Christian Churches of God
(Edition 1.0 20000902-20000902)
Learning to give is the basis of the love of God.
In order to show us how to give God set the example. He has never stopped giving to us. We will look at this example and check this against our response both to God and to each other. Our attitude to giving needs to reflect that of God.
The gifts from God
There is so much said in the Bible about giving that it would be too time consuming to cover each Scripture. However, we must understand that we cannot live as Christians nor enter into eternal life until we internalise this concept and put giving into every aspect of our lives. We cannot keep the First Great Commandment with its attendant laws unless we give to God the love, worship and obedience demanded by Him. We cannot obey the Second Great Commandment unless we give to our neighbour the love demanded by this commandment; also with its attendant laws. Everything God does is giving.
The greatest gift of the Messiah
From the beginning God has given us everything. He gave life (Gen. 1:26-27). He also ensured us an habitation that would provide us with all our physical needs. He gave us a way of life that would ensure our continued welfare, both spiritually and physically. We were required to live according to the Laws set down for us and we were warned of the results of failing to live that way (Deut. 28) (cf. also the paper The Blessings and the Curses (No. 75)).
The wages of sin, that is transgression of the Law, is death. Having failed to live according to those laws, God gave us the greatest gift of all. He gave us Jesus Christ in order that our sins could be forgiven, and atonement could be made for us so that our relationship with God could be restored.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (RSV)
God knew we would fail and He made provision for that.
Isaiah 42:1-8 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images. (RSV)
As everything God does is an aspect of giving, so too is everything that Christ does. During his life he gave health to the sick, sight or hearing to those in need, deliverance from demon possession and also life to the dead. Through his death Christ gave us the ability to have eternal life, but for this we must live as Christ lived – in obedience to God. We must also live in faith and believe.
John 6:30-40 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (RSV)
James 1:17-18 tells us that every good gift comes from God.
James 1:17-18 Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (RSV)
James 1:5-7 tells us that we need to ask.
James 1:5-7 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord. (RSV)
We need to be mindful that although we are given all things we need to ask of God humbly and fervently, keeping in mind that we should not be asking for all these things just for ourselves, but also for others, that their needs can be fulfilled, their health restored, their problems resolved and their spiritual lives enhanced.
We are given the Holy Spirit on baptism and the acceptance of the Covenant with God. In return for acceptance into the Body of Jesus Christ, we covenant to keep the Laws of God and we must give to others as we have been given. Giving is an expression of love. Hence to love God is to give to God that which He asks of us. (See The Law of God (No. L1) and the Law papers (Nos. 252–256.) To love our neighbour as ourselves is to give as we are able, in order that their lives may be enhanced, not damaged in any way by our breaking of the Laws of God. We do not steal from them; we do not spread false witness against them; we do not covet anything of theirs (see the Law papers (Nos. 257-263)).
1Corinthians 12:4-11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (RSV)
Paul reminds us of the need of love when utilising our gifts. Without love we are as nothing.
1Corinthians 13:1-12 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (RSV)
God provides for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.
Matthew 6:25-33 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (RSV)
Following the flood, God promised that while the Earth remains, we will always have the seasons, the harvests and consequently an environment in which we could live.
Genesis 8:20-22 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (RSV)
However, we need to look at what mankind is doing to that environment. We have a responsibility to ensure that we care for it as instructed by God’s Law. For instance, we have not given the land its Sabbaths for hundreds of years and we are reaping the penalty for that. We destroy the atmosphere with our material luxuries; we destroy the seas by eating the very creatures whose main purpose is to cleanse the seabed, often rejecting the meats God provided for us (see the paper The Food Laws (No. 15)).
We kill animals and birds indiscriminately for pleasure or riches, rather than for proper control or for food. We have failed to look after our environment as we should and we have failed to live according to the way in which we should and thus our health and our welfare are seriously impaired.
What did God promise us in return for obedience?
Leviticus 26:1-13 "You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no graven image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land, to bow down to them; for I am the LORD your God. 2 You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. 3 "If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 And your threshing shall last to the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last to the time for sowing; and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land securely. 6 And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid; and I will remove evil beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 7 And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8 Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9 And I will have regard for you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 And you shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 And I will make my abode among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; and I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (RSV)
Because we have not given to God the honour due to Him and have not lived in harmony with Him, each other and the environment, and have not followed the instructions which would have enabled us to maintain the physical and spiritual health of both the individual and the Earth, we will progressively see its destruction through war, illness, famine and pollution. If we bought an expensive piece of equipment we would read and follow the instructions. We would care for it and repair it if it broke down. We are too proud to follow the instructions that would have enabled us to maintain an environment that was given to us in perfect order. We could have lived in peace and prosperity.
The responsibility of the Elect
Let us look at how we can give now. By giving we can change the way things are. By giving back to God His tithes and offerings, returning to the laws He instigated and repenting of our waywardness, the world can be turned around.
We have been given many examples of the way people gave in biblical times. We’ll look at a few of them.
God instructed Moses to build the Tabernacle.
Exodus 35:20-23 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and every one whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD's offering to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women; all who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every man with whom was found blue or purple or scarlet stuff or fine linen or goats' hair or tanned rams' skins or goatskins, brought them. (RSV)
Notice that all who gave were of a willing heart. They wanted to give for the glory of God.
The restoration of the Temple under Ezra was also completed in that manner.
Ezra 2:68-69 Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site; 69 according to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work sixty-one thousand darics of gold, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priests' garments. (RSV)
They gave as much as they were able.
Offerings given in to the Temple:
Luke 21:1-4 He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. 3 And he said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had." (RSV)
This woman gave everything she had and Christ obviously thought highly of her for her attitude and faith. Each is judged according to their works within their ability.
When the Jerusalem church started out the brethren clubbed together so everyone in need could be helped.
Acts 2:44-47 And all who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (RSV)
Here, Paul and his companions were obviously appreciated.
Acts 28:7-10 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They presented many gifts to us; and when we sailed, they put on board whatever we needed. (RSV)
Do we have the right attitude to each other or do we have respect of persons thus giving precedence to those in less need? Respect of persons is sin. (See the paper Respect of Persons (No. 221).)
James 2:1-26 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "Have a seat here, please," while you say to the poor man, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name which was invoked over you? 8 If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, "Do not kill." If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. (RSV)
God warns those who are rich to be careful that they do not put their riches before God and before those in need. They may not give as they are able and sometimes it may be grudgingly.
James 5:1-6 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you. (RSV)
Paul gave instructions for the wealthy.
1Timothy 6:17-19 As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, 19 thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (RSV)
We are warned that the time is running out. We need to ensure we are right with God. A right attitude is important because if we give with the wrong attitude, we might just as well not bother. A gift grudgingly given is no gift.
1Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. 8 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. 10 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (RSV)
If we can not give freely with love, in the abundance of the gifts from God, we fail. Christ gave his life for us. We can give no less. Most of us may never be asked to give so much, but what we can give we should give without reserve.
At 1John 3:16-24 we read:
1John 3:16-24 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us. (RSV)
Effects of giving
When we give from the heart, we also are given in return.
Mark 9:41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. (RSV)
In Luke 6:38 Christ says:
Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." (RSV)
Invitation to salvation
Through Isaiah we are told that we can have salvation. Christ is still able to save us. The gift of eternal life is an ongoing option. If we fail to be part of the First Resurrection we have a second chance. It is God’s will that no flesh should perish.
Isaiah 55:1-7 "Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. 6 "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (RSV)
We must remember also to be thankful for the gifts we are given and to be thankful in all things. Sometimes we feel we are not getting a fair deal and things are not working out for us and everything we do seems to go wrong. This is the time to remember that all things work together for the good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). When we give thanks to God we remember the blessings He has provided for us and this will help us to remember to give to others.
Ephesians 1:1-11 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 5 He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 which he lavished upon us. 9 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, (RSV)
Christ came to unite both the heavenly host and the earthly host.
First we must return to God and ensure we are right with Him. Malachi issues a very strong warning to this effect.
Malachi 3:6-18 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, `How shall we return?' 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. 13 "Your words have been stout against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, `How have we spoken against thee?' 14 You have said, `It is vain to serve God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? 15 Henceforth we deem the arrogant blessed; evildoers not only prosper but when they put God to the test they escape.'" 16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another; the LORD heeded and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and thought on his name. 17 "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (RSV)
Our first step then is to ensure we are tithing correctly (see the paper Tithing (No. 161)). Give to God what He asks of us. When all is said and done it is not a great deal that He asks of us. Why do we hate doing as God says? We obey the laws of the country to avoid fines and punishments. Keeping the laws of the country does not provide the returns that keeping God’s Laws do. One keeps us out of trouble; the other provides great blessings in health and welfare, followed in time by eternal life. One offers eventual death, the other offers abundant life (see also the paper The Blessings and the Curses (No. 75)).
6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever." 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; 12 for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God. 13 Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others; 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (RSV)