blessing of protection that we receive when we honor God and His Word by returning the tithe.
“’I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:11-12).
Indeed, as Malachi asserted, God will “open the windows of Heaven” and pour out blessings, and He even invites us to test Him in the truth of this declaration!
So very simply put, you cannot “give big” when it comes to tithing. You either do or you don’t return 10% of your increase to God.
You can, however, give as big (or as little) as you desire when it comes to offerings.
“Offerings” are what we voluntarily give above and beyond the tithe; it can be money, services, or material goods. Offerings can be given wherever and to whomever we want to bless: to individuals in need, to ministries, to food pantries, to international well-digging projects or church building projects. We engage in big giving because we are indeed blessed to be a blessing!
“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).
Big Giving Is Relative
Because “big giving” is voluntary, it is relative to each of us, according to our income or financial provision.
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘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’” (Luke 21:1-4).
Clearly, different people have different resources available to them. But God measures generosity by a different standard than just the amount given.
A multi-millionaire trust-fund baby may donate $50,000 to a local charity; a CEO making 350k per year may give $5,000 to the same charity; a waitress making $20k per year may give $500. While the charity may show preference to the $50k giver, in God’s eyes, it’s the waitress who is the big giver here.
Again, big giving is not based on the dollar amount given; the degree to which an offering is deemed big, or generous, is relative to the sacrifice the gift entails for the person making the gift.
Big Giving Is Generous and Joyful
In Jesus’ day, everyone participated in tithing. It was a routine part of the Jewish religious culture and was expected in the proper worship of God.
And as we read through the New Testament, we find that Jesus endorsed tithing.
“…You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
However, because tithing was such an established, and integral part of worship, most of what we read in the New Testament is encouragement to give beyond the tithe (Hebrews 7 notwithstanding); that is, we are encouraged to become a generous, and joyous giver of offerings, in addition to the tithe. Look at the teaching of the Apostle Paul:
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
Big Giving Honors God and Impacts People
An offering, because it is voluntary, is determined by each person “in his heart.” It should be a reflection of the abundance we have received, and given with the intent to be a blessing and honor God.
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the first fruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9).
In fact, God connects honoring Him to the act of giving in both the offering (our possessions) and the tithe (our first fruits). It only makes sense that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the honor given.
And when we give big, we positively impact the lives of other people around us on His behalf:
“He will increase what you have, so that you can give even more to those in need. You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous. Then many people will thank God when we deliver your gift. What you are doing is much more than a service that supplies God’s people with what they need. It is something that will make many others thank God. The way in which you have proved yourselves by this service will bring honor and praise to God. You believed the message about Christ, and you obeyed it by sharing generously with God’s people and with everyone else” (2 Corinthians 9:10b-13, CEV).
Big Giving Plants the Seeds of Increased Blessing
“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).
That’s an amazing Scripture verse – it tells us clearly that when we give big, not only is God honored and people’s lives impacted, but we are laying a foundation for God to bless us in the future.
It’s true, the motivation for generosity should never be to receive more from God. But we cannot ignore the fact that generous giving is always rewarded by God!
If you give generously to God or to others on His behalf, God will bless you, and no power on earth can stop it. Anything otherwise would be in contradiction to God’s own nature.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).
God is the greatest giver of all, and He is a rewarder of anyone who gives big in obedience and honor to Him.
To achieve greatness for God in today’s world, we all need to do our part by learning to become not only tithers, but also big givers, as we are able. We are all one body in Christ, working together to do good works in His name. Let us cover the earth with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and our good, loving and very generous Father!
Photo credit: Unsplash/Josh Appel
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.