Without a doubt, there are people who have questions bothering on giving money to a local church. And as there are questions, there must be answers as well.
It is a fact of life that to get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. And the quality of the answers you get depends on the quality of the people you ask.
In Christian Writers Network Facebook group, I recently came across some questions from a fellow member of the group on whether or not we should give to our local churches. Actually, I was a bit surprise reading those questions because in my own experience it is normal to expect that your primary giving should be to your local church before giving for all other good causes.
That’s what I have been taught. That’s what I believe and that’s what I have been practicing. But then you never know it all.
The person that asked the question indicated upfront that he was asking out of curiosity and not to engage in any argument or counter-argument with anyone. As you would rightly guess, different responses poured in. I too joined in the conversation. And it was my contribution over there that I have subsequently developed here to write this post.
With the hope that you will learn something from it, this post will be used to recapture the four questions asked, the answered I proffered to them, and the other conversations that ensued.
The questions centering on giving to your local church
A member of the referenced Facebook group asked the following 4 questions at a stretch (edited for minor typos):
I am genuinely curious… I won’t debate… what are your answers to these questions? 1. Does the Bible require us to give to our local church? 2. What if you don’t have enough money to give? 3. How much should you give? 4. What does the Bible say about giving to parachurch organisations?
Just like some members of the Facebook did, I quickly stated my responses to the questions in the comment section in order the questions were asked:
1. Yes, we are required to give to our local churches. e.g. tithes and offerings and other freewill donations.
2. If you don’t have money, give your time. Give volunteer services. Never allow yourself to be in a position where you are not contributing anything to your local church.
3. Give according to your capacity and according to your freewill.
4. Yes, because the Bible encourages us to give to those in need. It’s okay to give to parachurch groups who are committed to public good.
Now that you seen the questions and the short answers I volunteered, lets begin to explore them at a deeper level as I promised at the beginning of the post.
Does the Bible require us to give to our local church?
Without much ado, the simple answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’. Think about it for a minute, if members of a church are not required to finance the activities of the church, how will the church be supported?
Think about the members of staff that need to be paid their salaries and wages on a regular basis. Think about the cost of the equipment in the church and their running costs. Think of the cost of evangelical outreaches, building projects and all other costs necessary to run the church. Think about the needy that are being supported by the local church. The list is endless.
Common sense should show that every capable member of the local church should support it financially and otherwise. From the Old to the New Testament, we have scriptures that supports that position of giving to the local congregation.
Let’s consider the following instances:
- All men were asked not come to “church ” empty-handed (paraphrased). Deuteronomy 16:16-17 says, “Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”
- Malachi says the store house of the local church should be fully stocked. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, Malachi 3:10. This is a scripture that is often used in regard to tithing as practiced under the old covenant but I believe it is also about us giving to the church in the New Covenant.
- The early christians gave their wealth to the local assembly (Acts 4:35) to meet the needs of their members.
- Apostle Paul encouraged weekly giving to the church. “On the first day of every week,” he says to local church members in Corinth, “each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
Never allow yourself to be in a position where you are not contributing anything to your local church.Tweet
Type of gifts to your local church
If you agree that we should give to our local church, in what forms should the gifts come? I would say in cash and kind.
Your cash gift to your local church is any amount of money you give to them – including tithes, offerings, freewill donations and all other types of monetary giving.
In-kind gifts will be those non-cash items you give to them such as when you gift your church a piece of musical instrument or a set of chairs..
What if you don’t have enough money to give?
That’s actually a good question, but not one without a valid answer. Nobody will crucify you if you don’t have enough money to give your local church.
Oh by way, if you don’t have ‘enough money’ suggests that you do have some money – no matter how small. You can still give something from it. Right? If yes, then you should give the little you can. Small giving is better than no giving at all.
Remember the widow in the Gospels? Jesus commended her for giving to her local church despite the fact that she had so little money,
As I said earlier, it is not only money you should give to your local church. You can give other kinds of things too. You can give your time, your talent or your treasure.
Your can volunteer your services. Many people work in church on voluntary basis. They are not being paid any money to do assist in one form or another. That’s their own form of giving in church.
Let me be more specific in the things you can give to your local church if you don’t have any money as I address the question:
How much should you give?
This is largely up to you and the system of giving adopted in the local church you belong to. In addressing similar situation, Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church that. “Every one should give as he or she purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthian 9:7) adding that people should give cheerfully and without grudges.
Bear in mind that you have to give in proportion to how much you have been blessed with. How much you give depends on how much you have, not on how much the next person has given.
However, if giving the tithe is practiced in your local church (I’m aware not every Christian subscribes to it), then you know that you are required to give at least a tenth of your income to your local church.
Apart from that, you might have other avenues to determine what is to be given. For instance, there was a time in my local church that someone volunteered to pick up the monthly electricity bill of the church premises. No one told him how much to give; how much he paid depended on the value of the electricity consumed in any month.
Another person also volunteered to absorb the cost of printing the weekly Sunday bulletin. And the cost of this varied according to the number of copies printed per week.
What does the Bible say about giving to parachurch organisations?
Here is an understanding of parachurch groups as defined by Wikipedia: “Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that work outside and across denominations to engage in social welfare and evangelism.”
Of course you will not find the word parachurch in the Bible but that doesn’t mean we do not have the scriptural foundation to support them with our resources.
You should not only give to your local church, you should also give to parachurch groups that you believe in their ministries. The Bible encourages us to give to those in need. And parachurch groups usually exist to address specific needs in the society, So giving to them will also advance public good.
“Most parachurch ministries are centered on one special area of need within the local church or the worldwide church, such as family, military, publishing, education, missionary support, prison outreach, medical, communications, and transportation. These organizations can be small and local or vast and worldwide in scope. Some are staffed by a small group of volunteers while others have hundreds of paid employees. Some have small budgets and rely on volunteer giving; others have whole departments dedicated primarily to fund-raising and advertising.” GotQuestions.org
The ensuing conversations
As I mentioned earlier, I was not the only one that responded to the questions that were asked. Most responders agreed that it was okay to give to our local churches. One person added as follows, “I give to parachurch and also to charity organisations.”
Even someone who didn’t have a local church had something to say about giving: “At present, I am not attending a local church and I thought I should give to charitable organisations that fund the poor in countries like Africa.” (Please be reminded that Africa is not a country but a continent of 54 countries).
Those where direct responses to the initial questions. But then I had someone who replied directly to my own comments.
Recall my earlier response to the question #1 on the list, should we give to our local church?:
Yes, we are required to give to our local churches. e.g. tithes and offerings and other freewill donations.
You can see that I mentioned three forms of giving to our local church – tithes, offerings and donations. But one commenter decided to take me up on the issue of tithing. (I have his consent to share our conversation here. But I will use only his initials to refer to him).
Let’s dive into the conversations:
MB: Contrary to popular belief, tithing was not a practice of the disciples or the early church…
ME: Tithing is a biblical practice that was never outlawed. God commanded it, and He continues to delight in it when we obey. It is not for everyone, especially those who cannot afford to give God their 10 percent.
MB: Why was tithing not a practice of the early church? Was Apostle Paul who received the revelation on the relationship between the Lord and the church negligent, or did he forget something?
ME: Paul may not have called it the tithe but he alluded to it and he collected it. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, he gave this directive; “On the first day of the week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and try to collect it at once.”
MB: Tithing was not a practice of the disciples or the early church my brother.
ME: Don’t call it tithing if you wish. But giving a proportion of one’s income to the local church was a practice of the early church.
MB: Freewill offering from cheerful givers.
ME: I’m fine with that.
Being in a position to give is a privilege. And as you already know: God loves a cheerful giver.
Of course, I’m not here to argue whether or not tithing should be practiced under the New Testament. The highlight of the discussion is to point out that there is nothing wrong with giving a portion of your income to your local church. It is Biblical to do so.
Whatever you call your gifts or resource-support to your local church is okay by me. Just never allow yourself to be in a position where you are not contributing anything whatsoever to your local church.
Feel free to determine what you can give without feeling pressured. And even if you don’t have any money to give, you can volunteer your time and services. Identify areas where your local church could use your talent, time (not just your treasure alone) and make them available.
It is also in order to give to parachurch groups that you believe in their causes. Any more questions?