God REQUIRES us to give ‘WILLINGLY’ according to our ‘ABILITY’: "Some of the heads of the fathers' houses, when they came to the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place: According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly garments." (Ezra 2:68-69)
One of the first things that many of the Jews did after reaching Jerusalem was to contribute to the rebuilding of the temple. When the Jews reached Jerusalem, some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave gold and silver for the reconstruction of God’s temple and garments for the priests. Offerings were brought even before the people settled in their houses (2:70). Ezra records the amount of gold, silver, and garments given for the rebuilding of the temple, as does Nehemiah (see Neh. 7:70–72). Nehemiah gives a more detailed summary, mentioning separately the contributions of the governor, of some of the heads of houses, and of the rest of the people.
Many of the heads of households gave offerings for the Temple to rebuild it, and they gave after their ability. We should note that the first temple was also built with freewill offerings (1 Chr. 29:1–9), and not with the tithe. This refers to gifts given over and above the tithe, not gifts given under the ability to tithe. This is God’s standard for giving. The principle of giving beyond the tithe willingly and according to one’s ability is still at work in building God’s Kingdom under the new covenant. The amount of the gift is not as important as the proportion of the gift in accordance with the individual’s ability to give (see I Cor. 9:6–15).
Moving forward, let us give willingly and according to our abilities. The scriptures provide us with twelve rules for giving (listed below) that should inspire us towards generous giving:
- Our giving helps the work of God's kingdom: "They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord" (Exo. 35:22).
- We should not give to be seen and appreciated by others: "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).
- God will reward us for giving to others: "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward" (Mark 9:41).
- Our giving helps others survive: "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need" (Acts 2:44-45).
- Our giving will support Christian workers: "They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary" (Acts 28:10).
- We should give God first before anyone else: "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper..." (1 Cor. 16:2).
- We should give willingly & with what we have: "For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have" (2 Cor. 8:12).
- We should give to others to fulfill their need: "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality" (2 Cor. 8:13-14).
- We should give both bountifully & cheerfully: "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
- We should give generously out of our blessings: "Command those who are rich in this present age... not to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share…" (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
- God is pleased with our liberal giving: "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16).
- Finally, our giving reflects God’s love in our lives: "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17)