As the ushers take their place to collect the offering on Sunday morning, how do you decide on the amount of money you’re going to give? If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we don’t put too much thought into the matter. In fact, the only time most of us even think about our giving is when we first notice the offertory plate rapidly winding its way up and down the aisle towards us. For some, “God loves a cheerful giver,” refers to that exhilarating feeling we get when we somehow manage to both find and fill out a check only moments before the offering plate passes by! 

At a time when less than half of U.S. church members financially support their church, putting anything at all in the offertory plate is an achievement. And, while it’s true that the most important step in giving is to actually give something, many might be surprised to know that they have completely missed an equally important step in the process. What’s missing involves how we come up with the amount of money we write on our check. 

People use a variety of different methods for coming up with the amount of money they choose to give. For some, it comes down to sheer practicality. They look at their checkbook and give what they think the can afford that month and still have money left to pay the bills. Others follow the Old Testament command of a tithe (Leviticus 27:30) and simply give 10% of their paycheck. On the other hand, examples of giving half (Luke 19:8) or all of your money (Mark 12:44) are praised in the New Testament. So what rule on giving are we supposed to follow? 

The answer to how much we are supposed to be giving can best be seen in the story of the ‘Rich Young Man’ in Matthew 19. In it, we find a man very interested in obtaining eternal life. When he asks Jesus if he was missing anything, Jesus tells him to, “sell your possessions and give to the poor… then come, follow me.” 

As I mentioned earlier, the Old Testament is clear that God expected his people to give at least a tithe at that time (a rule that I’m sure the Rich Young Man followed closely). Despite his command to sell and give all, Jesus was not, in fact, instituting a new rule on giving for everyone. There is no 11th commandment that says, “Thou shalt give all ye have to the poor.” So why did Jesus ask this man to give so much?

While it’s true that Jesus was not instituting a new rule here, it is important to remember he was on earth to institute a new Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25). This New Covenant removes us from the management of the Law of the Old Covenant, and instead places us as sons under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:1-7). This is important because it’s this New Covenant that governs how we should give, not the old. It’s all about a relationship with a Man now, not a mere set of rules. Jesus commanded the Rich Young Man to give ‘all’ in order to highlight the fact that for all his rule following he had no relationship with the Lord. While he could submit to rules he could not submit to the Rule Giver!

Are we doing the same thing when we give to the Church? Do we have some rule that we follow that governs our giving instead of submitting to what our Lord is asking of us that day? Why miss out on a golden opportunity to not only fellowship with our Father but also to submit to His Lordship.

So, how much are we supposed to give this week? You won’t know unless you take the time to ask God! It’s only when we walk in obedience born of a relationship with Jesus Christ that we will experience true ‘cheer’ in our giving.

Publication date: July 5, 2011