One of the ways in which church members support the building of the spiritual house of God is through giving. This is certainly not the only way that the church is gathered and built up, but it is an important means.
Consider all the causes of God’s kingdom that are promoted through the financial support of members. In the Protestant Reformed Churches, each congregation takes a weekly collection for the “General Fund.” Through this fund the preaching of the gospel in that congregation is supported. The money goes to pay the minister’s salary, maintains the house of worship, and often supports the spread of the gospel through local evangelism.
The fund also supports the work of the denomination more broadly. It supports the work of classis and synod. It supports foreign and domestic missions. It supports the seminary, the professors, and students of the seminary. It supports the needy congregations. It supports the work of contact with sister churches. It supports emeritus ministers and their widows.
In addition to giving towards this General Fund, the churches also take collections for the poor and needy. They take collections to support a number of Christian grade schools and high schools. They take collections to send out magazines, to print books, and to air a radio program. And there are many other collections taken for many other important kingdom causes. And there are all sorts of other causes that a person could give to privately. In fact, it seems as if there are no end of worthy causes to support financially.
The Word of God guides us in how we are to give. Consider these six principles:
- Be guided by the principle of “moral proximity.” What this means is that the causes we support first are those which are closest to us. This means the church we attend. This means the school where our children are enrolled. And, as we are able, we give in ever-widening circles from us. This is the outworking of Gal. 6:10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
- Give as you are able. Deut. 16:17 says, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.” 1 Cor. 16:2 says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…” The pauper might not be able to give as much as the prince, but he can still contribute to the work of God’s kingdom.
- In that connection, a helpful guide is the idea of tithing. Tithing was required in the Old Testament (see God’s stinging rebuke in Mal. 3:8), but there is no such strict mandate in the New Testament. However, the idea of the tithe is a helpful baseline. At minimum, we should strive to give 10% of our income. And if we are able, we give more.
- Our giving must be done quietly. Jesus says in Matt. 6:3: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” We must not give to be seen of men and praised by the same. We don’t give so that our name is on the wing of the hospital and the door of the school. We do our alms as to the Lord.
- Our giving ought to be characterized by willingness and joy. We can all probably picture in our minds the miserly scrooge who holds his money in a tight fist and is loathe to part with even a penny. This is not true giving. 2 Cor. 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
- Finally, our giving must be done generously and sacrificially. The book of Proverbs speaks of the “liberal soul” (11:25) and the “bountiful eye” (22:9). In Luke 21 we have the example of the poor widow and her two mites. 2 Cor. 9:6 says, “He that soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” In the world today the idea of sacrificial giving seems strange and foreign. But such generous, even sacrificial, giving is pleasing to the Lord.
I want to conclude by giving two reasons that ought to encourage and motivate us to continue giving to these causes.
First, remember that our giving is an act of worship. It is an acknowledgement that all we have comes from God, and an acknowledgement that it all belongs to him still. By our giving we express thanks for all he has given us, and simply return to him what is already his.
Second, our financial support is an important way in which we are all actively engaged in the work of God’s church and kingdom. Not all men are gifted and called to fulltime service in the church as ministers, missionaries, or seminary professors. And that’s a good thing. The church needs members who are called to serve as farmers, lawyers, factory workers, accountants, and mothers. Does this mean that they are not involved in the important work of the church? Not at all! They are involved, and their active involvement is expressed in part through their giving.
This gives meaning and purpose to even the lowliest station and calling! This motivates the man to go to his job every day and work hard! Because his work is kingdom work!
Previous posts in this series:
- Lively Stones in God’s House
- Time To Build!
- Bound to Join
- A Hard Day’s Rest
- Noble Bereans
- Reformed…And Always Reforming
This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section on the RFPA blog.