Sacrificial Giving as the Christian Standard for Giving

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The New Testament is very ineffective when it comes to giving a measurable standard of giving (a percentage).

As a result, I’ve always wondered where Christians get the idea that giving 10% is the standard for all New Testament Christians.  Giving 10% can quickly be reduced to a sort of punching of the time clock or a simple token of our appreciation.

We all know what it means to receive a token gift.

What if someone got you something just because they knew they were supposed to.  It sort of takes away the joy, doesn’t it?

Our giving to God cannot be token giving.

I get that 10% is a good starting place.  I understand that 10% has some solid historical roots in the Old Testament.

What I don’t understand is how a family without any debt, making several hundred thousand dollars a year could think that there is no room for giving growth because they are giving 10%.  They believe they have won the battle against the deceitfulness of wealth, but it is entirely possible that a person giving a tithe is corrupted by what remains.

I believe the biblical standard for giving is sacrificial giving.

Where in the world would I get that idea?

Jesus is the paradigm or the model for us to following in our giving habits and giving practices.

He gave sacrificially.

Those Jesus recognized and honored as gracious givers went far beyond 10%.

They gave sacrifically.

Paul honors those as gracious givers who gave beyond 10%

2 Cor. 8:3 – “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own.”

2 Cor. 8:7 – “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

Perhaps it’s time to move beyond numbers and focus on the level of our sacrificial giving.

Lately I’ve been asking myself the question - does my giving show any level of sacrifice?  In some ways, I can confidently say yes, but in other ways I recognize that there are so many ways for me to grow in the grace of giving.

I think that’s where God wants us all to be.  Challenging.  Stretching.  Growing.  Realizing that no matter how much we’ve grown there is still room for growth.

What if I’m not giving 10%?

Perhaps you’re asking the wrong question.  Perhaps you’re measuring with the wrong standard.  Are you giving sacrificially?  If you can say ‘yes’ to that question (even if you say ‘no’ to the 10% question), then I think you’re on the right track with your giving.

If you can say ‘yes, I’m giving 10%, but no I’m not giving sacrificially,’ then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your giving.

By the way, please don’t think I’m judging you or trying to judge you.  I’m sharing publicly and openly something that I’ve been asking myself and something I’ve been struggling with.

Do you think sacrificial giving is God’s standard, or do you think it can be reduced to a percentage?

Comments

  1. JD says

    Very thoughtful comments Craig, my husband and I look forward to the time when we are debt free. There is is so much hurt and need in the world and we are anxious to give more. I pray we arrive where it is possible to give to a much higher level than we currently do.

    The area where we live has so many poor and needy in it and the groups that are trying to help are constantly asking for more giving to help with the ever increasing needs. The area has food banks but the demand is outstripping the resources. The downturn in the economy and the continuance of business closures is forcing many to seek assistance.

  2. Cedric says

    Excellent article Craig,

    Do you think sacrificial giving is God’s standard, or do you think it can be reduced to a percentage?

    I do believe that sacrificial giving is a request from God. However I also believe that Jesus came to fulfill the old testament law. As followers of Jesus I think we should ascribe to do the same. Furthermore, Jesus did direct us to tithe in the new testament (Matt. 23:23) so why not do both? If ten percent is a sacrifice for you and your family then you meet both requests by giving ten percent. If ten percent is not a sacrifice then you need to figure out what would be sacrificial for you and your family.

    Thoughts?

    Cedric

    • says

      Cedric,
      No, I don’t think God’s call for our giving can or should be reduced to a percentage. Why? Our God is not looking for a token from us. The problem with a percentage is that we can convince ourselves that if we’re doing that we’re giving all we should in response to God’s generosity.

      I completely agree that 10% can be sacrificial giving.

      I think we’d all be in a healthier place with our giving if the focus was not on a percentage, but on sacrifice.

  3. Cedric says

    I agree that our giving should be sacrificial and not limited to percentage (such as the woman with the two mites). I also agree that God is not looking for a token from us. I don’t agree with telling others that our giving need only be sacrificial. God is not looking for a token sacrifice either.

    There are those who make more in one year than any one person could spend in a lifetime. Ten percent giving may not be sacrificial under those circumstances. However, just because someone doesn’t make millions and can use every dollar received doesn’t mean that a token sacrifice would be pleasing to God.

    You asked for your reader’s thoughts but the way the question is posed is biased towards sacrificial giving and does not equally reflect God’s commandments from Jesus Christ and His fulfillment of the Old Testament.

    Are you suggesting that less than 10% giving is requested by God just because the giving is sacrificial? What are your thoughts on Matthew 23:23? How do you interpret Jesus’s own words regarding tithing?

    • says

      Cedric,

      Thanks for helping me grow through the questions you’ve posed. Perhaps the best way we can each grow through this discussion is if I respond to certain comments you made.

      “I don’t agree with telling others that our giving need only be sacrificial”
      I believe that is exactly what Paul did in 2 Cor. 8. This is the longest theology of giving in the New Testament. In it Paul ask people to give beyond what they think they can. (For example, 2 Cor. 8:3, 10, 12). He never mentions a percentage. What Paul is asking people to give is very much dependent on how much they have received. It is proportionate giving.

      “God is not looking for a token sacrifice either”
      Theoretically it would be possible to give a ‘token’ sacrifice, but I think it would be much harder. I’d guess (and it is a guess) that it is harder to ritually give sacrificially than to ritually give 10%.

      “The way the question is posed is biased”
      Yes. Everything I write on this blog is biased by my theology of God, my interpretation of Scripture, and my experiences.

      “Are you suggesting that less than 10% giving is requested by God just because the giving is sacrificial?”
      I think I understand your concern. I think you’re insinuating that people reading this post might say they will give 2% and say that requires a sacrifice. Is that correct?
      To answer you’re question, no, I’m not suggesting that God is requesting us to give less than 10%. I’m suggesting God wants us to give sacrificially and that will look very different based on a persons financial situation.

      “What are your thoughts on Matthew 23:23? How do you interpret Jesus’s own words regarding tithing?”
      I think in order for us to get a full view of what Jesus believes about giving and tithing we’d need to look at more than just one verse.
      Matthew 23 is a combative verse where Jesus is challenging the Pharisees. The Pharisees were indeed very wealthy in that society. Jesus is concerned that they are neglecting the weightier matters of the law. Their giving was a tolken 10%, but they were not pursuing what really mattered to God. To these wealthy ones I don’t think Jesus would insinuate they should give less than 10%. I don’t think he was challenging them to give less than 10%. He wanted them to recognize that God wanted them to give more (not money, but more of what mattered to God)

      As I mentioned in the post, the people Jesus highlighted for their giving (Widow with her two coins and the woman who anointed Jesus feet with very expensive oil) were highlighted not because they gave 10%, but because they gave sacrificially.
      If I were to chose which was Jesus standard – giving 10% or giving sacrificially I think the gospels give more support to sacrificial giving.

      Let me conclude in this way. If someone came out and asked Jesus, “Master, how much should I give?” What would he say? Would he say God seeks for you to give 10%? Or, would he say, God seeks for you to give sacrificially? My understanding of Jesus’ teachings makes me lean towards the later statement and not the former.

    • says

      Cedric,
      I’d be comfortable supporting the tithe as a general rule or ideal starting place. However, I would consider making a pastoral allowance for those in situations where even 10% is too much (too much as confirmed by a church leader or financial counselor).

  4. Roger says

    Good article. Giving is one aspect of sacrificial living and commitment to Christ. What you don’t often hear is sacrificial time. There was a person in our church that was on a disability pension, 10% of her pension does amount to much, however she gave immeasurable more in terms of volunteer time to church programs, in fact without her the children’s program would have collapsed without her time and commitment, she gave sacrificially. I don’t believe there is a right amount or percentage, but we need to be led by the Spirit. Some people treat tithing as another form of taxation, and this is a common thrust of a lot of teaching, which is wrong.

    • says

      Roger,
      I agree. Sacrificial giving and sacrificial living includes much more than money. Thanks for sharing the example from your church. I think that is a good illustration and reminder for all of us.

  5. Cedric says

    Thanks for helping me grow as a Christian as well. I appreciate this discussion immensely.

    When is 10% too much? Are we not to seek first his kingdom and its righteousness and not even worry about the necessities of life since our Father knows that we need them (Matt 6:33-34)? What else is more important for us to use God’s resources on?

    How do we as Christians balance giving versus providing for your family, especially your immediate family (I. Tim)? Are those the only options? At what point is this an “income problem” and not a stewardship problem?

    Not seeking some sort of answer but just putting out there my thoughts and I invite any and all to respond.

    • says

      Cedric,
      During my ministry in PNG (average anual income $775 USD per year) I occasional sat with people and talked about their income, their expenses, and their giving. I didn’t want to make them feel guilty if they were new Christians and just starting to grow in the grace of giving. For that reason I didn’t talk about percentages and instead I helped pastorally guide people through their unique financial situation.

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