This is truly a fundamental theological question that continues to create a significant amount of conversation and interpretation. Scripture states that we should “give generously,” but why — and how much — is “generously?” Is it just money, or can we substitute time and talents instead of financial gifts?
All of these questions have been discussed in the church throughout each generation. I would like to offer my theological statement about giving as another response to these questions. Although my theology is pretty simple, I hope maybe you will find it helpful. Scripture, the Life of Jesus Christ, and the church in a nutshell were all created to communicate and clarify how we are to relate with God. God loves each of us and wants us to be in a close relationship with him.
Through that relationship, God wants to guide us to have the very best life we can have. This is where giving comes in. God understands that much of life is about working, earning money, managing money to purchase those things that make life possible. We spend a majority of our time in the pursuit of earning money to make a living.
God desires to be involved in every aspect of daily life and so he commands that WE GIVE of our time and our hard earned money away to others, outside of our lives, as a way to maintain proper perspective in life. In the Gospel of Matthew, scripture tells us (paraphrased) “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” To me giving is as much about our maintenance of perspective as it is about being an example. Nobody knows how much I give and I don’t care about being an example. Giving is important to me because it keeps me focused on my relationship with God.
It is in that act of giving these precious commodities away — our time and our resources — that we serve as the hands of God in our world. Through the act of giving to others we place ourselves in relationship with God in a very real, tangible way. That is why I believe God commands us to give.
The next point of discussion is “how much do I need to give?” Scripture again guides us here, but we tend to get caught up in details of percentages and dollar amounts — or the question of giving time instead of money.
My simplistic answer is that the amount needs to be enough to keep me in the proper relationship with God. The Old Testament standard was 10%, and Jesus seems to confirm that our giving should be proportional to what we have.
And yes, I believe that this means both time AND money. Because how we spend our money and our time can also be significant stumbling blocks to our relationship with God, I know that I need to give enough of both away to maintain the proper perspective and to keep my connection to God as most important. God does not specifically need our money or our time. However, God DOES want me to love and be involved with daily.
That is why WE need to give.