A Sermon Not Commonly Taught: When Not to Give

Most of my life I have had more than enough money to pay my bills. Living in the United States, it is easy to think that life is full of things: cars, houses, furniture, clothes and so on. It is easy to run up the bills, and suddenly it seems like such an imposition to give. This appears to be the logic for a lot of people not to give much or not at all to the Lord’s work. The response that many pastors have given to Christians when asked about giving is to quote the biblical reasons to give. Tithing promoters can quickly condemn you with “you will rob God” and go directly to Malachi, chapter 3.

Evangelical churches usually take the 2 Corinthians 9 approach, especially “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” If someone is being materialistic then there is certainly sound reason for preaching these things. But there is an implicit condemnation in quoting this verse to someone that is truly in need that if they do not give they will not reap or worse, that they are robbing God.

In those times that I truly did not have enough money I have still heard one or the other of the above responses. But there is another sermon that needs to be spoken.

There are times when someone truly does not have enough. And it is not God’s will that they should give when things they need will be sacrificed.

But what about the parable of the widow’s mite? That parable is often quoted to people when they don’t have many resources:

And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury:
for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Mar 12:42-44

Of course, if someone hears the spirit of God to give their last mite or last bit of flour and oil, then by all means that is the will of the Lord.

But this is similar to getting out of a boat in the middle of a deep lake. Unless you are confident that God has directed you to do this you will get wet, or worse, if you can’t swim. In fact, in one case where Jesus is challenged to “just believe that God will take care of him” he rebukes the devil for this erroneous thinking:

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”Mark 4: 5-7

So while it is certainly available for God to direct us to do something that does not normally make sense, if we choose to do something that is not prudent and it is not something that God has directed us to do, then we are foolish and may suffer consequences.

So, where in the bible does it say that it is okay not to give? Lets look at 2 Corinthians 8:

For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according as a man hath, not according as he hath not. For I say not this, that others may be eased, and ye distressed: but by equality; your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality: as it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack.2Co 8:12-15

This section is telling the Corinthians to collect whatever they could according to their ability to give. The logic that is used says that, in particular, it is only according to what you have, not what you don’t have. If your giving eases someone else, while you wind up without enough to function then that is not giving in accordance to what God wants.

So how about an example? Lets say that you are in tight straights. There is a recession and you lose your job. You wind up spending your savings. You take cost cutting measures to decrease all available costs, maybe even moving to cheaper housing and driving older transportation or start taking the bus. Still you barely have enough to get to work when you are able to work and keep the family fed. In that case, no one, especially your church, should be encouraging to give money that you don’t have. Of course, if the spirit of God tells you to give then follow the leading of the Lord. In more cases than not, this is a time where you should be experiencing the giving of the church to you to help you in your time of need.

I know that some believers know this, but honestly, this is the sermon that I have never heard from the pulpit. It is okay not to give when you are going through hard times. In fact it may be the time you need to receive help from others. And you believers, when you see someone who is really struggling, don’t tell them they are robbing God, instead give to them.

Mark W Smith © copyright 2007

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