The difference between thankful giving and the Thanksgiving holiday
There has been a lot of teaching about giving and tithing. In fact, it’s that time of the year in many churches.
My take is that it centers on legalism and religious requirement. Or, it comes with a sales pitch that appeals to the age old WIFM question of “What’s in it for me?” The negative motivator is to avoid a curse, and the positive is to sow a seed that will bring rewards.
Note that the Old Testament operates under the Law, while the New Testament operates under the New Covenant of grace. The most threatening, challenging passage from the Old Testament is Malachi 3:6-11. Penalties for not “measuring up” seem readily apparent. Malachi’s teaching is like there are union dues, and to not give is “robbing and stealing” from God. Further, only gifts and offerings, over and above the 10 percent are the only things that will be blessed and rewarded.
Yet, the New Testament takes the path of our living lives that respond to the grace already given, not earning it, and not living in fear of a curse when we fall short. There is no direction here to water down God’s truth. In Paul’s great work commonly referred to as the “Love Chapter,” 1st Corinthians 13, he says “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, (now that’s giving), but do not have love, it profits me nothing. What’s he talking about? The spirit of giving, the proper motivation. Jesus calls us to this kind of “love” because “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
(now that’s thanks-giving isn’t it?)
Think about it. Does God need our money? The one who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills?” (Psalm 50:9-10) No, He wants us. And He knows, “where the money is, the heart is.” Imagine us coming forward and stepping into a large offering plate.
If we’re giving out of debt or obligation, or to avoid the curse, then we don’t see what Paul offers in saying, each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2Corinthians 9:7)
As you may know that word cheerful in the Greek is hilaros from where we get the idea of being a hilarious giver, unrestrained, free to enjoy the occasion. It’s not a slot machine giving.
What about the positive benefit, WIFM motivation? Even Malachi offers that “if you return unto me (and my ordinances) I will return unto you … I will open the windows of heaven … I will rebuke the devourer … the fruit of your ground (efforts) will prosper.”
So, as Paul writes in Acts, we are set free from the curse of the Old Law. (Acts 13:38-39) Set free from the obligation? You might say that. But let’s give from a heart that is set free and thankful. Give often, regularly, out of love and thanks, from a thank-full heart. Make Thanksgiving more than the fourth Thursday in November.
“It’s more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That’s the New Testament motivation. If I don’t have that, it “profits me nothing.” God loves a cheerful giver.
Will you feel cheerful after having given? A lot?
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.