Times are tough, with many people out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For faithful givers, it can be a time of uncertainty or even guilt. The desire to invest in God’s Kingdom work is running hard up against the realities of new financial challenges.
But it’s also a time of opportunity—to help people, perhaps as never before, understand God’s teaching and His heart on generosity.
For those with no income
All around us, we see needs. People have lost their jobs or live with the very real, very frightening possibility that their job could be next.
For those who are out of work, a good starting point is to help them understand that biblical generosity is based on an increase—that is, money coming into our household.
“Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase.” – Proverbs 3:9 (NKJV).
If there is no increase because you’ve lost your job, there is no expectation of giving. This is a season of life to receive, and to feel no shame in accepting help. It’s how the church was designed to operate.
For those with less income
Others may still have money coming into their household, but it’s less than before because of a forced reduction in hours or salary.
Biblical teaching on generosity never suggests that everyone is to give the same dollar amount. Instead, giving is designed to be proportionate. It’s a principle from the Old Testament.
“Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 16:17
And it’s a principle from the New Testament.
“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” – 1 Corinthians 16:2
The historical biblical starting point for generosity is the tithe, or 10% of income.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” – Leviticus 27:30
When Jesus was asked about tithing, He affirmed the practice while also cautioning against taking a cold, legalistic approach to giving; He wants our hearts involved.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” – Matthew 23:23 (NLT)
One of the practical realities of proportionate giving is that a reduction in income will lead to a reduction the amount given. That’s understood. However, for some who have seen their income reduced, the financial pressures are so great that maintaining a tithe level of giving truly isn’t possible, and that can be especially challenging for generous Christ-followers.
They rightly see giving as an act of worship and don’t want to miss out, but at the same time they understand their responsibility to provide for their family. In that situation, the principle of the choice gift, which can be seen in the experience of Cain and Abel, can be an encouragement. Abel’s gift was acceptable to the Lord, whereas Cain’s was not. There’s no mention of amounts in this story. The emphasis is on an attitude of the heart.
So, encourage people to give something. It might be a very small actual amount, but it also might be the choicest gift given this Sunday.
For those with more
In this strange and challenging season, there’s another group of people in your church who are actually in better financial shape than ever. They still have their jobs, and because they’re spending less on vacations, entertainment, and kids activities, they have more margin than usual.
They, too, represent an opportunity for solid teaching on biblical generosity. The early church presented a very powerful model of what it can look like for those who are financially strong to come along side those who are financially vulnerable.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” – Acts 2:44-45
For people who are in good shape financially, this may be an especially good time to take the next step on their journey of generosity.
Money is on people’s minds as never before right now. While the stock market has been surprisingly strong of late, the economy is still very weak. No one knows how it’s all going to play out or when life may return to some semblance of normalcy.
It’s a perfect time to boldly teach the timeless Truths of God’s Word on money, reminding people of the blessings God promises to those who not only hear His Word but who do what it says (James 1:22-25).
Matt Bell is the author of four Biblical money management books published by NavPress. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.