Just about every sermon about money I’ve heard in church has been about how much and how often and in what way we are supposed to tithe. The messages and texts are often the same: “Bring the full tithe in!” (Malachi 3:10); “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing!” (Matthew 6:3); “God loves a cheerful giver!” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The message I heard was: Tithe, but don’t brag about how much you give, and do it joyfully. (But seriously, tithe!)
But is there a better way for Christians to think about money?
I’m convinced the Bible has more glorious things to say about money than making sure we tithe discreetly with a smile. Here are three gospel commands that will transform you into a one who gives regularly and joyfully.
1. Be fully satisfied in having Christ
By far one of my favorite scenes in the Bible is Paul and Silas singing at midnight in the prison. How foreign joyful singing must have been in that place!
How was he able to do this? He tells us (from yet another jail cell!) his secret in Philippians 4: “I can do all things in union with the one who strengthens me.” Paul was united to Christ by faith and this was the great, surpassing joy of his life. This union came with resurrection power and hope and it satisfied the depths of his soul. Therefore, he could sit without food, without clothing, without freedom, and without a promise of long life and say, “I am perfectly content. I am in need of nothing more. My heart sings for joy in Christ and in Christ alone.”
I see myself, so often chained by my wants, desires, and anxieties and the sound of a condemned man singing pierces my heart with hope. Christ satisfies my soul and, in being united to Him, I have all the power, provision, and joy a man could ever have.
A heart satisfied in Christ will not seek satisfaction in money or the things money buys. And when I no longer need money to make me happy, it is so much easier to give it away.
2. Put on the new man, created to be like God
In Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul explains how when we turn to Christ, we are, by the Spirit, being renewed to become a kind of person that Paul describes as being “created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”
Paul then goes on to list some of the attributes of what this new person looks like. In verse 28, he says, “The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.” Becoming like God isn’t just about turning away from the immorality of stealing; it is also becoming one who is generous and gives to provide for others.
God is a generous God. He created a world for mankind that abounded in provision. Eden was flowing with rivers of water, filled with precious stones, teeming with a wide variety of food to satisfy every taste bud on our tongues. Even after man’s rebellion and the fallen world that sprang from it, God continues to provide. He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living being. He writes provision for the needy into His law. He causes the sun to rise and gives rain to all men. He gives fruitful seasons and satisfies our hearts with food and happiness. And now in Christ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.
So if we are being remade in God’s image, we are being remade into those who are generous. As the image of God is repaired in us through the Spirit of Christ, we are being remade from those who clutch and grab and tighten our fists to those who work to have something to give away. We won’t cling to our money but will find that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
3. Immerse yourself in God’s story
God’s grand goal in creation is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic blend of diverse peoples who praise Him with every language group on the planet. That is the goal of all human history. I could cite numerous passages to make this point but I’ll use just one, Revelation 5:9-10:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
The eternal glory that resounds through the corridors of the everlasting city is the praise of people from all parts of the world, redeemed by Christ for everlasting joy in God. This was God’s goal in the first gospel promise made in Genesis 3, in the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 12, in the priestly benediction in Numbers 6 (see Psalm 67), in the covenant God made with David, and in the Great Commission Christ gave to His disciples.
And if our hearts beat with the same passion as God’s, we will pour out our resources in order to reach the nations. As J. Campbell White said, “Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem.” We won’t shrink our world down to what is happening with us but will pray and seek to know how our lives and our time and our money can fit into God’s grand plan to make all the nations glad in Him.
If we are content in Christ, are being renewed into the image of a generous God, and live for the joy of all people in the glory of God, our hearts will know how to use the money we have. It will flow out of us with Spirit-infused power and we’ll give – regularly, humbly, gladly, and generously.