Do you have ownership in the Lord’s work?
By Don Ruhl
Who supports the work of the church, the rich or the poor? Have you heard of someone ruined by giving too much? Why do people tend to mention large contributions from the rich, but give no attention to the true sacrifices of the poor? Who will keep the church working? The rich or the poor? Do we see things as God sees them? The word of God will answer these questions or at least make us think about them.
Do Not Favor Those With Money
James 2 delivers a stinging rebuke to us for favoring the rich. We tend to favor them, believing they can help the church more than the poor. However, James revealed the truth that the rich often take us to task. They are the ones who persecute us! They are the ones who say everything the church does is wrong! They cover their own stinginess by criticizing us! “Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (Ja. 2:1–7). James asks why then should we be partial to the rich? It certainly does not stop their acid tongues.
Later, in James 5, he rebuked the rich. In chapter 2, he rebuked us for thinking the wealth of the rich can help us. Then he rebuked the rich for their selfish and lavish ways. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!” (Ja. 5:1–6). They were stingy toward others. They were stingy toward the Lord Jesus and His church.
Do not be impressed with a person’s wealth, nor be turned off by a person’s poverty, but look at a soul, whether rich or poor. If we touch that person with the Gospel, he will give as his heart moves him. Moreover, let us not favor the rich so that he will do our giving for us. Funding my home congregation is my obligation.
Abundance Versus Livelihood
“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood’” (Mk. 12:41–44).
Did the rich impress Jesus with their giving? No, they did not. Interestingly, He watched the treasury. Do you think He has quit doing that?
Look at the amounts the rich gave and a poor widow gave. The rich put in much. Their weekly giving probably exceeded everything the widow owned. They made the weekly contribution figure large. Yet, that did not impress Jesus. It did not cost them anything.
The poor widow put in two mites, which make a quadrans. Somehow the word “mite” tells me the amount did not equal very much. Some of your translations will tell you that the combination of the two copper coins she gave equaled a cent, or even less than that.
Someone says, “Ha! If everyone gave that amount, the church could not function!” They might argue further that we need the giving of the rich. Zechariah 4:10 tells us not to despise small things. Were the Israelites rich as slaves in Egypt? No, but somehow they escaped. Did Gideon have a large army to beat the Midianites? Was David a large experienced warrior when he fought Goliath?
Jesus said the widow gave more than the rich! How can that be? They gave out of their abundance. The widow gave her whole livelihood. Their giving did not hurt them. Her giving hurt her, sort of. In Matthew 6, Jesus said something that we know means God took care of her. Those who do as Jesus said in in Matthew 6, whether they are rich or poor, God takes care of them. The one who looks after the things of God, God looks after that person’s things. Jesus promised, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). The question is: Do we believe what Jesus said? Do I trust God to take care of me? The rich often do not. Many of the poor do not. Those who seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first do trust Him to take care of them, because they know He already takes care of them. They know that what they have, whether little or much, He gave it.
Deuteronomy 8 reminds us of the source of all that we have. Let those with money hear what Moses said, “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (De. 8:18). How can I show God that I remember who gives me the power to get wealth? I should reason like this. If He gave it in the first place, He can give it again. Do we believe that? Or do we believe we can out-give God?
Jesus did not make a vain promise in Luke 6 when He illustrated the super-generosity of God. Or do we believe His promises were only valid for first century Christians? If the promise He made He cannot fulfill now, why are we members of the church? Is it just a social club that we meet with every week? “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Lk. 6:38). God gives back to us generously, but watch the measuring cup He uses. Whatever measure we use, He uses to bless us. If I use a small measurement, He will take that measurement, fill it up, press it down, shake it together, and put in more so that it is running over and give it back to me. If I use a large measurement, He will take that measurement, fill it up, press it down, shake it together, and put in more so that it is running over and give it back to me. In both cases, God gives back more than what we gave. However, one gets back much more than the other.
In Second Corinthians 9, Paul repeated this very imagery. God always out-gives us, but He takes the measuring cup we used and with it gives back to us, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2Co. 9:6).
So then, am I expecting something, anything, from the Lord? Am I expecting big things? Is God expecting something, anything, from me? Is He expecting big things from me? He already gave us a big thing! In Second Corinthians 9, after two chapters of teachings on our weekly gift, Paul suddenly ended it with this magnificent declaration, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2Co. 9:15). What do you think Paul meant by that? Did he mean all the blessings we enjoy as Americans? That is what I hear most often after the Lord’s Supper, commemorating His death when we then take up the collection, interestingly. Men, we hear you say the motivation for giving is the blessing of living in America. Is that the “indescribable gift” Paul meant? No, Paul meant God has already given us a huge gift! You know the gift. How then can we give sparingly? Why do we want to see how little we can give?
Second Samuel 24 shows that David would not offer as a sacrifice to the Lord that which cost David nothing. What does that word “sacrifice” mean anyway? Does it mean to throw in the plate a small amount that merely says we have kept one of the five acts of worshiping together? Does sacrifice mean, “Here, Lord, I have kept your command to give”? David had sinned, bringing about the deaths of over 70,000 men in Israel. The man’s heart ached over what he had done. The Lord wanted a sacrifice. So He told David where to go and what to do. When he arrived at the location for the altar, the man who owned the property wanted to give it and the animals to David for the sacrifice. However, he said to the man, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” (2Sa. 24:24). Someone says, “If I ever commit a great sin, I will give generously as David did. Excuse me, but we have all sinned mightily before God, making us worthy of death, but God gave a huge sacrifice that we might live! He sacrificed for us. Can we sacrifice for Him?
Worship the Lord With a Gift
Here is why we should always worship the Lord with a gift. In Exodus 3, He told Israel that when they left Egypt, they would not go empty-handed, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed” (Ex. 3:21).
Therefore, we should not worship Him empty-handed. Did you know that the Bible says not to appear before the Lord empty-handed? “…none shall appear before Me empty-handed” (Ex. 34:20). “…they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed” (De. 16:16). That is the meaning of worship! How can I say I have worshiped the Lord if I do not bring a gift or my gift is stingy?
Therefore, do as First Corinthians 16 commands. Give every first day of the week. Some interpret this passage to mean to give only when you are prospered. No, Paul did not say that. We should give every first day of the week, and the amount we give every Lord’s Day we determine by the amount the Lord prospers us, “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (1Co. 16:2, NASB). The Lord runs the church on a weekly format, not monthly or annually. That is why we take the Lord’s Supper every week. That is why we should give every week. He did not merely say take up a collection every first day of the week, but give every first day of the week. If you only get paid once or twice a month, the first thing you should do is write checks or set aside cash for each Lord’s Day of that month. If you only give once or twice a month, then the other times you are appearing empty-handed. When you are out of town, leave your contribution or make it up upon your return.
We know God required the Jews to give 10%
What should Christians give? Should that be our standard? Should we give more or should we give less?
How Much Ought I to Give?
Give as you would if an angel
Awaited your gift at the door;
Give as you would if tomorrow
Found you where giving was o’er.
Give as you would to the Master
If you met His loving look;
Give as you would of your substance
If His hand your offering took.
If someone has to force us to give, our gift, regardless of its size, means nothing to God. If we want to know the amount because we want to give as little as possible, we should just keep the gift. It means nothing to God and He will find others to support His work.
The question is: do we think we have to give or do we want to give?
Second Corinthians 9 says it well. Picture how you want people to give to you. What kind of heart do you want people to have when they give something to you? Look at the heart of God when we give to Him, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Co. 9:7). What does God love? He loves a cheerful giver, not someone who does it with a regretful heart, and not someone who only gives because that person thinks he has to.
Psalm 32 tells us not to be like the stubborn mule. He gives because he is forced to give. When it comes to our weekly contribution, God does not want mule-Christians. He wants dog-Christians. Dogs want to give to their masters. Dogs love their masters and will do anything for them. “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Ps. 32:9). If you are a mule, repent. If you are a dog, enjoy God.
Are you ready to give? Give yourself that is? Not just give of yourself, but give yourself. Why are you waiting? God gave you His Son Jesus Christ! Give yourself to God through Jesus Christ. We give ourselves through Christ by following Jesus as His disciples.