We’re Not in a Position to Give as Much in Freewill Offerings, Above and Beyond Our Tithe. Should We Still Give the Same Amount and Just Trust God to Provide?

Question from a reader:

Due to health problems and the economy affecting our business, we’re not in a position to give as much in freewill offerings, above and beyond our tithe. Should we still give the same amount and just trust God to provide?
     I have a question about “offerings” to ask. I have your book Money, Possessions & Eternity and I couldn’t really find the answer to my question in there. We’ve always made it a practice to do our giving of tithes and offerings to the Lord “in secret”. Consequently, because our pastors “sort of” know us, I can’t ask this question of them. I figured you don’t know who we are so I hope it’s ok to ask you.
     For some months now, in addition to our tithe, we’ve been giving 10% to our church building fund and 10% to the work in Sudan. (God has really burdened us with the work in Sudan.) Recently my husband had heart surgery and had complications. He was hospitalized twice and sent home with a long list of prescriptions and has had to see the doctor numerous times. This has really taxed our finances. Even though we’re not deeply in debt—just house payment and a small amount owing on Visa, we’ve had to come up with several hundred more dollars this month in medical expenses. Then there are the usual monthly living expenses and gasoline. We don’t have a large income.
     We believe, of course, that our tithe is paid first—no question. But, what about the offerings? I was only able to give a very small amount this month compared to what we’ve been giving percentage-wise. I feel so bad that we hadn’t given the usual amount for offerings.
     I guess I’m confused at how you determine how much to give for offerings? Is that given on faith too? Do we just go ahead and give what we’ve been doing in the past and trust God to provide the money for medications, etc.?
     Our source of income is a trucking business we have. I’m sure you’ve heard how hard 9/11 and the slow economy is affecting businesses. We weren’t doing that great in the last year to begin with. It will only be by God’s grace if we survive.
     I know you’re very busy, but would sure appreciate any insight you could give me. Thank you.

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

First, I really appreciate the spirit of your letter. I think you have a good grasp of mandatory giving and voluntary giving. Freewill offerings, by definition, don’t have a clearly stipulated amount. However, God does lead his children, so He may have a particular amount in mind for a freewill offering, but unlike the basic giving “floor” of the tithe, it may vary from person to person and at certain times in your life. Malachi 3 says the Israelites were robbing God by withholding “tithes and offerings.” So it’s possible to rob God even when we’re tithing, but are holding back on freewill offerings when he’s generously provided for us.

The Treasure PrincipleNow, God doesn’t say you must keep giving the same percentage or amounts in your freewill offerings. He does say to give to the poor and support your church. Given your circumstances, you may need to reduce freewill offerings for a while. Perhaps you’ll be able to increase them later. But frankly, since God has laid Sudan on your heart (ours too) I would not hesitate to make it your freewill giving priority. I am not opposed to the building, but I also know that the Sudanese desperately need help on a far deeper level than we need buildings. That’s just my opinion, as God has laid our hearts to put missions and famine relief as our highest priority in our free will offerings, knowing that other people will give generously to a building project but not to missions and relief work.

I know it’s hard to find yourself in this position. But I encourage you to keep seeking the Lord’s face. What He taught about the poor widow in Mark 12 should forever remind us that He’s not looking at the total amount, but at our willingness to sacrifice and trust him. The amount you give now could be less, but the trust in Him could be more. He would be pleased with that.

Do you have my new little book The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving? If not, I’d like to give you a copy. Please let me know. And thanks again for your refreshing spirit and the fact that giving is already such an important part of your life. That pleases God, who loves a cheerful giver

For more information on this subject, see Randy Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries