“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8, NRSV)
When it comes to giving financially to God, what does God want us to give? Some would say that God expects a tithe—10% of our income. See Leviticus 27:30-33 for a description of this standard. Ann and I practice tithing because we feel this is what God has directed us to give as a minimum gift. But giving 10% simply because that’s what it says in the Bible may not be the best method for our spiritual development. Something is missing if we give 10% only out of obligation.
So, what does God expect us to give? God expects us to give according to our gratitude for the gifts he has given us. We probably won’t feel compelled to give if we think God hasn’t given us much. Yet, suppose we recognize how much God provides for us through creation, our families, our friends, our church, our ability to work in a career (or retire from it!), and especially, through the gift of salvation. In that case, we’ll have the motivation to give generously and sacrificially.
I hope you approach the next several weeks with intensive listening for God to help you decide what percentage of your income God wants you to share with the church. If you respond faithfully, you will learn about a life of generosity that may surprise you. Giving as God directs will challenge you to grow as a follower of Jesus Christ. This practice of listening for God’s direction will increase confidence in your giving, resulting in a gift that unleashes the power of joy in your life.
For some, God may direct you to tithe. For others, it may be an increase over your giving last year that is still less than a tithe. For others, it may be less than last year because of a change in your financial situation. For others, it may be an increase to more than a tithe because you are in a different place financially and spiritually. I hope every gift given to First United Methodist Church of Florence comes from a heart of joy; these are the only gifts God expects us to give.