It was during lunchtime on a Friday when one of my co-workers asked how much I donate to the church. Although a little surprised at the question, I replied that 15% of my gross income goes to donations. Upon hearing my response, another co-worker, with a gesture of unbelief, exclaimed that what I am doing is unattainable. Seizing the opportunity, I explained the concept of tithe and offering outlined in the Bible, and gave them a reason for why I do this.
That was the first time telling someone about my donation amount and the reaction I encountered was not surprising. In today’s spending and debt culture, saving 5% of one’s income is already a challenge. Giving away 15% out of every paycheque is beyond reach for many. So, I can sympathize with the disbelief of my co-workers. However, as an Adventist speaking to fellow Adventists, I am here to attest that giving back offerings in addition to the 10% tithe is doable by God’s grace. Moreover, it is a practice essential for character building.
Tithing will not be the focus of our discussion here. I assume we all, as faithful Christians, recognize that tithing is our duty and it is our privilege to obey God in returning 10% of the increase He gives us. Instead, I am focusing on the freewill offering on top of tithe. Presently, it is 5% for me. Of course, it doesn’t need to be 5% for everyone. It can be whatever amount you deem to be giving sacrificially, with a heart of generosity, cheerfulness and thanksgiving.
What is sacrificial giving?
What is sacrificial giving? There are several Bible verses that point out this act. The first one that usually comes to mind is the widow with two mites recorded in Luke 21:1-4. This widow willingly gave all her livelihood as a freewill offering in the temple. Jesus commended her generosity because there is a precious lesson to be learned: Our gift becomes sacrificial when the giving goes beyond our convenience and safety. Sacrificial giving means inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of someone else. This may mean reducing our savings, foregoing the next model of the iPhone, postponing our education, or even something simple as eating out less often or downsizing our cellphone data plan. We lose so that others can gain.
From my personal experience, giving that goes beyond convenience is not spontaneous. It requires planning, budgeting, re-ordering of priorities, and a willing heart. It’s not easy and it certainly takes commitment. Nevertheless, it is an expression of thankfulness for God’s blessings in my life. If Jesus lost so we can gain, shall not we do likewise in return?
The best part of giving
The best part of giving beyond tithe is, as soon as I have decided to do it consistently, something happens within the heart. Every time I give, it reminds of the goodness and providence of God, and the trust relationship I am building with Him. Moreover, giving is a remedy for the deeply engrained selfishness and covetousness that taints our souls. As Ellen White eloquently puts it,
“The giving that is the fruit of self-denial is a wonderful help to the giver…. Constant, self-denying benevolence is God’s remedy for the cankering sins of selfishness and covetousness.” (AH,370)
Compared to the cost, the additional 5% is cheap enough to trade in my selfish and covetous character for one enrobed in generosity and benevolence. When Jesus comes again, it will be a pleasant surprise how much God will reward with interest those who have entered into a covenant relationship with Him. In the well known words of Apostle Paul,
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). The act of giving is truly an experience of the blessing from God, and it is far greater than any material things this world can offer. You too can choose to experience His blessing today! Tell God your choice and He will reveal to you how to fulfil it. Our Father in heaven is more than delighted to bless His children.
There are several ways we can start giving beyond the tithe. Here are some starters:
- The first area of giving is at your local church. Is your church engaged in a good outreach initiative or an annual evangelistic meeting? Find out how you can help the cause through freewill offerings.
- Ask yourself: How has God blessed you through supporting ministries like Amazing Facts, It Is Written, GYC, 3ABN, Canada Youth Challenge and many others? If you have been blessed by these ministries and wish to give back, find out the latest projects these ministries are engaged in. Look for projects that really resonate with what you are passionate about and plan out how much you are willing to give, cheerfully, with thanksgiving and appreciation.
Expecting nothing in return
I have noticed that sometimes we are willing to give only if we receive a tax-deductible receipt. Although there is nothing wrong with receiving tax-deductible receipt, I must forewarn you that sacrificial giving at times means giving expecting nothing in return. For example, if you are a Canadian donating to Amazing Facts, there is no tax-relief on the proceeds because they only issue US tax-deductible receipts. Other ministries may not even have charitable status, so again no tax relief there. This shouldn’t prevent us from giving to worthy causes. Many Adventists around the world do not experience the benefits of tax-deduction from offertory giving or tithing. They give simply because they want to see the work finished. We in North America should have the same attitude.
According to Gary Chapman, the author of the book 5 Love Languages, one manner in which we express our love is by giving gifts. Jesus Christ is the ultimate giver. He risked His own existence by coming down to earth as Man to sacrifice His life for the atonement of our sins. He did so without us asking. Oh what a loving God we serve! By giving back a small part of our minute livelihood as thanksgiving to God is indeed a privilege and an honour. By doing so we are exemplifying a tiny bit of God’s generosity and transformed in the process. 5% is indeed cheap enough.
Edwin Chung is an Electrician at Ontario Power Generation and served as GYC Eastern Canada’s Vice-President for Programming.