Scripture provides a general framework for understanding giving and the responsible stewardship of resources. It also reveals specific instructions, such as those employed by Paul in leading the early church. Scripture teaches that giving should be:
Personal and generous. Mary of Bethany, sister of the recently resurrected Lazarus, relinquished a very expensive bottle of perfume in what Jesus commended as an overt act of worship. Her behavior evidenced a premeditated plan to give in a creative way that bestowed great honor and expressed thanksgiving to God. Don’t let fear of man, nor the reprisal of those not involved in your decision, hold you back from giving what God asks of you.
Voluntary and full of cheer. Giving of a “free will” arises from hearts that are stirred to participate, to fuel momentum, to worship. Paul reminds the early church to “give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Spiritual joy prompts a desire to give much, despite natural circumstances of lack: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Consistent and according to blessing. Paul gave simple instructions to the church at Corinth. “Each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers,” he taught them, “so that no collections will need to be made when I come.” In his second letter to that same group, he exhorts them to remain steady. “Now finish the work,” he writes, “so that your eager willingness… may be matched by your completion… according to your means.”
Sacrificial. King David declared, “I will not sacrifice that which costs me nothing.” So the real question is not if we bring a sacrifice, but rather when we do, at what cost will it be to our comfort, convenience, and control? What is the state of our heart in the process? Paul recognizes true sacrifice in the early believers at Corinth: “In the midst of a very severe trial they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”