No one argues that miserliness is an admirable character trait. The national convention of Ebeneezer Scrooge urging Americans to be less generous doesn’t exist.
Many perceive one of America’s strongest virtues to be generosity. There is some evidence for this. News reports gushed that over $471 billion was given to charity in 2020, the highest recorded number on record in U.S. history. That’s a huge amount of money. But that number represents a mere 2% of the US’s GDP, which stood at $20.94 trillion in 2020.
2% hardly seems a number to hang on our wall. What about Christians? Unfortunately, we do little better, giving approximately 3% of our income to charity. And fewer than 5% of Christians tithe.[ii] Generosity isn’t graded on a curve.
Most disappointingly is the self-deception of Christians. 17% of Christians report tithing despite the actual number of 5%. Worse still, 10% of those who claimed they tithe actually gave less than $200 to charity.[iii]
The Second Reason to Give
Paul would have something to say about this. In this series, we are exploring the reasons Paul says that we should be generous. The first reason was that giving is a grace; it is a gift offered to us by God.
Paul’s second reason is found in 2 Corinthians 8:8, Paul urges, “I say this [that you ought to participate in the grace of giving] not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.”
Paul’s second reason for giving is that our giving proves that we love Jesus.
That ought to catch our attention. The ledger of my giving is the proof of my love of Christ?
What About Legalism?
Wait a second, you might say. Isn’t this legalism? It isn’t. Just as the fruits of the Spirit don’t save us, but prove the authenticity of Christ’s work in us, so too does our generosity prove the authenticity of our love of Jesus.
Consider: you have a friend struggling with depression. You sit down on the couch after a long day of work, turn on Netflix, and your friend starts sending you frantic texts: “Help!” “Please call me.” “Please call. I’m in a dark place.” “Please call. I’m struggling with suicidal thoughts.” You silence your phone, flip it over, and keep watching your show. Do you love your friend?
Consider: you effusively tell your wife you love her frequently, but you never arrive home when you say you will. You can’t remember the last time you vacuumed, dusted, or folded laundry. And your anger gets the best of you every couple of weeks, leading to curse-laced tirades directed at her. Do you love your wife?
Consider: you sing lullabies over your baby and tell her you love her every night. But she screams herself to sleep some nights from hunger because you sometimes cash your check and buy meth instead of formula. Do you love your baby girl?
So it is with giving.
Do Your Finances Prove You’re a Christian?
Consider: you go to church, you serve as an usher, but your giving is throwing a $20 in the giving box every now in then. If you ever took time to crunch the numbers, you would find you give 2% of your income. Do you love Christ?
God’s request that Israelites tithe in the Old Testament was not just a call for Jews to give 10% of their income, but for those who trusted him to give their first 10% to him. It was a declaration that all they had was his and a mark of trust that they did not trust their own hard work, but the faithfulness of the God who owned the cattle of a thousand hills.
Does our giving reflect this kind of ultimate trust in God for his provision? Does it prove that we have submitted control of our hearts, our lives, and our finances to him?
If we claim to be Christians and are stingy, we need to look in the mirror and ask if we really are Christians. Have we been changed by God’s generosity? Do we really believe the first reason: that generosity is a grace, an opportunity, given to us by our Savior?
Let’s prove our faith with our generosity.