Guests: Bruce Toews and Brant Berglin
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Cor. 9:6, 7; Deut. 16:17; Ps. 116:12–18; 1 Chron. 16:29; Mark 12:41–44; Mark 14:3–9.
The lesson this week considers the many and various offerings mentioned in the Bible that were given in addition to tithe. In other words, tithing was considered a very basic thing in the Bible with generosity being calculated by what was given in addition to the tithe.
The matter of generosity is a very interesting one. Those who are generous particularly in their giving of money to good causes, often tell of the great joy that comes to them as a result of their actions. And those who are penurious are often found to be very worried about their money. But in spite of this, it seems to be very difficult for humans to be generous, particularly in the giving of money.
- Why do you think it is so hard for humans to be generous with their money?
Whenever the subject of generosity arises, the question of what motivates a generous spirit comes into play. Just what is it that motivates someone to be generous? The answer to this question is probably multifaceted because some generosity is driven by a desire to be recognized. Such seems to have been the case with at least some of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, reflected in the comments Jesus made in Matthew 6:1-4. Jesus told his followers that, when giving to the poor, do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, a saying that remains part of common parlance even today.
On other occasions, generosity is motivated by the desire to appease the gods or some powerful entity in human life. This is manifestly not to be a part of the Christian’s life, for God is not a being who seeks to be appeased, at least not by money or grand gifts. God rejoices in the existence of contrite and pure hearts that are inclined toward following after Him. This leads to what must be the best motivation for generosity in the life of a Christian, and that is giving as a response to the goodness and love God has manifested to humans. Generosity is also a testimony to the fact that the giver trusts that God will care for him or her, that money is not the source of security in any absolute sense.
As has been noted both by testimony and experience, money is only useful as it provides for the necessities of life, provides for the needs of others, and advances the cause of God. The usefulness of other monies is largely wasted. This little observation is worthy of a lot of careful consideration by those who have assets that amount to more than what they need for daily living.
In light of this, Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians is very interesting, as it is found in 2 Cor. 9: 6-10. He encourages generosity, saying that God rewards a generous spirit, that being generous is a sign that a person has entrusted their well-being to God. He also says that everyone should give as they have decided in their own hearts.
It should also be said that giving is a reliable antidote to selfishness. Selfishness is something all humans struggle against. And giving away money, which in many parts of the world is the currency by which life is enabled, is a sure antidote to selfishness.
One of the interesting things found in the Bible is that the giving of monetary gifts, bringing tithes and offerings to a worship service and giving them as part of the service has been a part of the worship service since very early on in recorded history. Giving such offerings has long been considered to be an act of worship.
The discussion of offerings and generosity cannot be concluded without a few moments of consideration of the stories of the widow’s gift at the temple, two little coins called mites that Jesus noted as a very generous offering because the rich gave out of their abundance but the widow gave everything she had (Mark 12:41-44), and the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet with the very expensive ointment or perfume (Mark 14:3-9), a story that Jesus said would be repeated in perpetuity.
- What might we learn from these two stories?