Thesis:The "grace/faith-function" of "giving" is the ability to meet needs at the material level.
Introduction:In our studies thus far in this paragraph, we have considered the fact that each of us has been granted "grace" for a particular activity that we are to make a primary focus of our lives. No one can do all things well, but everyone can do some thing particularly well if there is a willingness to believe God and make His agenda ours. We have considered some of the more "visible" and "vocal" grace/faith-functions, including prophecy, ministry, teaching, and exhortation.
This evening we are going to look into one or more of the less "visible" functions, and we are going to begin with "giving".
I. Jesus' Restriction Upon "Giving".
A. There are some "functions" that are necessarily "public" and, for that cause, make the person involved highly susceptible to the temptation to try to please men and garner their approval.
B. There are other "functions" that do not need to be "public" but are sometimes made such because the person involved is already committed to trying to be something in the eyes of men.
C. In Matthew's record of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spent a significant amount of effort in addressing this problem by highlighting three types of activities that are generally seen to be "impressive" to men and relegating them to almost total privacy.
1. The three are "giving", "praying", and "fasting" (Matthew 6:1-18).
2. Our attention for our current study is upon "giving".
a. Jesus commanded semi-privacy for "giving" in order to escape temptation.
b. The emphasis upon privacy is very strong in the command, "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."
c. However, there are some issues involved that cannot be completely private.
1) The recipient will know that a "gift" has been given, but most of the time the "gift" can be given anonymously (though this sometimes does keep the gift from total privacy).
2) In a culture like ours, there is the issue of whether one's "stewardship" of money should over-ride the "privacy" command because the government allows tax breaks on the basis of charitable gifts.
3) Even in "ministry" matters, it is often the "policy" of organizations to reveal both the gift and the giver to the recipient.
d. In all cases, there needs to be a careful consideration of whether the privacy issue can be maintained.
II. Paul's Alteration of the Old Testament Principles of "Giving".
A. "Tithing" is never taught to the churches in the epistles of the New Testament as the "basis" for "giving".
1. The reasons are several.
a. There were multiple Old Testament requirements upon the Israelites that, when added up, actually are said to have amounted to almost 30% of one's income and had primarily to do with the expenses of the Theocracy to which the Church has never been subject.
b. There was a radical shift from Law to Grace when the nation was demoted and the Church became the focus of God's agenda.
1) This means that God abandoned the principle of "necessity" in favor of the principle of grace-based "enthusiasm", making a formal "percentage of giving" obsolete.
2) This means that God puts His emphasis upon the condition of the heart/mind and does not accept "guilt-tripping" for the purpose of fund-raising.
3) This also means that men who proclaim "tithing" as God's ordained practice because their salaries and expensive agendas need funding are perverse.
4) And it means that available funds for desired projects may not be sufficient.
c. Grace-based giving will increase as the "proportion of faith" increases.
1) As "faith" increases, the materialism that is at the heart of unbelief will be exposed and de-fanged and there will be a significant increase in available funds because funds are no longer being used futilely.
2) As "faith" increases, even the cultural norms, that are a part of the most basic ways of thinking for the culture, will lose their grip on "believers" and make more funds available.
2. New Testament "giving" is generally grace/faith based, but is it particularly grace/faith based when it is the outworking of the "grace/faith-function" called "giving".
B. Paul taught the principles of grace-giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9.
1. The very first principle of such giving is "need-recognition": there is no need for giving when there is no need (professed "need", or visible "need", is not necessarily need).
2. The second principle of such giving is "sincere love" (8:1).
3. The third principle of such giving is "a willing mind" (8:12) that decides how much will be given (9:7) on the basis of certain principles.
a. Principle one: one is not supposed to "give" to those who have more than the giver (8:12-14).
b. Principle two: there is a direct correlation between sowing and reaping (9:6).
c. Principle three: no one is to "give" apart from "inner freedom" (9:7).
d. Principle four: God makes sure that those who give out of love will have what they need (8:14; 9:8-10; and Philippians 4:19).