“Every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.” (Numbers 5:9)
“Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)
In addition to helping the poor, widows, and orphans, we are to contribute to the expenses and work of the church, including financial assistance to our leaders, missionaries, projects, emergency relief, and church operational expenses, to name a few typical categories of need. Many Christians adhere to the tradition of giving ten percent of their income to the church on a regular basis, as a tithe, although there is no commanded to this effect in Scripture. However, the principle of giving our best and first-fruits to God, with a thankful heart is compelling. The first example of offering firstfruits is found in Genesis where Cain’s offering is rejected by God (Genesis 4:5). Most study Bibles offer clarification; “At no point does the Bible suggest that offerings work automatically as if the worshiper’s faith and contrition did not matter; and Cain’s fundamentally bad heart can be seen in his resentment toward his brother and in his uncooperative answers to God in the rest of the passage. Several NT texts derive legitimate inferences from this narrative, namely, that Cain demonstrated an evil heart by his evil deeds, while Abel demonstrated a pious heart by his righteous deeds (1 John 3:12); and that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith and was commended as righteous for that reason (Heb. 11:4).” *
Of course, it is our heart-attitude that is important in all our “works,” including financial offerings to the church. Offering begrudgingly or out of compulsion (to follow the law) will not be pleasing to God. The challenge is to give back to the Lord with an open hand and a happy heart. This is especially important when giving to the work of our local churches since no one will thank you for your gift! We are expected to give if we want to have a place of worship and ministry for the Lord. If you are the kind of person, who expects recognition or a “thank you” every time you do something for someone, you may be terribly disappointed with your church. Apparently Cain expected God to appreciate his less-than-gracious offering, but instead, the Lord refused it. God did not strike down Cain as if he were utterly rejected. Unfortunately, Cain could not see God’s grace–speaking to him personally, instructing him in the right way to offer a gift. Instead, in his covetousness of Abel, he fell to the sin of murder and was then rejected by the Lord, sent away from his presence.
When he wrote to the believers in Philippi, Paul did thank them for their generous and pleasing missionary support. “It was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again…I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:14-18)
Does your financial giving reflect the appreciation you have for Jesus Christ and the gospel ministry of your church? Is there anything more you can or should give to your church’s staff?
* ESV Study Bible Notes (digital edition), Crossway, 2008, Genesis 4:5-6.