Editor’s Note: Read our other articles in Sow Bountifully: Biblical Principles for a Life of Christ-Centered Giving below!
Sow Bountifully – A New Series on Giving
Principle for Giving #1: Live all Your Life in Light of God’s Mercy
Just before Israel was to enter the Promise Land, God reminded them to guard against the temptation to forget their Provider. Once they settled in their new land and construction and commerce commenced, God knew they might soon forget the One who had delivered them from Egypt, provided for all their needs in the wilderness, and who presently enables them to thrive financially. After a series of hearty meals in their new homes, seasons of steady growth in livestock, and a general increase of their wealth, the Israelites might overlook the fact that it was God who made them prosper.
Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.Deuteronomy 8:11-17
Israel’s forgetfulness would manifest itself in a disobedient self-sufficiency: they would fail to keep God’s rules and statutes (v. 11), but mainly because their hearts would be “lifted up” (v. 14). In other words, they would begin to credit themselves rather than God for their economic health and material abundance (v. 17). The answer to this potential temptation to forget God is to “remember” that God is the one who enables Israel to get wealth (v. 18). Yes, the men and women of Israel may have built their homes with their own hands, managed their flocks and herds in a way that produced healthy numerical growth, and traded wisely to increase their gold and silver, but it was God who enabled every productive effort and every successful financial transaction.
Israel’s disobedience would eventually manifest itself in their failure to give back to the Lord for his gracious provision. Among the many laws and commandments that God gave his chosen people, giving back to God was an important aspect of Jewish civic and religious life and a vital part of individual and corporate worship. God’s people were to give a portion of their food, produce, and animals for sacrifice (Lev 7:11-26) and to support the priests (Lev 27:30-33). They were also instructed to give a portion of their wealth for religious festivals (Deut 14:22-27) and, every third year, to help the poor in the land (Deut 14:28-29). While there were seasons of obedience, Israel’s history is characterized by a general failure to obey, including in how they gave to the Lord. After about 1,000 years of existing as a nation in their own land, God’s last words to his people included a sharp rebuke concerning their giving.
The first problem was that they were offering blemished animals for sacrifice. Rather than honoring God by giving of the best of their livestock, they kept the choice animals for themselves and gave God the leftovers (Mal 1:6-8). Second, they neglected other offerings, specifically the “tithes and contributions” (Mal 3:8-10).
While Christians today are no longer under the Old Covenant and not obligated to fulfill requirements that were specific to Israel as a nation, there are still principles from Israel’s history that we must learn from and apply to our lives (see Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:1-12). Concerning the topic of giving, we find in God’s instruction to Israel just before they entered the promise land an exhortation to remember our Provider.
The lesson God wanted Israel to learn is the same one he wants us to learn today: he is the One who enables us to make wealth. Your current job, your various skills and talents, the school where you learned your trade or gained foundational skills for your industry, your family’s financial circumstances that provided you the opportunity for education, your strong work ethic, your aptitude for investing—these are all gifts from God’s gracious providence. God gives you the power to make wealth. And God has entrusted you with your abilities and wealth so that you can provide for yourself and even use that wealth to enjoy life for his glory.
But God has also entrusted that wealth to us to be used in other ways for his glory, and one of the ways he glorify him through the wealth he has entrusted to us is by prayerfully, thoughtfully, and intentionally giving some of that wealth away. When we remember that God is the ultimate source of all that we have, we will be more inclined to give away a portion of those possessions out of gratitude for what God has enabled us to accomplish and acquire. Hoarding our wealth is a clear indication that we have forgotten who it was that gave us that wealth in the first place. With these two foundational principles in place—(1) live all of life in light of God’s mercy and (2) remember your Provider—we can now consider specific ways we can give for the glory of God.