How does God expect us to give? It is not according to how you wish or will; it is according to His wish or will and according to His needs and the needs of His children. How does God score what we give? What is His yardstick of appreciation? Is it according to what we give? No!
There are many yardsticks of approval God employ to assess and accept or reject our giving. They range from foundational (what we must first be before we give at all) to the life we are living or our life of holiness and consecration; to our purpose or intent of giving; to character and manner of our giving; and to what we give in relation to what excess we have left.
Soul’s Salvation as Foundational Qualification to Give
Genuine salvation of the soul from sin is the foundational qualification for giving to God acceptably. Christian groups not emphasizing this because of how it will affect offerings may really not be doing well. They may be serving their own belly.
Because in this series we are talking about Christian giving, the key criterion to giving to God is certainly whether we are born again or not. God really does not need anything from us other than our souls. All our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight. All our works and sacrifices are only acceptable with Him Who cannot behold iniquity if we first settle our account of sin. That is the Bible.
“Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required” – Psalm 40:6; “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – Micah 6:6-8 (emphasis added).
We cannot placate God with our offerings while we retain our sins and not hand them over to Him. In Micah that we have just read we see that we cannot even offer our first born for our transgression, or the fruit of our body for the sin of our soul! Many pastors in our day may not mind this, and many a people flocking our meetings may not care altogether, but let God be true and everyman be liar. The foundation of God stands very sure, and the Lord knows His own.
That is not to say however that the giver of his ‘first born’ or ‘fruit of his body’ living in transgression or with sin soiled soul will not be blessed. We have alluded to this already in the last part of this series. It is a spiritual and natural law that he or she will be blessed. All givers are rewarded. All sowers of whatever thing reap. And it does not matter whether they are even cultists or whatever. Sowing and reaping is as natural as breathing in the air, receiving the heat of the sun and being drenched with the waters from above. God naturally send them upon all people, born again or not born again. It is natural. So is sowing leading to reaping. So, that unbelievers without and within are being blessed because they give does not mean that God is specifically executing a particular Scripture. The increase may not directly come from God or may not be God’s way of answering to a particular or specific promise of Scripture.
Salvation of the soul is what provokes God to answer to His specific promises. Isaiah 59: 1-2: “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Living Holy and Consecrated Lives
Givers to God knows salvation makes God to accept our gifts, but they also know that God accepts gifts easier another way after salvation, especially as we continue in this world with its capacity to pollute. Yes, there is another building-on-the-foundation qualification. And it is whether we have first given and continue to give ourselves (not in the sense of being born again as above but in the sense of yielding, consecrating or dedicating our lives) to God. We see this in 2 Corinthians 8: 1-6:
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”
And we read in Romans 12: 1-2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” After salvation of the soul from sin by the grace of God and because of the cross of Jesus, there becomes a ‘reasonable service’: the presentation of our bodies a living sacrifice, holy which is acceptable to Him. This is the reasonable service that makes any other service, sacrifice and giving reasonable to Him, and without which all our services, sacrifices and giving are worthless to Him. No man can bribe God, but many a ministers can be ‘bribed’.
That same Scripture tells us what we must do to ‘prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’: That is, being not ‘conformed to this world’: but being ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind’. Before our giving can be proven to be good by God; to be acceptable to Him; and to be the perfect, will of God, we must not be conforming to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. That is the Scripture. And knowing the truth sets free. Let flesh not vaunt itself on our pulpits. The people have a right to know the mind of God.
‘Giving’ therefore must not push or railroad us to feeding the pew with deceptions. Let the giver know that he must be qualified to give to God. Let all be made or encouraged to examine themselves whether they are still in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), or to always say: “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Psalm 26:2). Jesus even said: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” – Matthew 5:23-24.
There is always a time to say: search me O Lord and know my heart today, otherwise our gifts may not be accepted by God though men may accept them on the altar; otherwise our gifts may not be used by God to expand His Kingdom though men may use them to expand their ‘congregational empires’; otherwise our gifts may fail to attract the eternal rewards that gifts properly given to God attracts though men may promise you that, and though you may even be blessed here on earth as any giver whatever age, wherever clime, nation or group will be blessed.
Purpose, Intent, Character or Manner of Giving
What is our motivation in giving? What is our intention? What is our disposition from between the time we thought of giving till after we have given. And what is the character or manner of giving? All these and more are critical.
Giving must be done in God’s way. Our motivation and intent must align with Scriptures. Our disposition must be under check always! We must not give as the world gives. We hope to develop this point in the next part of this series.
Giving in Relation to what Excess we have left.
God’s yardstick to accepting our gifts would include not necessarily what we gave, but what we did not give. What we did not give or what is left behind after giving what we gave is used to assess what is given. When God says we should give according to our ability, this truth is implied. God knows our ability to give more than we know. Our spirit knows our ability to give more than our flesh. So, when the flesh ‘surges’ forward to determine what we should give and what we must hold on to something is drastically wrong. We also visited this question of ability, real (if determined by God or our spirit), or feigned (if determined by Satan or our flesh) elsewhere in this series. So we shall look at this matter of what we give vis-a-vis what we have left as God’s yardstick of assessing our giving another way presently:
The widow gave her all, though a mite. The rich in that congregation may have given their thousands but they may still have millions left behind while the needs of the Church and brethren mounted. “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” – Mark 12:41-44.
Of course, you cannot mistake the sort of heart this woman possessed, her motivation, and disposition in this rare giving, actually emptying herself. These are conditions in themselves that also determine whether or not our gifts are to be accepted or rejected! We shall briefly learn few more things of this woman.
This woman preferred God to herself in every sense of the word. This woman thought of God’s house or vineyard more than her own concerns. She gave this with pains, not pains of regret but of unworthiness, of a strong wish that her all she was offering was nothing, though her all; and apparently desired to have given her all though a fortune. This woman gave her all. You must know this woman: She is not in millions, who gave out all her millions and having millionaire friends to fall back on. She gave all, with only faith to fall back on: Only God to fall back on. The heart! And the acceptance of her offering here by God knows priceless eternal reward. And she is an example of giving. We may not necessarily have the millions before we should give.
Remember: God assesses what we give with what is left over! This is a chief hallmark in this woman’s giving.
Absence of Excess and Lack among God’s People
Hear Paul writing to the Corinthian church: ‘‘For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack’’ – 2 Corinthians. 8:13-15. The Living Bible paraphrased it this way: ‘‘Of course, I don’t mean that those who receive your gifts should have an easy time of it at your expense, but you should divide with them. Right now you have plenty and can help them; then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way each will have as much as he needs. Do you remember what the Scriptures say about this? ‘He that gathered much had nothing left over, and he that gathered little had enough? So you also should share with those in need’’ (emphasis added).
How blessed it will be if in our congregations each do not have or hoard more than he needs, so that others can have as much as they need. When others cannot have what they need and yet we have more than we need something is wrong with fellowship and the brotherhood. That is not the design of God. It may well be that God has provided all that is required presently to achieve all that our local churches or denominations and the brethren there need to accomplish today; only that some caretakers and stewards may just be eating fat unto damnation.
When caretakers are caretakers indeed the brethren rejoice, the church is energized; vibrant and fiery evangelism becomes the order of the day, the mission fields are well staffed, the various white fields are well harvested and thus not only expand the Kingdom of God but hasten its coming down on earth. Much of that depends on caretakers. And so caretakers who do good, who are rich in good works, ready to distribute and willing to communicate must – for facilitating joy among the brethren, power in the church, growth and descent of the Kingdom – be laying up in store for themselves a good foundation (in that Kingdom) against the time to come; and if they are not weary in well doing they are sure to lay hold on eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
May we then be faithful caretakers and stewards! May we be faithful stewards today, to secure our future, if it be that we have received Christ and become children of God! There are Christian millionaires who together with their families or loved ones are living strictly within their spirit-defined needs with all not within this definition going for the furtherance of the gospel and enrichment of the household of God. They are reservoirs with many outlets, and not dams that do not let go. There are also many ‘widows’ with treasures up above. And many others in-between them; that is, in-between these millionaires and ‘widows’ also have treasures laid up yon.
But they are all qualified givers. They all let go for God, and for His glory. Their treasures are really not here but are laid up above. And their hearts are in Heaven, and Heaven they are preparing to go.