Should I Give If I’m Barely Making It Financially?

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on Proverbs 3:5-10 on The Wisdom of Firstfruits. The challenge is to live by God’s wisdom in our finances and acknowledge all that he is for us in Christ by giving the “firstfruits” of all our income. This is called tithing, or literally, “tenthing.”

Proverbs 3:5–10 ESV
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

The first practical way of trusting God in Proverbs 3:9-10 is that we give away 10% of all our income to our place of worship and/or ministries of the gospel. This is an important wisdom principle in the Bible, not just in Proverbs. If you haven’t heard the sermon yet, I encourage you to download and listen to it when you get a chance.

After I preached the sermon in the second service, a young man visiting for the first time came up to me and challenged my sermon a bit. He was most bothered by my teaching that even poor people need to honor the Lord by tithing their firstfruits. He thought that this wisdom principle of the firstfruits was only for the wealthy. Not so, according to the Bible. Tithing is for everyone.

So, should the poor still tithe? Should a person who is barely making it financially still tithe? That’s a very hard issue, because being poor or barely making it financially is such a burden in so many ways. And then to add to that burden by giving away 10% of the little you have seems only to add weight to an already overwhelming load. What does God want you to do in that circumstance?

Well, the Bible teaches the wisdom of the firstfruits even in poverty. God is the one who blesses, and sometimes God does bring financial hardship into our lives. According to the next verses in this Proverbs passage, Proverbs 3:11-12, God disciplines those he loves, and sometimes that means he brings financial hardship into our lives for a good and loving purpose for us. But the wisdom principle of Proverbs 3:9-10 is still the same.

And we see this in various places in the Bible. For example, Jesus greatly praises the poor widow who, in her extreme poverty, still sacrificially gave to the temple. Notice what Jesus says.

Mark 12:41–44 TNIV
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

It’s interesting to note that Jesus sat down “and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.” This was something Jesus was very interested in, and he sat down and watched what people gave. I think he still does that. And when this “poor widow gave out of her poverty,” Jesus was pleased and blessed her.

Another powerful example of the poor sacrificially tithing is a church the apostle Paul praised. Notice what he says here about them when they gave to a relief fund for believers suffering a famine back in Palestine.

2 Corinthians 8:2–5 TNIV
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they went beyond our expectations; having given themselves first of all to the Lord, they gave themselves by the will of God also to us.

He praises them for their “rich generosity” in “their extreme poverty” by sacrificially giving “even beyond their ability.” And their reason why was because they had done what Proverbs 3:5-10 talks about—they gave themselves to the Lord first and sacrificed financially as a result of that.

Christians give sacrificially NOT to buy God’s favor or secure their acceptance by him. It’s quite the opposite. They give because they already have been graciously given the full measure of God’s undeserved favor in all that Christ is for them forever (fully realized in his eternal kingdom). Because of what Christ has already given by his great sacrifice, Christians sacrificially give as an expression of gratitude and worship.

So the apostle Paul writes just a few verses down.

2 Corinthians 8:9 TNIV
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

No believer is truly poor. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, they will inherit everything. So they give knowing that they are heirs of all things because they have Christ.

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