Giving Back to God

Published by DonDavidson on

Last year at about this time I wrote a blog entry about the history of Thanksgiving. You can read it here.

Giving thanks to God for his many blessings is an essential ingredient of Christianity. In my favorite Bible translation, the New American Standard, the word “thanks” appears 91 times in the Old Testament and 48 times in the New Testament, mostly in the context of giving thanks to God.

We also have the example of our Master. Before feeding 4,000 men, plus women and children, with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish, Jesus gave thanks to God.[1] Likewise, before feeding 5,000 men, plus women and children, with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, Jesus again gave thanks to God.[2] On the night before his death, Jesus blessed both the bread and the cup and gave thanks to God.[3]

And then there’s Paul, who tells us to give thanks “for all things.”[4]

We should give thanks to God, because he has given us everything we have. But at this time of year, as churches plan for next year’s budget, we are often reminded that giving is a two-way street. God has given us much, but he wants us to give back, too.

In the Old Testament giving back took the form of tithes, which required the Israelites to give one-tenth of their produce and livestock to the Lord.[5] In the New Testament there seems to be no hard and fast rule. But we do have a few examples of giving—and tithing often pales in comparison.

Jesus praised the poor widow who gave two small coins into the Temple treasury because “she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”[6]

Then there was Jesus’ advice to the wealthy young man who wished to obtain eternal life: “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”[7]

Paul praised the Philippians for supporting his ministry “more than once.”[8] He urged the Corinthians to set aside money every week to give to the poor.[9] And of course, as Paul famously reminded us, “God loves a cheerful giver.”[10]

Another famous expression which is derived from Paul’s letters is that we “reap what we sow.” People who quote that expression seldom point out that when Paul uses that analogy, he is talking about giving.[11]

So God clearly wants us to give, both to his church and to the poor. But why? Let’s talk about that next week.

[1]. Matthew 15:36, Mark 8:6

[2]. John 6:11

[3]. Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17-19, 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

[4]. Ephesians 5:20; see also Philippians 4:6

[5]. See Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-32, and Deuteronomy 14:22-29; 26:12-15.

[6]. Mark 12:41-44; see also Luke 21:1-4

[7]. Matthew 19:21; see also Mark 10:21

[8]. Philippians 4:15-16

[9]. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3

[10]. 2 Corinthians 9:7

[11]. See 1 Corinthians 9:7-11, 2 Corinthians 9:1-7, and Galatians 6:6-8.


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