The Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:8-15
“… according to what a man has …” (v.12) RSV
The Old Testament gives much instruction on giving. Most people believe that this is summed up by the word ‘tithing’, but it is far more complicated than that. Many other divine ‘taxes’ are mentioned; they are called ‘sacrifices and offerings’. Even tithing (a tenth) is not always that clear. Basically it legislated for the tithing of crops, fruit and animals. The Pharisees included, “mint .. dill … cummin …” (Matt. 23:23), but nowadays what would we include? There were no taxes in those days, so do we take off tax before tithing?
Surely tithing is a less than adequate or fair system. In its day it was comparatively fair and workable, but today at best it may only be a helpful guide. Its main failure is that it rules out the heart and merely applies a law. It also does not take into consideration the size of the need or the size of our income. In other words, if we earn £1,000,000 and we give £100,000 we are still left with £900,000! But if we receive a pension of £5,000 and give £500 we are left with an even smaller amount to live on.
Surely Paul moves us into a contemporary attitude to giving. He writes, “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not” (v.12). The principle is that we give according to our means. Sometimes we have little, in which case others who are well off will give. But when we have an abundance it will be our turn to give. Having said that, it is probably true that it is never a good principle to give nothing – remember the widow and her mite (Mark 12:41-44)!
Giving is not something that is done merely because we have been taught that we ought to do it. God wants us to give out of a glad and generous heart. If we can’t then we might as well keep our money. Yet to do so is to lose out. The question may well be not a matter of how much we give, but of how much we retain.
Thank you Father for the opportunity to share with others the blessing you have given to me. Grant me a generosity of spirit. Amen.
1 Whose meanness cost him dearly?
1 Samuel 25:1-13, 36-38
2 What story illustrates generosity?