The following is an excerpt from a booklet on generous giving published by Wipf and Stock.
Under which category in the Church would you place the act of giving? Under financial stewardship? Maybe. Perhaps filed under “Things I know we have to do, but hate to talk about”? What would you say if I told you that the Bible teaches us that giving is simply on a par with singing hymns and praying and offering thanks?
Let us give attention to God’s Word, first from Philippians 4.10-20.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
[All Scripture is from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.]
Remember going to the fair as a child? Remember the color and the strangeness of it all? And remember the “Carnies” trying to prod you to come spend your money at their amusement? These cartoon-looking characters would say, “Step right up,” and then promise you one of those big, cuddly stuffed bears if you would only plop down your quarters and dollars. Then you would give in and lose it all, feeling like a complete sucker. But as you watched the Carnie spinning his pitch for the next unsuspecting victim, you just felt like yelling, “Watch out! This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!”
May I make a confession to you? I have felt like that when I watch certain religious television shows trying to get my money. They promise prayer cloths and special blessings, if you will just “step right up.” So, you send a check and you know what happens. The blessing is all…theirs. And you? You become just another pretty name on a mailing list. The whole business of fund raising in churches can get out of hand.
From the position of a pastor, I hate it. I detest seeing the Church act like a carnival side show, enticing people into the booth with promises of special blessings, if you will “just give.” But my concern-and maybe yours-should not cause us to miss an important truth: the Church has the obligation to look to her people for tithes and offerings to advance the Kingdom of God. And each of us is obliged to give. But giving in the Bible is not just an annual appeal; giving in the Bible is an act of worship.
This truth is taught in several places in Scripture, but one of the clearest examples is found in Philippians 4.18. In one statement, Paul brings together all of the teaching of giving in the Bible and tells the congregation at Philippi, who had supported Paul, that giving is, in fact, an act of worship. Speaking of their giving, Paul writes, “It is an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” (v.18)
Giving is an act of worship to God. It may be supporting the work of the local church, it may be sending out missionaries, it may be planting churches, it may be helping to support seminarians who are preparing for the Gospel ministry, it may be cutting on the lights of the sanctuary week in and week out so the Gospel may be proclaimed, but we must see that it is something more than this: it is first and foremost an act of worship.
The full message is available as Giving as an Act of Worship and available through major online bookstore distributors or through your local bookstore. This message has been used in stewardship awareness Sundays and in small group studies.