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Biblical Perspective on Giving

Written by Kerby Anderson   

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Giving Generously
We are to give generously. Using an agricultural figure of speech that can be understood today as well as in New Testament times, we are to be generous with money and possessions.

The Benefits of Giving
Giving benefits everyone. The Bible instructs us in how to give and it also encourages us declaring the benefits of giving. Maybe you have asked yourself the question, why is it better to give than to receive? In 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15 there are benefits declared to those who are charitable. Here are three reasons; it benefits others, it benefits you, and it glorifies God.



Biblical Perspective on Giving

The Controversy
In this article we are going to be talking about a biblical perspective on giving. In the past, we have discussed biblical principles concerning spending and focused primarily on the subject of debt and credit.{1} Here we will discuss such issues as the Old Testament tithe, New Testament giving, and related questions that often surface in the minds of Christians.

At the outset, we should acknowledge that there is some controversy surrounding a biblical perspective of giving. For example, if you ask if a Christian should tithe, you will get very different answers from various members in the body of Christ.

In fact, asking the question in some churches today is likely to start an argument. A few months ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “The Backlash Against Tithing.”{2} More recently CBS News ran a feature, “To Tithe or Not To Tithe?”{3} Even the secular media is noticing how controversial tithing has become in some churches.

The idea that Christians should give ten percent of their income to the church has become quite controversial and is increasingly being challenged. Church members say they should be free to donate whatever they choose. Some are reacting against a strong promotion of church giving that includes sermons, flyers, and brochures. Some balk at churches that have set up “giving kiosks” where church members can give using their debit cards. They have called them God’s ATM machines.

Others are reacting to the legalism that says the Old Testament law code concerning the tithe applies to the New Testament church age. And still others want to be good stewards of their giving and want to know more about how a church spends its money.

The best estimates are that Christians give about two and one-half percent of their income to the church, far below the ten percent advocated by those teaching tithing. And it appears that church giving is on the decline partially due to a decline in regular attendance and also due to the fact the Christians are giving to other charitable organizations. They balk at the idea that the church is God’s storehouse and want to give to other mission agencies and Christian organizations.

It isn’t that Christians are stingy. Last year Americans gave an estimated $97 billion to churches, and that is almost a third of the country’s $295 billion in charitable donations.{4}

A number of church leaders and theologians have also entered the debate. They point out that the tithe was an Old Testament requirement, and that New Testament believers no longer live under the Law but under grace.

So in this article we look at the relationship between tithing and charitable giving while looking at the idea of giving in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament Tithe
How are the tithe and charitable giving related? In order to answer that question we need to understand the relationship between the Old Testament tithe and New Testament giving. Let’s begin with the teaching about the tithe. The Old Testament principle of the tithe provides the foundation for New Testament giving.

The word tithe means “a tenth part.” Once you understand that, you realize that many people use the phrase tithe, but aren’t really accurate in using it. Someone who makes $3000 a month and gives only $100 a month is not tithing. One study found that only three percent of households tithe their income to their church.{5}

The principle of the tithe can be found in Leviticus 27:30 which says, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” We can derive three principles from this passage. First, the tithe was applied to “everything from the land” and did not just apply to some income or wealth. Second, the tithe “belongs to the Lord” and not to the people. And, third the tithe is holy, that is, it is set apart and should be given to the Lord.

What if a believer in the Old Testament did not tithe? The answer to that question can be found in Malachi 3:8-10. It says,

    “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows.”

If the nation of Israel refused to pay the tithe, then they were considered guilty of robbing God. The Israelites were to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, not just part of the tithe.

InPlainsite.org Note. The Will-a-man-rob-God approach reveals that this Scriptural passage can't be applied in the manner so frequently offered. The historical context of this passage has to be taken into consideration so that the reader is in a better position to determine what God meant when he chastised the Jewish people and accused them of robbing him. This will help in applying the passage to our own lives. A careful reading of Malachi 3:5-12 tells us God was intimately concerned about the indifference of his people and their lack of care for those in need, i.e., widows, the fatherless, aliens, etc., (v. 5); the poor and others in need were being neglected, and God attempted to correct the people through Malachi for their failing to bless the poor with necessary care. Additionally The storehouse is usually presented as a modern-day equivalent to the local church. It's significant that we understand what the storehouse was and how it was supposed to function prior to applying the Scripture passage in question.
For Details See  Tithing Today: God's Plan or Designs of Man?


In the Old Testament, the tithe was not voluntary but mandatory. Two kinds of giving are taught in the Bible: giving to the government (compulsory) and giving to God (voluntary). Israel was not only a spiritual community but a nation. The tithe was necessary to fund the nation. That is why many have referred to the tithe as a precursor to taxes. Israel was a theocracy, and the priests were the leaders of the government. They were supported by the tithe.

There were actually three tithes. One tithe was for the priests and Levites: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). This was paid to the Levites, who in turn gave a tenth of that to the priests (Number 18:26). This would be similar to the New Testament giving that goes toward ministry.

The second tithe provided funds for the Jewish festival (Deuteronomy 12:17-18). And a third tithe was to provide support for the widow, orphans, and poor (Deuteronomy 14:26-28). The first two were regularly collected, while the last one was collected every third year. Thus, the total amount of tithe was approximately twenty-three percent each year.

The tithe in the Old Testament was to be given from the first fruits. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord from your wealth / And from the first of all your produce.” The tithe was to be the first and the best of the crop, not an afterthought.

The first fruits applied to the vineyard (Leviticus 19:23-25) as well as to the production of grain and fruit trees (Exodus 23:16). It also applied to any coarse meal (Numbers 15:20-21) and other produce (2 Chronicles 31:5).

New Testament Giving
Does the New Testament teach the tithe?

Actually, nowhere in the New Testament is there an explicit command to tithe. The primary reason is that the tithe was for the Levites and the priests. The substitutionary death of Christ for our sins did away with the need for a temple. Christians don’t need the temple and don’t need priests as intercessors. We are all priests now and no longer live under law but under grace (Romans 6:15).

New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. They are instructed to pay their taxes (Romans 13:1-7). That is the only required giving in the church age.

Christians are instructed to give to those who minister (1 Corinthians 16:1; Galatians 2:10). We are to give to those who trust God to supply their needs (Philippians 4:19). We are to give as God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2), and are to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). And the Bible teaches that we will ultimately give account of our stewardship (Romans 14:12).

We might note that the first century believers set a high standard for giving. They sold their goods and gave money to any believer in need (Acts 2:45). They sold their property and gave the entire amount to the work of the apostles (Acts 4:36-5:2). And they also gave generously to the ministry of Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5) on a continual basis (Philippians 4:16-18).

Even though the tithe was no longer required, it appears that the early believers used the tithe as a base line for their giving. After all, a large majority of the first century believers were Jewish, and so they gave not only the tithe but above and beyond the requisite ten percent.

Paul makes it clear that Christians are not to give “grudgingly or under compulsion” but as each believer has “purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7). So the tithe was no longer the mandatory requirement, but it appeared to provide a basis for voluntary giving by believers.

Some have noted the similarity between the free will giving in the Old Testament and New Testament giving. One example would be when Moses challenged the people of Israel to give to the tabernacle. They were so enthusiastic, that the people “were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough” (Exodus 36:6-7).

Another example of this would be the free will offerings collected when the temple was rebuilt. We read in the Old Testament book of Ezra that the people were encouraged to “give a free will offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:6). So you can see that the concept of voluntary giving did not begin in the New Testament. There are a few examples of it in the Old Testament.

Biblical Principles on Giving (part one)
Given that Christians are commanded to give, the real question we need to answer is how they should give. Not all Christians give the same amount, and sadly many Christians do not give anything to their church or to Christian organizations. So let’s look at a few key principles that should guide our giving.

The first principle is that when you sow generously, you will reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says,

    “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Elsewhere in Scripture, we read that the size of a harvest corresponds to what we scatter. Proverbs 11:24-25 says,

    “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,

    And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.

    The generous man will be prosperous,

    And he who waters will himself be watered.”

Of course a spiritual harvest may different from the kind of seed that is sown. For example, a material seed (giving to ministry) may reap a spiritual harvest (1 Corinthians 9:9).

God has both blessed us materially (Acts 14:17) and spiritually (Roman 5:17). So we can be assured that God will increase our harvest. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

A second principle is that we are to give according to what we have purposed in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Your giving should be a deliberate act and not just a quick response to some emotional appeal. Certainly there is nothing wrong with giving a freewill offering because God has moved you to support a particular missionary or project. But we should also have a purpose and a plan to our giving.

Many Christians have begun to give through an automatic deduction from their checking account. This has the positive effect to providing regular support for the church or Christian organizations. The monthly amount is deducted whether you are actively thinking about the ministry or not. The possible negative effect is that it could become so automatic, that you might forget about the ministry and fail to pray for it.

A third principle is that we are to give voluntarily. We are told in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we are not to give under guilt or compulsion. That admonition does not mean that we are only to support the local church or Christian organizations when we feel like it. In this particular passage, Paul was challenging believers in Corinth to give to a special need (the financial needs of the believers in Jerusalem). This was a one-time special offering that was above and beyond providing for the regular needs of the church in Corinth.

Biblical Principles on Giving (part two)
Another principle taught in Scripture is that we are to give generously. Notice that in 2 Corinthians 9:7 it says that “God loves a cheerful giver.” God values not the size of the gift (Acts 11:29; 1 Corinthians 16:2) but the heart of the giver (not reluctantly or grudgingly) and the willingness of the giver (a cheerful giver).

We see that principle played out in the Old Testament. When the temple needed to be rebuilt, Joash put an offering box out for those who would give to this important work. 2 Chronicles 24:10 says, “All the officials and all the people brought their contributions gladly, dropping them into the chest until it was full.” Notice that it says they gave to the rebuilding of the temple gladly. They were glad to give and provided a model for what Paul calls a “cheerful giver.”

We are also to give sacrificially. As Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he told them of the sacrificial giving of the Macedonian Christians. He said, “. . .in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).

Consider that on the one hand Paul is talking about their “deep poverty” but then goes on to say that they still gave “beyond their ability.” I don’t know too many people who today are giving beyond their ability. I know quite a few people who are giving less than their ability. Over my years in ministry, I have had many people tell me that they cannot afford to tithe. In this passage, Paul challenges the believers in Corinth (and by extension challenges us) to reevaluate our priorities and give sacrificially.

Once again we can see this principle at work in the Old Testament as well. David balked at giving a sacrifice to the Lord that was not really a sacrifice for him to give. In 2 Samuel 24:24 David says, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” David is reminding us by his behavior that true sacrificial giving means being willing to sacrifice that which we would be inclined to keep for ourselves.

I trust this biblical perspective on giving has been helpful to you. It has been challenging for me to research and write, and I hope it challenges you to reconsider what you are giving to the church and Christian ministries. May we all be found faithful in our giving to the Lord.



1. Kerby Anderson, “Debt and Credit,” Probe, 2008, www.probe.org/content/view/1667/169/

2. Suzanne Sataline, “The Backlash Against Tithing,” The Wall Street Journal, 23 November 2007.

3. Martha Teichner, “To Tithe Or Not To Tithe?” CBS News, 2 March 2008, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/01/sunday/.

4. Giving USA Foundation, www.givingusa.org/.

5. George Barna, “Tithing Down 62% in the Past Year,” Barna Update, 19 May 2003,

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Giving Generously
by Jim Davis

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 the Apostle Paul instructs believers in the principles of giving. Paul is soliciting funds from the Gentile churches to support impoverished saints in the persecuted church in Israel. He covers the purposes for charitable giving. Also, there is helpful information as to how funds should be collected and other information as well. I would like to consider some of the principles from the passage above and some of the verses that follow that address how we are to give and the benefits of giving.

How to Give
We are to give generously. Using an agricultural figure of speech that can be understood today as well as in New Testament times, we are to be generous with money and possessions. "Sowing bountifully" means in this context giving our money generously to those in need. The word for bountiful is the same word that is usually translated blessing. Like a farmer we sow with the hope of a blessed (full, multiplied) return. It is a reminder of a universal principle. We invest in something that we cannot have immediately in order that we may enjoy a future blessing. Sowing bountifully requires faith. It is an expression of the grace of God to the one to whom the gift is given and it makes the giver dependent upon the grace and character of God while hoping for a return on his investment. The obvious is stated here. In order to reap an abundant harvest you must sow liberally. The seed that is planted reproduces in number and the more you plant the more you will reap in the future. Paul also discusses this principle of sowing and reaping in Galatians 6:7-10.

We are to give an individually determined amount. "Each one... as he purposes in his heart." It is important to realize that sowing bountifully is a relative term. Jesus taught that a poor widow that gave less money out of her poverty offered more than the rich that gave out of their surplus (Luke 21:1-4). God does not need what we have, He is more concerned with the attitude of our heart when we give. It is an individual’s expression of worship. It is a sacrifice that pleases God. The desire of the heart expresses love for God and for His people. Generosity proclaims that people created in the image of God are more important than the things we possess. It also delivers us from trusting in those temporal things for our security. When we give generously we acknowledge that all things come from God and all things belong to God.

The exercise of reason and a decision of the will must be applied to any opportunity to give. The decision as to the amount is made on a person-to-person basis. It is required that we evaluate our budget and expenses in order to determine what we can give. It would certainly be inappropriate to disobey the contextual balance of Scripture that tells us to work to provide for our own families and pay our own bills. "...work in a quiet fashion and eat your own bread" (2 Thes. 3:11). "But if anyone does not provide for his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). It is unrighteous and suspect if a person impulsively gives away what is needed to repay household debt. It is even more irresponsible and even unnatural if someone would give impulsively and let his family go without food or clothing.

We are to give with joyful abandon. The freedom to give flows from the hand of the person whose mind views life from an eternal perspective. It is this person that can give cheerfully. The word that is used here can be translated hilariously. God loves a hilarious giver. A hilarious giver is one who gives with joyful abandon. He is free from fear and insecurity about the future. The hilarious giver is dependent upon Almighty God to provide for his family. He experiences peace when he gives away what he might need and trusts that the Lord is in control of tomorrow. There is joy because of the freedom from concern over any loss. He is not expecting the poor to pay him back. The hilarious giver does not attach strings to his gift. He trusts that the Lord will repay in this life and/or in the life to come. And he has a supernatural desire to lay up treasure in heaven. He longs for eternal reward above temporal pleasure and comfort.

We are not to give under compulsion. It is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord when we give a generous determined amount with joyful abandon. We are not under the compulsion of any misguided desire to please men or win their approval but free to express our love for the Lord. We acknowledge by faith that we are dependent upon Him and we trust that He will provide for us. The only compulsion is the desire that we have for others to experience His compassionate provision through the bounty of His goodness to us. We have the privilege of becoming His instrument of grace to others.

We are not to give grudgingly. There is a release we experience in cheerful giving that is not under compulsion or necessity. Grudgingly means out of sorrow or grief. We do not give under the grief of necessity but we give a generous determined amount with joyful abandon. We are secure in God’s faithfulness to provide for us and that provides freedom for cheerful giving. We rest in God who is trustworthy. It is with a cheerful attitude that we become free to give as the widow gave. We give out of poverty and not simply out of our surplus. If you have learned to give to the Lord’s work by sacrificing the things you want you are doing well. But when your faith grows strong you should ask for opportunity to sacrificially give the things you need. That is what the widow did. Jesus said, she put in all that she had to live on. This kind of giving requires faith in God. You have to believe that He is in control and able to provide for you or you can not sacrifice what you need.

How are you at charity? Can you say that I generously give a personally determined amount with joyful abandon? Are you able to give up what you want in order to help others? Are you able to give up what you need in order to help others? These are some principles from Scripture that will be good to meditate upon. Learning how to give is an important thing in our Christian walk. Jesus taught and demonstrated that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Next time we will concentrate upon the benefits of giving.


The Benefits of Giving
by Jim Davis

"Now this I say that he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Giving benefits everyone. The Bible instructs us in how to give and it also encourages us declaring the benefits of giving. Maybe you have asked yourself the question, why is it better to give than to receive? In 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15 there are benefits declared to those who are charitable. Here are three reasons; it benefits others, it benefits you, and it glorifies God.

The Benefit to Others
There is no more practical way to express God’s love for someone than giving to them in a time of need. When you give without strings attached you reveal God’s grace to others. They experience His love in action. A person can endure many things in life when they are assured of the loving security of their heavenly Father.

When you supply the needs of the saints (v. 12) you are strengthening their faith in God. We are taught that "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). God can use us to strengthen the faith of other believers. When they become weak and discouraged because of need it is a time to open your heart and your pocket book and strengthen them. God uses us to demonstrate His ability and willingness to provide for His children. Faith produces a peace founded upon the sure hope in the security of a loving heavenly Father.

Charity strengthens faith and it also produces thanksgiving (v. 11-12). The gift of the Corinthians produced thanksgiving. Paul says that their ministry "overflowed through many thanksgivings to God." Thanksgiving is a peculiar thing. It has a healing effect upon a troubled soul. It is the companion of faith and joy. You just cannot thank God and doubt Him at the same time. Joy accompanies thanksgiving as well. The experience of joy in times of deep sorrow and distress can be a reality for those who believe that God, the Giver of life and the Conqueror of death, is just and will deliver us through our times of trouble.

All this is to say that others will glorify God in our obedience to the confession of the gospel (v. 13). That is a great benefit to those who have come to understand that our chief end in life is to glorify God. What better way to fulfill our purpose than to multiply thanksgiving to the lips of others.

The Benefit to you
God loves a cheerful giver. Giving endears you to your Creator and Redeemer. It also effects what you receive. The principle of reaping what you sow was dealt with in the previous article. But grace abounds to those who sow liberally. The quantity that you sow will determine the quantity you reap. Paul says that one can sow sparingly or bountifully and it indicates that there is a sliding scale in between these two extremes. The promise is that God will supply abundantly to you in order that you may invest in other good deeds (v. 8). He will "supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (v. 10).

It enriches your life in other ways as well. A generous person is released from covetousness. He is not entangled in the pursuit of temporal things or ensnared with the desire for riches. Giving releases one from the grip of greed and readjusts our perspective to think in terms of the eternal. It frees us so that we maybe able to consider others. Idolatry and the love of money are far removed from the one who learns to give cheerfully.

It should also be said that giving enriches your relationships with others. Notice that those who had received a generous gift from the Corinthians were praying for their benefit (v. 14). They had a genuine concern for their spiritual health even though many of them had never met face to face. The Bible goes on to say that they yearned or longed after the Corinthians. The idea is that they intensely desired or craved relationship with them. What so many people long for they had because they had learned to give of themselves unselfishly. As a result genuine friendship and trust and other things that accompany righteousness were their experience.

The Benefit to God
Jesus taught that we are to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). This is a practical demonstration of glorifying God. Others were glorifying God through the Corinthians obedience and good works (v. 13) and their gifts had produced thanksgiving to Him in the lives of others. Generous givers reproduce good works by demonstrating to others how to produce thanksgiving in the lives of yet other people. It is the domino effect at work. It is the basic course that demonstrates how we bring praise to the glory of God.

Needless to say all of this activity pleases God. Our passage teaches that God loves a cheerful giver. The privilege of basking in His love is the experience of those who walk in righteousness. What pleasure it brings us when we please the One who created and redeemed us. As adopted children we desire to imitate our Father and we long to please Him. The One who gives life and breath and all good things is pleased when we imitate Him.

When you consider all the benefits of giving it is tempting to fall again into a self-centered quest to please God for our own gain. It should be said that salvation is by grace alone and no amount of giving can please Him, win His love, or earn our salvation. Giving falls short just as any other work of righteousness or any accumulated works of righteousness will when it comes to earning eternal life. Only the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ in our place can pay the just penalty for our sins. And this of course is the greatest gift of all. Giving this message should be associated with all charitable gifts. We imitate Jesus when we give sacrificially to others. May men see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.


The Christian and Money