This article aims to define and answer the following:
What is a tithe and offering culture?
What is a hyper-grace culture?
What is a gospel-orientated culture?
What to give?
How to give?
How do we use what has been given?
You can read through the entire article or skip to the headings that interest you. Either way, please read the introduction before going ahead.
The Gospel creates a new giving culture. A man who owes the court a million dollars has his debt paid for him. His debt is therefore forgiven and he is free. He is overjoyed by this act of kindness. Walking out of the court, he sees a woman who owes him a hundred dollars. Knowing the freedom and joy such forgiveness and grace has brought him, he scribbles a note quickly and hands it to her. She opens the note and reads that her debt is completely forgiven. He is surprised to find that giving is as much a joy as receiving. He is changed and spends his life being generous wherever he can.
Every Christian is that man. Our giving is motivated by the gospel. All we have is from God and for God. God loves abundantly and gives outrageously. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Every Christian is a recipient of Gods outrageous gift of mercy, grace, and love.
The gospel creates a unique giving culture that cannot be matched by any other giving tradition. This is helpful to observe and practice as it aids in our spiritual growth, and in experiencing a new and profound joy in Gods provision and Gods presence. There are two giving cultures in churches that have some real merit, but fall short of a gospel-orientated culture of giving.
Tithe and Offering
The first giving culture is one the culture of the ‘Tithe and Offering’. Tithing means giving 10% of your income and offering in an additional sum determined by the giver. The basis of tithing is that it was present before the law, it is therefore not done away with by a New Covenant of grace. The best example of this, is Abraham who gave 10% of everything he gained to Melchizedek, the priest. Melchizedek is a shadow of Jesus, and Abraham is the father of our faith, we are his children in the Lord. Therefore there is some value in the principle that we should seek to give 10% of our everything to the Lord. Another way of looking at it, which is far more frightening, is that God considered not giving a tithe and offering as stealing from Him. Therefore, as children of faith and in obedience to God, a Christian should give both a tithe and an offering to the Lord.
What drives the tithe and offering? An external-objective-principle. This can nurture an unhelpful works based righteousness. There are two ways to see this. First, the giver may grow an arrogant confidence that they have purchased Gods protection and blessing on their lives and belongings and that what remains (90%), is theirs to spend as they see fit. Secondly, the giver may grow insecure if they have not given what they ought. They may see financial hardship as Gods punishment and displeasure. So ultimately, Gods pleasure in me is somewhat determined by how faithfully I give my tithe and offering. This giver is saying that the cross of Jesus was not enough, they must add something to their righteous standing before God. This is moral righteousness, which is purely religious and not based upon faith in Jesus Christ.
Summary: Tithing without a heart of faith and joy is dead religion, and God is not pleased.
What good can we take from this culture? Jesus spoke more about money than anything other than his kingdom. Money is an excellent thermometer for where someones heart is. If we look at what we spend our money on, we see what is most important to us. It is a good idea to determine to give consistently and generously, seeking to keep our hearts and minds engaged with the work of Jesus’ Kingdom. Financial giving is a great discipleship tool, as it is able to let us see into the heart in a marvellous way.
The second giving culture is developed in the message of hyper-grace, a teaching based on the New Covenant of grace. Giving in the New Testament was an organic response, when individual believers felt compelled by the Holy Spirit. Each believer should only give what he has ‘grace’ to give. Therefore the right financial contribution is what you determine in your heart to give.
What drives the giver in hyper-grace? An internal-subjective-compulsion. This nurtures an arrogant confidence that my heart is pure enough to discern and respond to the Holy Spirit and what He asks of me, assuming I care to know what He asks of me. Alternatively, those with a really sensitive conscience can be left insecure, always worrying if they have given enough or too much. The fruit in the church is not good. Many Christians stop trusting God in their finances and refrain from giving consistently and generously. This thinking empowers believers living licentiously, only doing what they want to do. This is far from the Gospel of Jesus. It undermines the authority of Jesus in the life of the believer. Giving less than the tithe is not a faithful response to the grace of God and cannot be found in the New Covenant of grace.
What good can we take from this culture? It is based on grace, and therefore the desire to give not because of a law, but because of a compulsion. At its best, the giver wants to be lead by the Lord like those spoken of in scripture.
A Gospel-Orientated Culture:
The Gospel creates a new giving culture. In order to save those whom He loves, God gave to the point of death (1 Corinthians 15:3). Our own love for God compels us to give our all (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The first Christians opened their homes, shared their food, and sold possessions to give money to care for the poor. They helped each other, sent money to other struggling churches, paid ministers, and started businesses to support ministries and missions. This wasn’t a law, it was a natural response to receiving the gospel, to believing that all things are from God and for God, and an overwhelming sense of joy filled hope that we will spend eternity with God.
A gospel-orientated culture does more than fulfil the law. Under the law it was wrong to commit murder. However, when we are gospel-orientated we see the image of God in all people. So not only do we not commit murder, we actually begin to love people we were once unable to. The gospel therefore brings equality, unity, peace and love, which is far more than ‘not murder’. The Gospel is the good news of what God has given and done for us to have life in Him. So a gospel-orientated giving is a response from someone who knows they have received all things from God, and that through His grace by faith in Jesus they have had their unplayable debt to God canceled out. Giving is a joy filled response to that.
A gospel-orientated culture defines ‘grace’ as the grace to give.There is no better example of gospel-orientated giving, than of the Christians in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8). Paul writes that “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. (v.2)”. Yet, out of their own free will, they begged to give more than they could afford. When we get the riches we have received in the gospel, the gift of Gods grace in Jesus, we could find ourselves begging to be generous givers. Paul continues that giving is not a command. You don’t need a command when you see giving as Paul describes it – a ministry and an act of grace. In other words, give according to the grace we have received through Christ.
Give because we want to see His Kingdom (Matt. 6:9-10)
Give because it is your great joy to give (2 Cor. 6:6-9)
Give because you trust God more than money (Matt. 6:21, Luke 12:34)
Give to provide a resource for local ministry (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35)
Give to help forward the mission of God (2 Cor. 8, 2 Cor. 9:12)
Give to pay gospel ministers suitable wages (1 Tim. 5:17-18, 1 Cor. 9:14)
Give because God is generous to givers (2 Cor. 9:8, Phil. 4:19, Prov. 11:25)
Give here to store treasures in heaven (Matt 19:21)
What To Give?
Give what you have decided to (2 Cor. 9:7, Philemon 1:14)
Give generously (Acts 4:34-35, 2 Cor. 8:7)
How To Give?
Give joyfully, because God loves that (2 Cor. 9:7)
Practically, most participants usually give, what they have decided, via a regular electronic transfer. This allows Kingscross to set a budget, employ staff, and plan missions. Infrequently we will take up a special offering for a unique reason, as illustrated in 2 Cor. 8.
How Do We Use What Has Been Given?
We use money to pay our staff, venue hire, equipment, resources, ministries and missions, to support other churches and anything else that will contribute to the mission of Jesus.
A table summary of the giving culture:
|HOW MUCH?||Give a tithe (10%)||Give what you are compelled to give.||Give in response to the gospel you have received.|
|WHY?||To be in right standing with God. To purchase protection and avoid punishment. Because this is the right thing.||Because I want to, I have decided to. I am comfortable.||Because through Jesus my debt is paid, I have received Gods love and acceptance. I want to give to God and others.|
– This will keep me acceptable to God, buy His protection and keep His favour.
– I’m more faithful and blessed then others who give less.
– I’m a more mature Christian, and deserving of profile.
– I give when I want to give.
– Giving shouldn’t leave me uncomfortable.
– I end up not really giving.
– I use giving to show my support, rather than as a response to Jesus.
|Only the danger of drifting to law or hyper-grace, because we lose sight of Jesus.|
|RESULTS:||Arrogance when I give faithfully, or insecurity when I don’t.||Arrogance and stress. All I have is mine and I should decide what to do with it.||Humbly Confident. I have a great debt with God. It has been paid by Jesus. In response I want to live my life for His glory.|