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Perspective on Generosity

At Red Tree we believe that the only way to understand money or any aspect of life is to view it through the lens of the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul discusses the effect the gospel should have on the way Christians understand wealth:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Seeing Christ's sacrificial love for us, that he gave up everything so that we could inherit the riches of heaven, helps us develop a healthy attitude toward our material possessions and become people who are both generous and joyful. Understanding the riches we have already received in Christ not only liberates us from excessive concern over our wealth, talents and time, but also motivates us to invest them in the eternal Kingdom of God.



Generosity: Generosity is the natural, consistent, and occasionally spontaneous giving of our material possessions to God’s service and to our communities because of and modeled after what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. As God “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32), so our posture toward God and others in response to his love should be one of cheerful sacrifice and generosity.

Stewardship: A steward is a person who has been entrusted with, and who manages, another’s resources according to the owner’s vision and values. Each of us was created for stewardship by God (Genesis 1:28). A steward is both a ruler with authority to govern resources and a slave accountable to the owner of those resources. The New Testament calls Christians caretakers of God’s truths and gifts — even God’s grace (1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Peter 4:10).

The biblical reasoning for the tithe: The word means “tenth.” In the Old Testament the tithe of the Israelites’ harvests was given to support the poor, to supply the priests and teachers, and to provide for the major festivals of worship and fellowship. (In fact, some scholars believe there were actually three tithes: a triennial tithe for the poor, and annual tithes for the priesthood and the festivals — 23 1/3% per year!)

The primary purpose of the tithe, however, is to confess and confirm our relationship with the Lord: He is the owner, we are the “tenant farmers.” He does not require 100% or 50% or even 33 1/3%, but only 10% from His “renters.” The tithe is a reminder to us that everything, including our very bodies, belongs to the Sovereign Lord.

Some might say, “I thought that tithing was an Old Testament requirement, and that we are now required by the New Testament simply to give cheerfully, generously, sacrificially, intentionally, and proportionately.” This is true, but it is only part of the truth. The full truth is that the Old Testament and the New Testament both teach tithing and also cheerful, generous, sacrificial, planned, and proportionate giving. Jesus chided the Pharisees for meticulously tithing their garden herbs (a relatively light matter), but ignoring justice, mercy, and faithfulness (weighty matters). His solution was not for the Pharisees to obey the weighty and ignore the light, but rather to obey both the weighty and the light matters of the law. The same is true for us today.

Perspective on giving 10% of gross vs. net income: Scripture teaches that we are to give back to God our “first fruits” (Exodus 23:16, 19). Proverbs 3:9 encourages us to “honor the Lord with our wealth, with the first fruits of our crops,” meaning the primary and choicest of our possessions. God has modeled “first fruits” by giving us his son, Jesus Christ. Our response to God should reflect our love of and devotion to him. Sometimes people ask, “Should I tithe on the gross income (before taxes) or the net income (after taxes)?” The answer seems clearly to be that we are commanded to tithe on our total personal earned income, whether it be a teenager’s baby-sitting money, a child’s allowance for chores performed, or a CEO’s multi-million-dollar income. The New Testament teaches that we should give as we are “able and even beyond our ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3). Therefore, the tithe (10%) is seen as a kind of minimum guideline for giving.

It’s more than money: We must be good stewards of all that God has given to us: money, time, skills, influence and position. Therefore, generosity and stewardship are about much more, but not less, than our financial resources. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our heart’s inclination is to worship anything other than God. Therefore, giving it away generously to God’s service can liberate us from our idolatry and fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

A joyful response to God’s grace: Paul asked for money this way: “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich.” (II Corinthians 8:8-9). Paul says that the difference between legalists (those who think God accepts them because of their good works) and Christians (those who know they are sinners saved by grace) is that a Christian wants to give as generously as he or she received. You always give effortlessly to those things that give your life meaning, to your functional saviors, to your bottom-line “gods.” So, “giving sacrificially” somehow becomes “giving joyfully.”



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