Liberal means many different things in both politics and religion. A voter may value liberal democracy but not liberal Democrats, while a Christian may support liberal giving but decry liberal living. It is the sense of generosity that Ellen White endorses in the chapter “A Liberal Church” in Acts of the Apostles. Here are a few excerpts:
The payment of the tithe was but a part of God’s plan for the support of His service. Numerous gifts and offerings were divinely specified. Under the Jewish system the people were taught to cherish a spirit of liberality both in sustaining the cause of God and in supplying the wants of the needy. For special occasions there were freewill offerings. At the harvest and the vintage, the first fruits of the field–corn, wine, and oil–were consecrated as an offering to the Lord. The gleanings and the corners of the field were reserved for the poor. (pp. 336-337)
It is not God’s purpose that Christians, whose privileges far exceed those of the Jewish nation, shall give less freely than they gave. (p. 337)
The spirit of liberality is the spirit of heaven…. On the other hand, the spirit of selfishness is the spirit of Satan. (p. 339)
Even the very poor should bring their offerings to God. They are to be sharers of the grace of Christ by denying self to help those whose need is more pressing than their own. (p. 341)
The willingness to sacrifice on the part of the Macedonian believers came as a result of wholehearted consecration…. they rejoiced in the privilege of denying themselves even of necessary things in order to supply the needs of others…. In their simplicity and integrity, and in their love for the brethren, they gladly denied self, and thus abounded in the fruit of benevolence. (pp. 343-344)
What could produce such liberality but the sanctification of the Spirit?… Spiritual prosperity is closely bound up with Christian liberality. The followers of Christ should rejoice in the privilege of revealing in their lives the beneficence of their Redeemer. (pp. 344-345)
Would they enjoy their substance? Let them use it to bless the needy and suffering. (p. 345)
A continual imparting of God’s gifts wherever the cause of God or the needs of humanity demand our aid, does not tend to poverty. (p. 345)
- How liberal am I? How much of my income do I think I should share? What percentage of tithe, offering, and other funds do I think is proper to give away? What informs these values and financial decisions?
- What were tithes used for in the Jewish system? Are tithes used by my denomination or local leadership today for the same purposes?
- What are the pros and cons of supporting congregation- or church-based ministries and agencies rather than independent faith-based or secular nonprofits?
- How have I benefited from the generosity of others? What has it meant to me?
- How do I balance my support (time, talent & treasure) for the various needs I see, whether they are in my home, congregation, workplace, community, country or half-way around the world?