What should my giving look like?

This is a question that many church members ask, probably some of your own. Fortunately, the Bible helps answer that very question. Woven throughout Scripture, we find some general principles that guide our generosity. Feel free to use these four principles the next time someone asks you this question.

Principle #1: Giving is to be a priority.

Proverbs 3:9 tells us that we are to give our first and our best. The terms “first fruits” and “first produce” communicate this. First fruits are the best and most desirable part of a harvest. And this is exactly what God requires of us.

Practically, how does this look for us today? Most of us receive a paycheck. When this paycheck hits, God gets the first portion of it—before taxes, before bills, before savings, before wants. We give a portion of our gross (before taxes) income. This is completely counterintuitive to our world, where generosity tends to take place with the leftovers.

Principle #2: Giving is to be done proportionately.

Many people in our churches are familiar with the word “tithe.” Tithe means 10%. Throughout Scripture we see the idea of proportional giving. Proportional, or percentage-based, giving means that you give according to what God has given you.

The most popular verse of proportional giving is Malachi 3:10-“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it'”. This is one of several times where God commands the Israelites to give a portion of their resources. In fact, some years, this amounted to around one-third of their “harvest.”

Could God have set a flat amount, say $1,000 per year, to give? Sure. But he chose to use proportional giving instead. Therefore, there should be a relationship between the amount God has given you and the amount you give.

Principle #3: Giving is to be done sacrificially.

Here is something that many do not like to hear—giving is not supposed to be comfortable. But this doesn’t mean that giving is not supposed to be joyful. In God’s economy, the amount sacrificed always supersedes the amount given. The joy comes from the sacrifice, not the number.

David understood this. He was presented with everything needed for a sacrifice, but he refused to take it without paying. In 2 Samuel 24:24 we read his refusal—”No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

We see how God delights in sacrificial giving in the story of the widow’s mite (Luke 21). Individuals were dropping off large sums of money at the temple, but it was the widow who gave two coins that Jesus pointed out. Why? Because everyone else was giving out of their abundance while she gave out of her poverty. God is not nearly as concerned about what is in the offering plate as he is with what’s left in the bank account.

Principle #4: Giving is to be done cheerfully.

No one eagerly receives a gift from a begrudging giver. God doesn’t want a bunch of grumpy givers. This is why 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (NIV). Cheerfulness doesn’t ignore the fact that real sacrifice is taking place, but it is finding happiness in the midst of sacrifice by looking past the immediate impact and toward the eternal impact.

What I love about these principles is that God didn’t just give them to us and say, “Go do.” Instead, He gives them to us and says, “I did.” God leads us in each one.

How does God lead in the prioritization of giving? He gave us His first and best, His one and only. He gave us Jesus.

How does God lead us in giving proportionately? God, the owner of everything, gave us a gift that could not be matched. He gave us Jesus.

How does God lead us in sacrificial giving? He allowed his Son to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. He gave us Jesus.

And how does God lead us in cheerful giving? We find this in Isaiah 53:10—”Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” In this verse, the Lord was pleased because of the ultimate sacrificial gift. God found pleasure because He saw the eternal outcome. And we can give cheerfully as well, even when our giving is sacrificial.

The Bible is not silent on the topic of generosity. Let these four principles guide your own giving and your teaching. Follow the lead of our generous God by prioritizing giving, giving proportionately, giving sacrificially, and giving cheerfully.