How Can You Make an Impact in God’s Kingdom if You Don’t Have Much to Give?
It’s tricky business teaching about biblical generosity. For some people, the topic is a complete turn-off. Maybe they were raised in a legalistic church that demanded payment of the tithe with all the grace and good humor of an IRS agent demanding payment of their taxes. For others, it seems the only time their church says anything about money it’s in an effort to get people to give more. Add to all of that some challenging personal financial circumstances and it’s no wonder generosity can be such a touchy topic!
So, let’s take a brief look at what the Bible teaches about generosity and then consider what to do when money is tight.
The Bible says we were made in God’s image, and God is endlessly generous. After all, He gave us His Son! That means we were designed to live generously. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. It’s no surprise, then, that countless secular studies have found that the most joyful people are generous people. It is, indeed, more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Still, giving money away is both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. So, it’s helpful that the Bible provides some guidelines, such as giving 10 percent of any “increase” (Proverbs 3:9, KJV), which means any money flowing into our lives. Ten percent, or a “tithe,” is where God started his Old Testament followers (Leviticus 27:30).
Jesus affirmed the practice of tithing in Matthew 23:23, while at the same time strongly emphasizing that giving is not to be about following a rule but a matter of the heart.
Does that sound like a lot?
When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 29, the idea of tithing felt overwhelming. I was not in the habit of giving money away. Plus, I was deep in debt, which made it seem impossible to give. So, I started where I could and worked my way up to giving at least 10 percent.
Taking 10 percent of your income as a gift might feel too much for you. I would ask you whether ‘you don’t’ have any money to give or because you’re’ not used to giving away money.
If you’re out of work, there is no “increase,” so there is no expectation of giving. If you do have income but things are very tight, I would encourage you to give something and to determine the amount based on a percentage of your income. This is a biblical principle we find in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 16:17) and the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:2). Then increase that percentage over time.
Giving when money is tight has many blessings
A couple I know spent many years paying off debt that one of them brought into the marriage. They could have concluded that they couldn’t afford to give. But they were committed to living generously, even though giving while paying off debt meant they had to rent an apartment rather than buy a house.
It wasn’t easy. They saw many friends buying homes and wanted to buy a home, too. After finally getting out of debt, when they looked back they realized that if they had bought a house when they wanted to, it would have been at what turned out to be the peak of the housing market. In their faithful giving, they saw God’s protection over their finances.
Giving is an opportunity
Whatever your situation, I would encourage you to see giving as an opportunity to join with God in some of his life-changing, eternity-shaping work, such as caring for the poor (Proverbs 19:17), supporting teachers of God’s Word (Galatians 6:6), and furthering the spread of the Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20).
Of course, God doesn’t need money from us in order to accomplish His purposes. He wants our hearts, and He wants us to experience the joy of generosity. Even in seasons when we can only afford to give very little, He uses that generosity, that desire to partner with Him, to conform our hearts evermore to His, and to help us “take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
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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.