There are three characteristics of grace-oriented giving in the Bible: generosity, faithfulness, and sacrifice. True generosity is an expression of joy. The Macedonians were overjoyed with the fact that they had been saved, and they expressed it through their giving (2 Co. 8:1-7). It is grace that saves us from our sins and grace that must conquer our selfishness and make us joyfully generous. Gratitude for the saving grace we have received makes us debtors to all unbelievers. We give that they might receive the good news (Ro. 15:15, 16).
Grace-oriented giving is faithful. Long term, consistently generous giving that pleases God is spontaneous, gracious and free. It is not giving out of guilt. God would rather you keep your money than to give it because you view it as a tax. He wants your heart and if your giving is not a bubbling-over expression of a heart made grateful by God’s grace, then keep it. Willingness in response to grace is the only guide for giving in the Bible (2 Co. 9:6-8). John Calvin said, “[God] nowhere lays it down how much we ought to give, … but simply bids us be guided by the rule of love” (Calvin, Commentary). That was true in the Old Testament as well as the new (Ex. 35:5, 21-29).
Grace-oriented giving is also sacrificial. Paul says that a gift of any amount given willingly and in accordance with one’s ability is “acceptable.” However, one is not to read “ability” as “comfortable” or “expendable.” Remember, what made the Macedonians’ giving so commendable was that it was sacrificial. The reason the widow caught Jesus’ attention in giving her mite was that it was all she had; it was sacrificial. While God prescribes no percentage, he does judge the degree to which we have been touched by his grace by the percentage we give (Mk. 12:43-44). He does not measure it numerically but emotionally, by whether or not it is a loving sacrifice on our part.
Sacrificial giving should first be made toward your local church. If you benefit from the ministries of your church and do not give, then it is not a lack of gratitude toward church, but rather toward God (2 Co. 9:12). As a Christian you must give first to the agency God has established as the primary organ of salvation in the world.