By Susie Kearley
It’s great when Christians are able to give lots of money to the church and other good causes. But don’t dismay if you’re unable to give as much as other people. God rejoices in modest gifts as well as large ones, and Jesus said that the attitude with which you give is more important than the amount proffered.
When a widow dropped a couple of copper coins into the collection box at the temple, Jesus said that she’d given more than everyone else because it was “all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44). Some of the larger donors lived very comfortably, so their giving, while still appreciated, represented less of a sacrifice. This shows that a small, sacrificial gift is valued by God, and the story emphasizes the important role of attitude in Christian giving.
Yet we can all learn to tithe and honor God with our money through careful budgeting. Joyful and sacrificial giving pleases God, regardless of the amount given.
It’s amazing if you’re in a position to give large sums to church projects, but Matthew 6 says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (v. 1). It continues, that giving should be done in secret.
Our giving should never be motivated by what others think. If pride or self-assurance are driving our giving, then we need to examine our motives, as giving should be about humbly giving back to God what he first gave us, not to show other people how well we are doing.
As Christians we should strive to honor God with everything we have. Even small gifts are valued, and acts of sacrificial kindness help too. Giving your coat to a homeless person can make a big difference to the individual involved. Offering a warm smile and a listening ear to someone who’s had a bad day or giving your time and energy to help a neighbor—these can all help spread the love of God in your local community. An attitude of giving and generosity extends beyond your bank balance.
In terms of cold hard cash, most people should be able to find a way to set something aside for God. His Word promises blessings on earth, and rewards in Heaven for those who are generous. But there’s no need to feel any less of a person if you only have a modest income and cannot give as much as others in your church. If you feel you want to give more but haven’t got the means, perhaps you could complement your monetary contribution with a contribution of additional time and talent. Why not volunteer to do more things for the church, saving them a few dollars because they don’t have to pay someone else to do it?
Budgeting on a modest income can be tricky, but if you’re careful and make giving a priority, you’ll be able to find some money for God. Make a list of your expenses when you get paid. After taxes and rent/mortgage, see what other costs you’re incurring that are unnecessary or can be reduced. A great approach is to prioritize putting some money aside for God, and then seeing what else you can afford.
Here are some ideas to save money: Can you turn the heating down a few degrees or switch it off earlier in the evenings? Do you need to heat the whole house equally? Are you leaving lights on without thinking? Do you boil a full kettle when you only want one cup? Do you leave appliances on standby? Do you have expensive habits, like smoking, that could be reduced or stopped altogether? Are you buying clothes you don’t need? upgrading equipment before the old one’s broken? going out for many meals or drinks with friends? indulging in beauty treatments? taking expensive holidays?
Are you living a normal Western lifestyle? Then there are areas of waste where you could save money by living more sustainably, entertaining at home, reducing fuel consumption, and reducing waste. (Being careful in these areas is also good for the environment, which is something that we can care about.) Whether you forgo a holiday in order to help fund a church project or give generously to someone in need, God will reward you with his blessings, whether that’s peace of mind, contentment, or rewards in Heaven.
If finances are tight, then reviewing your spending priorities and postponing the purchase of nonessential items might be helpful. Questioning where your money goes will help you move into a position where you feel able to sacrifice more of your income to support God’s work. Do you dismiss small expenditures as insignificant? Do your math and you’ll find out that small expenditures add up. For example, you can save a small fortune over time by making coffee at home rather than buying it from a coffee shop.
Review any regular monthly payments leaving your bank account. Are all the purchases really essential? What could you live without? Are you indebted to a credit card company that charges high interest rates? Consider transferring the balance to a zero-interest rate card for the year ahead. Why waste money on paying interest if you don’t need to? Seek out the best deals and switch to get the best rates.
We like to think that we work hard and are financially independent, but actually everything we earn comes from God, so our tithing is only giving back some of what God has given us. “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14). This is a sobering thought for anyone who thinks they’re being generous by putting money in the offering plate. It’s a small fraction of the wealth that God has first given us. God does approve of us honoring him with hard work, but our financial success doesn’t make us independent of him. It should actually make us more grateful.
Someone on welfare who puts coins into the collection box on Sunday is arguably more generous in God’s eyes than a successful businessman who writes a fat check to the church every month. The person on welfare might be struggling to pay the bills but still manages to give something.
While the Old Testament’s figure of 10 percent is often used as a guide for tithing, the New Testament puts emphasis instead on cheerful giving and generosity. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
As Christians, we should be thinking about how to honor God with our wealth and our lives. So pray about your giving and ask for guidance. Perhaps then, if you get a pay raise at work, you’ll ask God how he wants you to use the money. With dedication our giving, spending, and saving can all become a part of our journey in faith.
Susie Kearley is a British freelance writer and journalist, working for magazines, newspapers, and book publishers around the world.