There is the story about a little boy who was hurrying to church services because he was running late. The story doesn’t explain why he was alone, or why he was hurrying. He had a quarter clutched in each hand. One quarter was supposed to go into the contribution plate, and the other was his. As he was hurrying, the boy stumbled and dropped one of the quarters. The quarter rolled into the street drain and disappeared. The little boy thought for a moment, and then said to himself, “Oops! There went the Lord’s quarter!”
The story is funny and most people laugh, but the point behind the story is very serious. How does a Christian view his, or her, giving? Where does giving to the work of the Lord fit into personal planning in terms of time and money? Should we even budget for our contributions to the Lord (both time and money)? When do we give enough? Can we give too much? How do we give cheerfully and yet give until “it hurts”?
As always, the answer to these questions can be found in the Bible. In the book of Exodus, God had given Moses instructions for the building of the Tabernacle. “Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece’” (Exodus 35:4-9 NAS).
Once the materials were gathered, skilled workmen from the people were going to fashion the items needed to establish the place and system of worship that would ultimately form Israel into a people and a nation. Then, starting at verses 20-21, Moses recorded, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel departed from Moses’ presence. Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments.”
Move forward to the time of Jesus. “And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling his disciples to him, he said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:42-44)
In the early days of the church in Jerusalem, Luke summarized what was happening in Acts 2:42-4: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
From these examples it becomes apparent that one of the expectations was for people to give from a willing heart. Many, like the widow, gave all they had. Others may have given less, but their contributions were still blessed because of the motivation behind their actions. Some, like Ananias and Sapphira, tried to falsely receive credit and their lies cost them their lives. The motives and not the amount condemned their actions.
Today, how much is enough? Christians can be found in all economic levels. Some have growing families and all the expenses that go with it. Others live on a fixed income. As prices go up, resources dwindle. Still others live comfortable lives, and wonder if they should do more or not. To answer this, consider children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews who are deeply loved and treasured. What financial, or time commitments, have been made for them? How many have taken in someone’s children because the parents had died or were unable to care for their children? Out of love, families have been willing to give whatever is needed to help another family. The key to any person’s commitment will be the depth of love and sense of responsibility that person feels.
Now, what about cheerful commitment and contribution to the Lord’s work? Well, the principle is the same. God loved mankind enough to allow his Son to be unjustly tortured to death for people who did not, and do not, deserve forgiveness. That is the fact. But in day-to-day living that fact becomes obscured by all the demands of life. Jesus warned that the anxieties of life and the deceitfulness of riches could choke out the Spirit.
The New Testament scriptures do not specify an amount for us to give. God expects Christians to give out of their love for him. Personal love leads to a cheerful giver, and God loves a cheerful giver. But it isn’t because he needs our contributions. He is not standing there with his hand out. No, in a small way, a Christian’s willingness to contribute to the Lord’s work is a measure of that person’s love for the Lord. Of course, there is much more to it than that. But if a Christian sees contributing as only a burden and duty, then what kind of understanding does that person have concerning the great blessing God has bestowed on His children through Jesus Christ?
Now, should Christians today sell everything, quit working and give it all to the church? Members of the church in Thessalonica decided that the Lord was going to come in a matter of days, and they quit working to await his arrival. Paul rebuked their actions in 2 Thess. 3:15. Christians are to act responsibly in their affairs. That means planning, setting goals and making a real commitment in serving Lord and supporting his work.
The title of this article is “How to Give Cheerfully and Until It Hurts”. But on careful reflection, the second part of that statement is misleading. Where deep abiding love exists, people will determine in their hearts what they can give based on that love. The actual amount given is immaterial. The motive behind the action is important. When Christian men and women truly realize the gift that God, the Eternal Creator of the universe, has given through Jesus Christ, when Christians embrace the real hope and promise of eternal life, then personal love for God deepens and the decision of giving cheerfully to the Lord’s work is not hard at all.