How much should I give? Is there a percentage, an amount, a formula or something else?
“How much” is a question we all ask. We ask it every time there’s an offering at church, a fund-raising dinner for a ministry, or a support letter in our inbox. It’s something husbands and wives talk about and decide upon. So how does God want us to think through this?
A Question For A Question
Sometimes the best questions are answered with a question. Jesus did this. When the chief priests and scribes questioned him about his authority he said, “I also will ask you a question…” (Luke 20:3)
And I think Jesus does this with our giving too. In his word, he poses questions that we must answer in order to determine how much we should give.
8 Questions About Giving
1. How much fruit do you want to bear? God gives us the choice to live fruitful lives, actually abundantly fruitful lives. His question to us is: What kind of harvest do you want?
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
2. How much treasure in heaven do you want? At first this might sound strange to think of us having treasure in heaven. We typically think of heaven like a socialist government with standard issue robes and row houses, but Jesus compels his followers to live for heaven and it’s unique rewards by being wise stewards now.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
3. How many friends do you want to make for eternity? Jesus says that the people of this world chase money, but his people should use money to chase people. Money won’t last forever, but people will. What’s the better investment?
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9)
4. How much would help you remember this world is not your home? The Bible says Christians are pilgrims in this world. We’re passing through on our way home to our true country, to the city whose designer and builder is God. But we often forget this and think if only we had a little bit more money and could fix up the house and get life settled the way we want it, than we’d be home. But funding God’s kingdom instead of ours, reminds us of our true home.
“Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)
5. How much would you have to give to make sure you’re not idolizing your family?Throughout the four gospels we see that Jesus confronts two common idols: money and family. Instead of investing in God’s kingdom now, we tie up huge fortunes to secure our children and grandchildren in the future. While I understand that it’s natural and loving to provide, Jesus reminds us to live for our Father’s heavenly kingdom and trust our Father’s heavenly provision.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
6. How much would you have to give to make sure you are depending on God and not yourself? There are so many books on passive income and getting out of the rat race because many of us harbor a secret ambition to not need God or anyone else. We want to stand alone and be financially independent to be able to do what we want to do. But Jesus told a story of a rich man who did this and how foolish it turned out to be.
“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:18-21)
7. How much will it cost to do the good works God has called you to do? Once God saves you by his grace and gives you the gift of salvation from sin, he then employs you in his service. It’s not generic employment, but specific work, indeed good works he’s made you and saved you to do. Too often we ask the question, “How much should I give?” when a better question is, “What are the good works God has called me to do?” When we know what good works God has called us to do, we give whatever it costs to accomplish them.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
8. How much did Jesus give? Our ultimate pattern for giving is neither the Old Testament laws about tithing or even the early church’s model of selling property and sharing with all who were in need. Our chief example is our Lord Jesus. Our model is to look at how much Jesus gave and then seek to be conformed into his likeness. The Bible says this about Jesus’ generosity:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
“The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Once we get clarity on these eight questions, God will lead us in how much we should give.