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Grace Notes

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GIVING IS COMPULSORY
by Philip Owen

            Did I just hear a collective groan?  Yes, this is a “Grace Note” on the subject of financial giving.  But, no, it is not about tithing.  Though Abraham pre-dated the giving of the Mosaic law and is recorded as having given “a tenth of all” to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20), the tithe was primarily a requirement of the law (cf., Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-32; Deut. 12:5-18; 14:22-29).  There are two main stipulations given to the New Testament church respecting giving.  First, each believer is “to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (I Cor. 16:2).  Second, “each one must do [i.e., give] just as he has purposed in his heart” (II Cor. 9:7).  Lest there be any question, in the same verse Paul affirms that no one is to give “grudgingly or under compulsion.”  In short, no legal requirement enforces giving, nor is it compelled by a sense of duty or guilt.  In fact, though saints are responsible to participate in “contributing to the needs of the saints” (Rom. 12:13), not even the existence of need compels a believer to give.  If no legal requirement, no sense of responsibility, and no existence of dire needs compels a believer to give, then on what grounds can it be said that giving is compulsory?

            The example of God.  The Bible bursts with examples of the bountiful goodness of God.  He gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden paradise.  He gave Abraham a covenant that included land, wealth, and a family line which would produce the Messiah.  He gave Jacob and his twelve sons a land that flowed with milk and honey.  And when a famine came, he gave them the richest ground in the country of Egypt.  David was blessed of God with gifts too numerous to mention.  Solomon received unparalleled wisdom from the hand of God. The volumes that would be needed to expound God’s generosity to the men and women recorded in holy writ, not to mention the immense stream of Christians during the last two millennia would beggar the libraries of the world.  So great is His beneficence that, not only does He pour gratuitous blessing on the just, but He gives to the unjust as well.  And as if that were not enough, He invites believers to ask that they might receive (Matt. 7:7), tells them that He hears when they ask, which assures them of an answer (I John 5:15), and encourages them to pray by giving promises, again, too numerous to cite.

            One of the most familiar verses in the Bible reveals the reason that God is so generous; He gives because of His great love:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).   John amplifies this truth and includes the love of the Son also as the origin of His generosity:  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us” (I John 3:16).

            The experience of the believer.  No force on earth is so compelling as love—not ambition, not greed, not anger, not hatred, nothing.  To say that love is demanding is accurate, but it is not the external demand of the requirements of a law, nor the unwilling yielding of the will to some external pressure.  It is the sweet, sincere desire to bless the one who is loved, to express in some way that costs something the depth of devotion that is felt.  Believers who have little love for God give little.  Believers who adore the Lord give much.  In fact, they recognize that all that they have has been given them by God; as a consequence, they are thankful and happy to return to Him a portion of what He has given them.  It is literally impossible to keep someone who loves the Lord from giving, and doing so in the way that delights the Lord—cheerfully (II Cor. 9:7).  It is true that Christian giving neither begins nor ends with financial gifts.  But giving of his substance is both a proof of a believer’s love and a privilege of salvation. 

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