ACTS 20:35b (part two)
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he
said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
April 6, 2003

Giving is too vital a part of Christian living to be left to happenstance or to our own whims and judgments. We need to know Bible rules that regulate giving.
We have already examined three Bible principles on giving. First, Jesus assumed His followers would be earth’s most generous givers. Second, handling money is a trusteeship; we do not own, we manage. Third, giving beautifies life.
A fourth Bible principle is, giving begins with the tithe, the first ten percent of our income. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (MT 23:23 NAS). Giving ten percent of mint, dill, and cummin is about the most inferior instance one can imagine in illustrating the duty of tithing, yet Jesus affirmed it should not be omitted.
Baptists have historically sought Bible precedents for all we do. We separate foreign and home missions not because someone had a good idea, but because in the Bible (GL 2:7-9) Paul was assigned Gentiles (foreign), Peter Jews (home).
We embrace local church autonomy, for Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (MT 18:20). Jesus is in the midst of our local gatherings, and nothing can be above Him in authority.
We bow our heads to pray due to the publican who “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven” (LK 18:13). We dress up when we come to church, for David “washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes” (2 Sam. 12:20) before coming to worship at the house of God. We take an offering in church on Sunday because Paul told the Corinthians, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1 Cor. 16:2).
The Bible guides our beliefs and behavior. For all issues in life, believers should automatically turn to the Bible, if not for a command, at least for a model, an example, or a principle. In the matter of giving, only one beginning guideline is ever given–the figure of ten percent. The concept is pervasive in Holy Writ.
Seeking to be innovative, to cast off ancient landmark principles of Biblical guidance, is no virtue. We are not under law, but neither are we under anarchy.

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Covenant (MT 5:17), to lift it to higher heights. Christ usually made requirements more stringent. Laws against murder were raised to laws against hate; laws against adultery were raised to laws against lust; laws permitting divorce were raised to laws against divorce (MT 5:21ff, 27-28, 31-32). It seems illogical to think Jesus would single out only one matter, the area of giving, and lower its standard alone. Tithing remains the starting point of giving.
Having said this, I hasten to add, we don’t lord over folks, try to force them to tithe, or send bills. Giving must be personally determined in individual hearts. If God’s Word can’t convince folks to tithe, how can we preachers hope to coerce it? I simply urge us to keep climbing higher heights, giving more than before.
A fifth Bible principle is, reduce debt. The godly repay what they owe. Scripture is blunt, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back” (PS 37:21 NAS).
The prophet’s “axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed” (2 Kings 6:5). When Elisha helped the widow, he told her to pay her debts first and then live on the rest (2 Kings 4:7).
Debt can quickly veer out of control, becoming a noose around the neck, and making it impossible to pay all our debts. Many are so far in debt that they cannot fulfill their giving obligations to God or to their creditors, and are thus absolutely miserable with their own existence. Millions of Americans, including many Christians, are living in what Newsweek magazine describes as Debt Hell.
I urge us all, I plead, I beg, get out of and stay out of credit card debt, avoid furniture loans, live frugally, buy cars and houses less expensive than we think we can afford. Otherwise, our tomorrows will remain mortgaged to our yesterdays.
Beware student loans. They are dangerous. “Mission Frontiers,” one of the world’s premier missions magazines, in doing research to document what keeps young adults from going on the mission field, made a shocking discovery. Their investigation indicated many who went to college intending to go into missions were pre-empted from fulfilling their dream due to the huge college debt they acquired. Going to college killed the reason they went to college. Students, while in school, spend as little as you can, work as much as you can, and pay all you can.
Someone calculated that fifteen percent of Jesus’ recorded words dealt with the subject of money. He said much about possessions, about how to rightly view and handle assets. Despite Jesus’ words of wisdom, money mistakes are killing us, crippling and shackling believers. Many of our own church members here at Second have bought into our materialistic culture’s skewed perspective on money.
Many view unlimited access to credit card debt as a way to expand financial capital, when in reality it is a shovel to dig financial holes. About seventy percent of Americans spend more than they make. The average family has $8,000 in credit card debt. Late fees charged by lenders has risen fourfold since 1996. In 2001, over 1,500,000 Americans filed personal bankruptcy. This year, more Americans will declare bankruptcy than will graduate from college.

People need money help. We the leaders at Second have decided it’s time for our church to come to the rescue. John Wayne and the cavalry are coming, as are Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knights. Our whole church, grades seven and up, will go through Crown Finance this Fall in small groups. We intend to tackle the subject of money and fiscal responsibility unapologetically and honestly.
A sixth Bible principle is, giving money lets God entrust more important matters to us. “If you are not fit to be trusted with the wicked wealth of this world, who will trust you with the true riches?” (Luke 16:11 Phillips). Money is neutral, neither good nor bad, but it so often subverts people that Scripture unflatteringly calls money “filthy lucre” (1 P 5:2) and “unrighteousness mammon” (Luke 16:11 NAS). How well we handle this less important, often destructive, material stuff will determine what God allows us to do with more important spiritual things.
Our Indeed daily devotional magazine offers helpful advice in this regard. As we take the stuff of this world, especially money, and use it for eternity we prove we have learned to take the physical and make it spiritual. The corruption of money is redeemed as we invest it in God, His Church, the poor, and others. If we’re able to ennoble money this way, God knows He can trust other things to us.
God is slow to entrust eternal things to people who fail in managing temporary financial things. This explains the spiritual frustration of some Christians. If we feel God is not opening enough doors of opportunity for us to serve spiritually, examine ourselves. Are we being faithful in the elementary ABCs of giving? If not, more mature XYZs of spiritual responsibility will continue to elude us.
A trait of the great 1978 Gosnell revival was a transformation in our attitude toward giving. Ruth and I knew our church was not ready to buy busses, but we also knew we had to start a bus ministry. Realizing leaders must carry the vision until others catch the vision, Ruth and I bought with our own money used busses to begin the ministry. As revival began to spread among our people, church members eventually reimbursed to us every dime we had spent buying those busses. As the people continued becoming more generous in opening their purse strings, God opened the windows of heaven and let ever greater spiritual blessings flow.
Speaking of 1978, 25 years ago, that was about the time when the people of Second began stretching themselves in the area of giving. For a generation now, our church has sustained ongoing day-to-day affairs through our people’s regular tithes, and has built needed buildings primarily through our giving above and beyond the tithes. Some 25 years ago Second chose to stretch to a higher level of giving. I remind us God’s extraordinary blessing on Second began about 25 years ago. Seeing our faithfulness in the lesser matter of giving, God has placed on our shoulders greater responsibilities and opportunities. As we remain faithful in finances, He will continue to entrust to us His work and Word in the world.