Most of my life, I heard sermon after sermon that if you don’t give, God is going to curse you and you will get a flat tire or something even worse! But if you give, and it has to be at least 10% or it doesn’t count, God will bless you financially in ways you could never imagine. I heard it so much, I believed it and preached it at the first church I pastored. The main Scripture used for this teaching is from Malachi 3:8-10 (I think he was the Spanish prophet! His name sounds like a mariachi band.)
8)“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9) You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10) 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.”
There are some who will hedge a bit, acknowledging that we are to give by grace, but then make us feel guilty by saying things like this. “You, who want to say we are under grace in our giving, remember that grace always does more than the law, so you should give more than 10%!” Sadly, I believed and preached that, for many years, also.
However, when God began to show me His economy in the New Covenant, I began to question all of this teaching. As I kept studying Scripture, God affirmed that He definitely wants us to give, but not because of any of the reasons mentioned above.
Let’s step back for a minute and look at those Malachi verses. It seems like our motivation for giving is primarily fear. Fear of financial punishment and fear of not getting a financial blessing. Also, if we look closely at these Scriptures, they precisely fit the arrangement God had with Israel in the Old Covenant whichwas: “If you obey Me, I will bless you. If you disobey me, I will curse you.” (See Deuteronomy 28.)
Yet, we are New Covenant people who are not obligated to keep the external standards of the Old Covenant Law. God has placed His Laws on our hearts and minds, meaning He has put His character in us. This gives us the desire and ability to live from the inside out instead of the outside in. (Hebrews 10:16) This applies to our giving as well. He does not want us to feel obligated to give, or guilty, motivated by Law. He wants us to give as a result of Who He is in us. Is our God a generous God? Absolutely!
Most teaching on giving causes people to think that they can only be defined as a “generous person”, if they give generously. The New Covenant, however, turns that definition on its head by defining us by what Jesus has done, not what we do. This means that we are generous people in Christ, whether we give or not. It’s simply who we are deep within, in our spirit, in our identity in Christ.
A good friend of mine, Pastor Brad Lynch, began teaching his people that they were generous people in Christ. His encouragement to them was to embrace this and then to live like who they are in. He didn’t set a percentage for them to shoot for; he simply reminded them over and over that in Christ, they are generous. Then he challenged them to begin asking God how much He wanted them to give. In other words, he exhorted them to live by grace instead of law in their giving. Then, an amazing thing happened. The giving at the church doubled! Grace does do more than the law, but not because of guilt; rather because of love.
When I was a pastor, I began to understand “grace giving” instead of “law giving”. I stood in the pulpit one Sunday and told the congregation what God had been showing me from Scripture. I then took them through the Scriptures to unfold it for them. Then, I paused, told them I was sorry I had taught them “law giving” instead of “grace giving” and asked them to forgive me. But I didn’t stop there. I challenged them to go home, pray, ask God how much he wanted them to give, and then obey Him. To be honest, I was taking a huge risk. This was a brand new church and my salary was directly tied to the weekly giving but I knew I had to be honest and tell them the truth no matter the consequences.
Guess what happened? The giving increased! Imagine that, when you take people out from under the law, they are then free to listen to God, and live like who they truly are in Christ!
How about you? Do you feel condemned, feeling like you never measure up in your giving? Or, do you give generously but it’s out of fear and obligation? You died to all of that with Christ on the cross according to Romans 7:4. God wants you to give cheerfully out of Who He is in you and who you are in Christ. Let go of a law mentality and live from a grace mentality. Ask Him how much He wants you to give, and then respond by faith. You will experience joy instead of condemnation.
Believe it! It’s the Gospel.
Live Free In Christ,
Mark Maulding, President and Founder
www.GraceLifeInternational.com All Content Copyright © 2014 Mark Maulding but please pass it along!