1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (ESV)
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Such a strange concept that Paul speaks of here. Most of today’s evangelists spend their time asking for money that they may proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Paul and his associates spent many hours working at other jobs while they were proclaiming the Gospel, so that they would not burden the people with demands for money.
We have spoken of this before, but here it is brought up again. It must be important to Paul, that he not put a strain on people’s finances. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Many churches today put a heavy focus on how much people give. Some even become mega-churches, because they guilt people into giving. The Jews were commanded by God to give tithes and offerings. The firstfruits of the harvest were required in the Law. However the Gentiles were not used to this. Paul knew that God would take care of his needs. He did not want to lay down heavy burdens on them.
So the question is, do we tithe, or give generously? I believe Paul is saying both in Corinthians, and here in Thessalonians, that each should make up his own mind how much he wants to give, and do so freely and cheerfully. Yes, the church needs money, but God will provide. God provides by inspiring His people to give. We must all be responsive to the leading of The Holy Spirit. We must give to God generously and freely. God does not need our money, but He will reward — whether in this life, or the next — those who give not out of compulsion, but freely and cheerfully.
Does this mean we don't need to give anything? I think we need to give, and give generously. Not because we are required, but because God inspires us to give. He is Our Father, and will provide for our needs — as well as the Church's needs — but He generally does provide for the church, by our cooperation and generosity.
I pray that all of us listen to The Holy Spirit and give as He directs us.
by Virgil Stripes