The gift, money, or assistance given by a person or persons to another or others. The Hebrew teru·mahʹ means “contribution; sacred portion; heave offering.” (Ex 25:2, ftn; 29:27, ftn) It comes from the verb rum, which literally means “be high; be exalted; lift up” (Job 22:12; 1Sa 2:1; Ge 14:22) and which, in the causative form, may mean “cause to lift up [as a contribution],” hence “contribute.”—Le 22:15.
A contribution may or may not involve material giving. Paul thanked God because of the contribution the Philippian Christians made to the good news. In addition to their personal part in spreading the good news, they had materially assisted Paul and probably others, thus loyally supporting the preaching of the good news in this way too.—Php 1:3-5; 4:16-18.
The Israelites were privileged to make contributions for erecting and equipping structures for true worship. They donated materials for the tabernacle and its furnishings (Ex 25:1-9; 35:4-9), “a voluntary offering to Jehovah” that had to be halted because the things given “proved to be enough for all the work to be done, and more than enough.” (Ex 35:20-29; 36:3-7) King David’s contributions for the construction of the prospective temple included his “special property” of gold and silver, to the amount of more than $1,202,000,000. In turn, the princes and the chiefs of the people happily contributed over $1,993,000,000, in gold and silver, besides copper, iron, and stones.—1Ch 29:1-9.
Some contributions were required under the Law. When Moses took a census of the Israelites, each male 20 years old and upward was to give a ransom for his soul, “a half shekel [probably $1.10] by the shekel of the holy place.” It was “Jehovah’s contribution” in order to make atonement for their souls and “in behalf of the service of the tent of meeting.” (Ex 30:11-16) According to the Jewish historian Josephus (The Jewish War, VII, 218 [vi, 6]), this “sacred tax” was thereafter paid annually.—2Ch 24:6-10; Mt 17:24; see TAXATION.
For the support of the Levites, the priestly tribe, God provided that the Israelites contribute “tenth parts” of the land’s produce. The Levites, in turn, contributed a tenth part to the high priest, to support him and his family. (Nu 18:26-28; see TITHE.) Jehovah gave Aaron the high priest custody of the contributions the Israelites made to God, allowing him and his sons to partake of their offerings and of the oil, wine, grain, and first ripe fruits of the land that the people gave to Jehovah, as well as granting them portions of animal sacrifices. A tax from the spoils of war was given to the high priest as “Jehovah’s contribution,” and a portion of the spoils likewise went to the Levites.—Nu 31:1, 2, 28-30.
The Israelites made various offerings and sacrifices to Jehovah, some of which were specifically required by the Law. Others, however, were entirely voluntary, such as thanksgiving and vow offerings.—Le 7:15, 16; see OFFERINGS.
In the days of King Jehoash, a chest was placed at the gate of the house of Jehovah to receive contributions for extensive repair work on the temple. The princes and the people then rejoiced to bring in “the sacred tax,” with which it was possible to make the house of God strong, and to make temple utensils.—2Ch 24:4-14.
Non-Israelites also contributed to true worship. When Ezra and the Jewish remnant left Babylon for Jerusalem in 468 B.C.E., they carried with them silver, gold, and utensils, a contribution to the house of God made by King Artaxerxes of Persia, his counselors, his princes, and the Israelites in Babylon. These valuable articles were entrusted to the care of selected men during the journey.—Ezr 7:12-20; 8:24-30.
In performing the ministry, Jesus Christ and his apostles accepted material aid that was contributed. (Lu 8:1-3) Christians in Macedonia and Achaia especially showed eagerness to assist their needy brothers, being “pleased to share up their things by a contribution to the poor of the holy ones in Jerusalem,” evidently by contributing money.—Ro 15:26; see COLLECTION.
At Romans 15:26 and 2 Corinthians 9:13, the Greek word for “contribution” (koi·no·niʹa) may be viewed as meaning literally “sharing.” This same Greek word is used at Hebrews 13:16: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Many Jews and proselytes from other places who had become Christians during the time of Pentecost, 33 C.E., apparently remained for a time in Jerusalem in order to learn more about the faith. So that none might come to want, they contributed their belongings voluntarily; “they had all things in common.” (Ac 4:32-37; compare Ac 5:1-4.) Later on, the Jerusalem congregation made a daily distribution of food to needy widows. (Ac 6:1-3) Paul gave instructions as to the use of contributed funds in caring for widows who were truly worthy of help.—1Ti 5:9, 10; see RELIEF.
There was no compulsion to make contributions in the early Christian congregation. In this regard, Paul wrote: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2Co 9:7.
The size of a contribution does not necessarily give a true picture of the giver’s generosity. Once Jesus Christ watched as persons deposited money in the temple’s treasury chests. Rich individuals dropped in many coins, but Jesus was impressed with the wholehearted generosity of a needy widow who dropped in only two small coins of very little value, saying: “This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.” (Lu 21:1-4; Mr 12:41-44) When it came to making contributions to aid poor fellow believers, Paul observed: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”—2Co 8:12.
Although no one can actually enrich Jehovah, who owns all things (1Ch 29:14-17), contributing is a privilege that affords the worshiper opportunity to display his love for Jehovah. Contributions given, not for publicity or for selfish motives but with the proper attitude and to advance true worship, bring happiness, along with God’s blessing. (Ac 20:35; Mt 6:1-4; Pr 3:9, 10) A person can assure himself of a share in this happiness by setting aside something from his material belongings regularly for the support of true worship and the aid of deserving ones.—1Co 16:1, 2.
Jehovah furnishes the best example of giving, for he has bestowed upon humanity “life and breath and all things” (Ac 17:25), he has given his only-begotten Son for mankind (Joh 3:16), and he enriches Christians for every sort of generosity (2Co 9:10-15). Indeed, “every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights.”—Jas 1:17; see GIFTS, PRESENTS.
See also HOLY CONTRIBUTION.