The Bible is a great promoter of generosity, and one of its
slogans. It is more blessed to give than to receive(20) sums it up, and
the sentiment is echoed through many Scriptures. It does of course imply that
we have something to give ( A little reserve of savings perhaps?) so confirming
the need for prudence. In his letter to the folk at Ephesus St Paul writes Let
him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour so that he may have to
give to him that needeth(21).
The Israelites were particularly encouraged to remember the
poor. At harvest-time they were instructed to leave the edges of the fields
unreaped so that the poor could glean there(22), and if they
loaned money to a fellow citizen they should not charge interest(23).
A popular way of helping the needy today is through the
various Charities, who, unfortunately because of the advent of the National
Lottery have suffered financially. Does this show a streak of selfishness, that
even in giving, people expect some sort of return? The Inland Revenue operates
a scheme which can increase gifts to Charity if one already pays tax.
The whole ethos of Christian giving is that it moves the
donor from being self-centred to being social and other-centred, and for the
Christian, priority giving will be to the Church for its maintenance and
will be also noted from the early years of the Church how they took up
offerings for the poor, even to the selling of property(25). Such
generosity calls for self-discipline. St Paul made some practical suggestions
on this point. In his letter to the Corinthians he said. On the first day of
the week, let everyone of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him(26). This implied
that giving should be regular - weekly, and proportionate to their income - as
God has prospered. The Israelites tithe was a tenth, so many Christians feel
that this is a guide to their giving although the New Testament does not
specifically state a percentage. It could be suggested that when income rises
then the percentage could rise also as ten per cent of a very large salary
would not seem as generous or sacrificial as ten per cent of a small salary. In
all cases it is a matter for individual conscience.