Not Caught Red-Handed – Caught Empty-Handed

Standing before congregations, well-intentioned individuals have sometimes served up cruel kindness prior to the collection being taken. In the attempt to be loving, a hurtful prescription may go something like this: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver who freely gives from the heart. If you want to give but are unable to, the Lord understands.” To soothe the worries and relieve the anxieties of the downtrodden is a noble goal. Unfortunately, to speak for God contrary to his actual expressed desires and rob people of dignity and the blessing of giving is helpful to no one. God has revealed a much healthier approach than this.
While some may already be chomping at the bit to showcase their favorite scriptures, an appreciation for a Biblical perspective on Christian giving arises out of a careful handling of both the Old and New Testaments. Regarding the Old Testament, on the one hand it is true that Jesus has set Christians free from showing themselves righteous by perfectly living up to the demands of the Law./1 Salvation does not come by observing the Law. On the other hand,even the apostles resorted to Old Testament history and principles in order to teach Christians how to live./2 What message within the Old Testament has a bearing upon New Testament principles of Christian giving? Several principles knit seamlessly together, providing us with reliable guidance.
1) Many Christians have accurately recognized that we have not been required to give the 10% demanded by the Law plus shoulder the financial burden of additional offerings, etc., in order to be declared righteous before God. On the contrary, Paul’s prescription for how the Corinthians were to gather a collection for benevolent purposes has commonly been adopted as the general guiding principle for Christians: “Each man should give just as he purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”/3
2) Contrary to proposing that God is pleased with accepting nothing because a person has very little, Paul taught, “if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”/4 In other words, if someone desires to give but does not have much, even the tiny gift he or she gives is pleasing to God. To not give anything is equated with not having the desire to give to God.
This latter point illustrates a principle rooted deeply in the Law. “No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every person shall give in proportion to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you.”/5 Those with little financial means were never degraded by exempting them from the responsibility of doing what was within their power. On the contrary, the principle of “No one is to appear before me empty-handed” was applied to various situations and sacrifices under the Law./6
All of God’s people will be blessed in hearing that God loves a cheerful giver who gives according to his means. God accepts that large or small gift upon the willingness of the heart to provide out of those blessings which God has provided. Thus Jesus called “two pennies” as a more generous gift than the large contributions of the wealthy, because an impoverished widow gave everything she had./7
Today, as the Lord looks at our congregations, it just might be that he will find a greater depth of generosity among some of our poor who are rich in faith, than from those rich among us who struggle with trusting in their wealth./8 Let’s not distort the Lord’s wishes, nor view financial amounts with human eyes, nor rob the lower income members by teaching, “don’t feel bad about giving nothing, the Lord understands.”
1 Galatians 2:16; 4:21; 5:1; Romans 7:4-6
2 Romans 15:3,4; 1 Corinthians 10:6,11; 2 Timothy 3:16
3 2 Corinthians 9:7
4 2 Corinthians 8:12
5 Deuteronomy. 16:16,17
6 Exodus 23:15; 34:20; Leviticus 12:8; 14:21,22
7 Luke 12:1-4
8 James 2:5; 1 Timothy 6:17

2 thoughts on “Not Caught Red-Handed – Caught Empty-Handed

  1. Thank you for telling it just as the Word has spoken. I am amazed when brethren stand before us every Sunday and give the same little prayer calling for the blessings of the Lord upon those who are not able to give. There certainly is no one in this nation who is not capable of giving something, and most of us are capable of giving much more than we do. Shame on us for not calling our members to task and proclaiming that many of us are not pleasing the Lord by our lack of dedication to the Lord and His cause. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the thoughts. I suspect part of the problem involves first running up credit card debit for everything “I must have” and then having financial troubles. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit! Blessed is the person who learns to live within his means and gives to God first.

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