In Mark 12, Jesus sat down to watch the people give their monetary offerings to the Temple. The numerous rich people gave large amounts from their immense wealth (Mark 12:41). However, Jesus noticed a humble widow who put all the money she possessed into the Temple treasury (Mark 12:42-44).
In context, the poor widow stands in stark contrast to the false religiosity of the teachers of the law, who made a great show of their outward signs of piety (Mark 12:38-40). The teachers of the law made sure they were seen by all people, but the unnoticed widow gave in secret and was seen by God (Mark 12:38, 43).
The poor widow is a great example of a woman who gave sacrificially to God out of faith without any expectation to be praised by mankind. Even today, her example continues to stand out because of the false but common idea of tithing ten percent and regulating the act of giving solely to the realm of finances.
Christians are not limited to only giving their money, but also can lovingly give away their time, talents, and possessions to others as well. Specifically, the Bible discusses giving money, and other resources, sacrificially, in faith, in secret, and from a spirit of love.
1. Giving Sacrificially
A commonplace tradition among churchgoers is to give ten percent of their income in the form of tithing. Many churches will also regularly discuss the importance of tithing, especially since God promises to bless those who offer up their tithe (Malachi 3:10).
However, what is not regularly mentioned is that tithing, in the biblical sense, was a requirement of the Mosaic Law (Numbers 18:26-29; Hebrews 7:5). Within this aspect of the Law, individuals were required to bring a tenth of all the crops they had produced, not money, to give to the Tabernacle and Temple (Deuteronomy 14:22).
The belief that Christians should be required to give ten percent is based on a faulty interpretation of the Bible and a failure to distinguish Old Testament Israelites from New Testament Christians. Believers are not under the Mosaic Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
Tithing was required for the Israelites but is not a command for Christians (Leviticus 27:30). Instead, the basis for New Testament giving is the sacrificial death of Christ, “that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV).
Christians are encouraged to give sacrificially as prompted by the Holy Spirit, which may mean giving less or more than the generic ten percent (2 Corinthians 9:7). Furthermore, believers are described in Scripture as giving willingly out of a spirit of joy and love, not because of obligation or because they are under “law” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Giving money to the church out of a spirit of obligation or compulsion is legalism, not biblical giving.
Also, the principle of giving sacrificially relates to serving others through one’s time, talents, and other resources such as possessions. When Jesus spoke about loving one’s neighbor as oneself, He told the story of the Good Samaritan, who gave his time, energy, and resources to help the poor man who had been beaten and left for dead (Luke 10:30-37). Thus, believers can give sacrificially with their money, but also with their other resources as well.
2. Giving in Faith
When Christians give sacrificially, there is a major element of faith involved. The poor widow trusted that God would provide for her when she gave all her money to the Temple treasury (Mark 12:44). Paul the Apostle also discussed giving in faith, as the church of Macedonia did when they gave generously out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
Instead of greedily grasping onto their finances, these individuals trusted in the Lord to provide for their needs. As David Mathis states in his book about spiritual disciplines, giving “is an opportunity to show, and reinforce, the place of faith in our hearts” (Habits of Grace, Crossway).
Generously providing for others, whether financially or by the giving of time and resources, also increases the faith of the giver. Jesus said that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Also, Christ also said, “Give and it will be given you,” meaning there is a blessing in giving to others (Luke 6:38).
This blessing is not necessarily a monetary reward, as is commonly asserted by people who promote the prosperity gospel. Instead, Christians who give freely and joyfully find that they are blessed by increased faith in Jesus and increased spiritual growth in their relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10-11).
Those who are rich in material goods will store up heavenly riches if they choose to be generous, “rich in good works,” instead of trusting in their earthly wealth (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Even those who are considered “poor” in terms of earthly money can still give generously and be blessed by increased faith, just like the poor widow who gave all she had in faith (Mark 12:43-44). Where a person, rich or poor, invests their treasure reveals the focus of their heart (Matthew 6:21).
3. Giving in Secret
In addition to giving sacrificially in faith, Scripture also discusses the importance of giving in secret. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He witnessed the hypocritical acts of the Pharisees, which included making a grand, public show of their financial gifts (Matthew 6:2).
God was not honored by the Pharisees’ self-exalting act of giving to others. Like all their religious acts, the Pharisees and teachers of the law deliberately did their good deeds before others to receive praise from men (Matthew 23:5).
In contrast to the self-exalting and prideful attitude of the Pharisees, Jesus encourages His disciples to give in secret, not allowing one’s left hand to know what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3-4). In this way, the only Person who witnesses the act of giving is the Lord.
Believers who give secretly are not trying to impress others, but rather are lovingly giving to others in the sight of their beloved God. Practicing giving in secret will help believers to avoid the temptation of religious pride and instead give from a pure motive out of love for and faith in God.
The Essence of Giving
Within all aspects of biblical giving (sacrificially, in faith, and in secret), the attribute which should tie them all together is love. Paul describes the importance of love when giving by stating, “Even if I give away everything that I have and sacrifice myself, but have no love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3, ISV). Truly, without love, giving is useless. Just as Jesus sacrificed His life because of His love for people (John 3:16), so also should Christians give to others out of a spirit of love.
Scripture indicates that a love for God will overflow into a love for others (Mark 12:30-31). Those who do not love others cannot claim to love God (1 John 4:20). Furthermore, individuals cannot claim to be followers of Christ and ignore those who are without food or clothing (James 2:14-16).
Loving others because of an intense love for the Lord should motivate believers to give to others, including food, clothing, or other resources. As 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (NIV). Thus, the essence of giving is love, which reflects Christ’s loving sacrifice on the cross.
The Importance of Giving in Light of Grace
Giving is mentioned throughout the Bible and is an essential aspect of the Christian life. In Scripture, believers are encouraged to give sacrificially, by faith, in secret, and through a spirit of love for God and others. While many churches and Christians regularly teach that believers are under the obligation of the tithe, the Bible states otherwise.
Believers are to give cheerfully and joyfully as they have decided in their heart, which may mean more or less than ten percent of their income. At the heart of Christian giving is the grace of Christ, who gave all to redeem those who place faith in Him. Based on love and gratitude for such great grace, believers should be willing to give generously to others from their finances, time, resources, and unique gifts.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
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