Do we need to rethink our concept of giving?
Throughout the centuries, people of God have been encouraged to give back to God. It intuitively feels like the right thing to do - God has given us his blessings and we give back in return. This particular discipline is called tithing. The command in times past was to give ten percent of whatever you had back to God. In those days, it meant material goods, but it also included money. Over time, with wealth not being counted by the number of animals one had or the amount of agriculture one harvested, monetary giving became the norm.
Thus, in the matter of giving back to God, ten percent of one’s money became standard. In the New Testament, of course, the concept of the ten percent tithe is not commanded. Instead, just as a child would give without limit (and without keeping tabs) to his parents, so also, we are to give whatever we can to our Father in Heaven.
Yet money is not the only possession we have. Money is not the only gift that God has given us. We also have an objective and a subjective gift available to us – time and energy. Though we talk about giving money to God, we rarely ever emphasize the giving of time and energy to God.
Doesn’t God deserve our time and energy just as we give Him our money? (Of course, there are numerous people that could care less about giving God money either). How good of a parent would one be if they gave money to their kids but did not spend a single minute or spend an ounce of energy on them? We would rightly conclude that they are less than adequate parents. If you are a good father or mother, you will spend time with your kids, energy for your kids, and, of course, spend money on your kids. Needless to say, there are many people who, having received good gifts from God would obediently choose to give money to God, but unwittingly never think of giving God their time or energy.
Even if we went by the ancient rules, ten percent giving to God would be a definite 2 hours and 24 minutes every day and an arbitrary amount of energy in a day.
[For a couple of sermons on investment including time, money and effort, see here:
But I want to take this further.
Is it fair for us to base our giving on ancient rules?
Let me examine this under each category:
When I was a kid, since we stayed just outside the city limits, we did not have running water. For a few years, we had to get water for our daily use from outside. My brothers and I would spend about one and a half hours every day after school to get water for the house. Today, simply by having running water, I have saved 90 minutes every day and have that time available for use.
Living a normal life in the past occupied a large amount of time. For example, the mode of travel in the distant past (during the time of Jesus, for instance) was walking. Getting from point A to point B would take hours and days. Everything took time to do. Today, because of the progress of living, we have many extra hours every week to do whatever we please to do.
In the past when people didn’t have resources that we enjoy today, they used their energy for basic living. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home in rural Kerala, India during our summers hols. They used to gather and stack firewood to make food. Making food to sustain the family was a task that required a lot of effort. There would be several people involved to ensure that three full meals were placed on the table. Getting the water, chopping the firewood, bringing the raw food materials, and then cooking it with rudimentary equipment. Just in the matter of food, with the increased amenities today we have lots of energy to spare. Think of all the other ways that we are saving our energy for basic living.
Most of the people during Bible times that gave their money to God came from poverty-stricken cultures and backgrounds. Yet, they freely gave.
Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Most of the common people living today live in significant wealth when compared to the common people in the Bible (even if we adjust for inflation and the cost of living). Yet, in terms of giving, we give the same percentage back to God. True, giving a percentage means that you are giving proportionally more to God. But it is also true that we have proportionally more money available for personal use with the remaining 90% than someone who lived in the first century. (or 2000 BC, for that matter).
What do we do with the extra time, money, and energy that we have saved due to the advancement and amenities of life? Our giving today does not account for the resources saved due to life advancement. We use the extra on ourselves. We have bought more things, spend our lives on getting more activities and spend our time on vacuous things that have minimal eternal value. And then, probably inadvertently, we continue to pat ourselves on our backs since we are giving God the amount that we think will pacify Him.
[For a sermon on Money, see here:
I suggest that with the proportional gain in time, money, and effort that we have today, rather than spending it on temporal idiosyncratic wants, we should invest it back into God’s service that has eternal value. Not because we have to, but because we want to, because we love Him, because He has given us everything already and because we would rather invest our resources on eternal things rather than temporary fleeting lures.
As GK Chesterton said, "If my children wake up on Christmas morning and thank Santa for the gifts in their stockings, do I have no one to thank for putting two feet into mine?"
Then maybe we will change from comfort giving to sacrificial giving.