Key Words That Should Describe Our Giving


During my teenage years, I remember people joining the church who promised to give “willingly, regularly, and proportionally.” Hearing these words during that formative time in my life caused them to be three main principles that I believe should guide our giving as Christians. I have since discovered some other important words that should describe our giving; for example, generously, sacrificially, and joyfully. Let me explore the biblical basis and background for each of these principles.

Giving is something that we choose to do and not something we are forced to do. This is why we say a church “receives” our tithes and offerings and does not take it! The Apostle Paul makes this point about the willingness of our giving and offerings in his words to the Corinthians. He does not command them to give, but instead wants the giving to be done as a result of their own desires (2 Corinthians 8:8). He further states that each one should give what he has decided in his heart (2 Corinthians 9:7) and that he desires for their gift to be known as a “willing gift’ (2 Corinthians 9:5). This is a principle that appears throughout the Bible, as the people of Israel gave willingly for the temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:14). Giving is something that we need to commit our wills to do.

Paul also speaks about people setting aside funds on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). This reflects the idea that our giving should not be sporadic or random but should occur on a regular basis. How often? Especially in light of the next principle, it would seem this should happen at least as often as you are paid.; if we aren’t paid each week, we don’t necessarily have to give each week. However, we should make it a point to give each time from the firstfruits of our lives. The regular practice of giving allows our hearts to be transformed and to worship God.

The regular offerings that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 16:2 were to be “as [one] prospers,” pointing to the fact that the amount of the offering should be reflective of what one has earned. We see a similar practice in Acts 11:29, as people gave “according to their ability.” In the Old Testament, the proportion of giving was 10% (actually even more than that when you look at the whole picture). It would seem that this stands as the baseline we should use when we think about a proportionate way of giving (for more on this idea of tithing, see our last post). 

Not only do we see God’s people giving according to their ability, at times we see them giving beyond their ability – such as the church in Macedonia that Paul uses as an example when he writes to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:3). In fact, Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians include a call to sow bountifully or generously so that one may reap in the same way (2 Corinthians 9:6). We should not be stingy and give only the bare minimum, but rather, we should be marked as generous people, mimicking the generosity of the God we can never outgive. As we give generously, we see Him providing for us time and time again – so that we might continue to give and grow in generosity (2 Corinthians 9:8, 10-11). This principle might mean that as we receive more, we should give an even greater proportion – being generous with our abundance. We should continue to tithe, but in addition, we can give more in the form of freewill offerings (something people did in the Old Testament as well – how much more should we!). 

God does not just give generously – He also gives sacrificially in that Jesus died for us, giving up his riches and becoming poor so that we might receive the riches of God in the gospel (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our giving should lead us to sometimes not being able to buy something we desire or do something we want because we have said yes to giving; like David, our offering should cost us something (1 Samuel 24:24). 

While people are often recognized and even applauded for the size of their gifts, at times those who give much may not actually be giving sacrificially. They may have so much money that they can give without really sacrificing anything (and might even gain social capital or a tax write-off…allowing them to get more!). Those individuals are like the rich people who gave in large sums in the temple treasury. Jesus did not applaud them as they gave from abundance while the widow gave out of sacrifice (Mark 12:41-44). As we give sacrificially, we recognize that the treasures we are storing up in heaven are better than the treasures on this earth (Matthew 6:19-20), paving the way for us to experience true life (1 Timothy 6:17-20). When was the last time we had to say no to something in life because we had given away our money to God and His work?

Giving should not be seen as a duty that we grudgingly do or resent – like paying taxes or other sorts of expected fees. It should be a great joy, one that we enjoy even more than receiving (see Acts 20:35). We should give joyfully and in return, will lead to an even more cheerful spirit (2 Corinthians 9:7).The offering should not be the low point of a church service for us but be a highlight as we have the opportunity to give back to God!

One Final Word
I don’t like to have lists of six – I’ll either try to make them five or seven since those numbers have special significance in the Bible. Thus, I felt compelled to find one more word in addition to: willingly, regularly, proportionately, generously, sacrificially, and joyfully. I struggled a bit for the right word to reflect Paul’s instructions in 2 Corinthians 8-9: “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.” This means that we shouldn’t just talk about giving or even have the desire to do it…but that we should do it; we should follow through on these principles and on giving these gifts. The best word I could come up with is “actually.” Let us not just talk about these principles, but may we actually be people who give willingly, regularly, proportionately, generously, sacrificially, and joyfully. When we do so, I think we will become people who excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7). May we follow these seven principles so that we too might be found excellent in our giving.

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