The Joy of Giving

Not the reality

Imagine a box full of wonderful things, many of which themselves contain even more wonders. The more you open, the more there is to be found. I think giving money away to people, churches, causes, and organisations, is like this: it opens up entire worlds of truth and blessing to the Christian who gives as God would have them…

God gave you His Son
This isn’t a guilt trip, just a fact (John 3:16). You live in and because of His generosity.

You will be reminded of Who the money belongs to
How much of your money do I think you should give away? Well, I don’t think it’s your money at all.
“The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8)
“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Whatever you have, it comes from God. Even if you were paid it as a salary for work that you did, who gave you the opportunity and ability to do that job? The people who give you money are God’s means of Him giving you some of His money. This means that you are not an owner but a steward of God’s resources, accountable to Him for what you do with all of it. The worshipers in 1 Chronicles 29:14 got it right:
“For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You.”
It’s why God gave you what you have
Realising that what you have belongs to God, the question to ask becomes: What does God want me to do with what He’s given me? Glad you asked:
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)
God will bless you (and not curse you)
Is a cursing really on the cards? Well, that’s what Malachi 3:10 says when God addresses His people who aren’t giving to Him:
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:8-10)
Now, Christ has taken our curse (Galatians 3:13) but the force of the point is not blunted by this. As someone I heard once said: surely it’s better to live with 90% of our income and God’s blessing, than with 100% of it and His curse?

Giving releases you from trusting in money
Generous and cheerful giving fatally weakens any grip that money has on you, because you’re actively choosing to live with less. If you hold on to money, it will hold on to you. You’ll never feel like you have enough, you’ll always worry about what might happen. Cheerfully let money slip out of your hand and experience a sense of freedom that no bank account total will ever give you.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Giving puts money in its place: a tool given by God to you for provision, for yourself and others.

Makes you aware of your wealth
Most westerners are wealthier than 99% of all the people who have ever lived, I would guesstimate. Giving helps you realise that God has given you more than you need.

Prepares for handling more money well
The billionaire philanthropist John D. Rockefeller reflected on how it was that he could give away such vast fortunes in his later life, and concluded:
“I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.”
A biblical principle is that when we show ourselves faithful with a little, God will entrust us with more. If you give from a little, God can trust you to give from a lot.

It’s good to have less
… for those of us who are very rich (which is almost all of us). God wants us to be content, and learning to live with less will help us in this:
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Those are some serious dangers avoided by giving away more of what you have!

C.S. Lewis makes a fascinating point about working out how much we should give:
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.”
Considering that we’re following in the pattern of the God who gave His only beloved Son for us, this makes sense. It also forces us to care less about possessions.

God will prove Himself
“You shall not put the LORD your God to the test,” says Deuteronomy 6:16, and Jesus quoted this to the devil when He was being tempted (Matthew 4:7). Except, there is one area in which God invites you to test Him:
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10)
Here’s the deal: give to your Lord, and then watch Him give back! This principle has been abused by many a thief posing as a preacher, but God said it so we can’t ignore it.

God isn’t a machine whose output is directly responsive to our input, He’s a Father who loves to encourage His children in His ways. When you give generously, it opens your eyes to His work in your life. I never get tired of experiencing this, realising that God has provided in response to my giving. It’s one of the clearest ways He shows Himself to me, proving Himself. I know so many Christians who have stories of Him doing this – sometimes indirectly and other times with exact amounts that have been given away and then miraculously reimbursed, as it were.

God will be glorified
“For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12)
When you show that God matters more to you than what the world treasures, when you show that He is real and caring, you are showing that God is glorious.

Giving does good
This point is obvious, and is where most charities start when they try to motivate us. There are people in desperate need of help, and your giving can do them good. Through our giving, Deb and I pay for a Bengali girl’s upbringing and education, we give comfort and resources to persecuted Christians around the world, we translate the Bible into languages in which it hasn’t been read yet, we offer shelter and long-term help to homeless people in our city, we preach the gospel and plant churches and develop leaders and run ministries for kids and students and the elderly, and many more things than we’ll ever actually know until the Day when we see and understand all things. We don’t have the time or ability to do most of these things, but through our giving we get to be involved in them.

Your heart will be connected to others
Giving is a tangible expression of support: you are involved much more than if you simply wish someone or something success. Paul speaks of the Macedonian Christians giving to others from out of their own poverty, “begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:4).

Put your heart in the right place
Jesus knows how we work: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) You put your money when your heart is, and so where you put your money is where your heart will go to.

God will reward you
You may be horrified at such selfishness in an article that’s meant to be about giving, but Jesus is fine with appealing to our best interests:
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)
Paul thinks the same way:
“And in this matter I give my judgement: this benefits you… The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 8:10, 9:6)
God will reward you: maybe now, definitely later. Which leads us onto…

Send your wealth ahead
Again, Jesus doesn’t blink at what might make us blush:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
Paul agrees once more:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Earthly investments rise and fall with the circumstances of life, heavenly ones do not. Seriously, do you want to keep hold of that money in uncertainty for a few decades at best, or guarantee it for countless millennia to come? It’s really up to you. As Randy Alcorn puts it: “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.”.

What exactly “treasures in heaven” mean, we don’t know. But it sounds good, doesn’t it? Among other things, I believe that we will speak to people in Heaven who will say to us, “I’m here because you gave. You gave so that a church was started, and I heard the gospel preached there, and God saved me, and now I’m here with Him and you. Thank you.” Come to think of it, I will be seeking out people I don’t currently know with something similar to say to them. These are riches we cannot lose.

You will be in harmony with Christ
Giving is being like Jesus:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
It’s fun!
You get to go on giving adventures with God, sharing His love and joy with those in desperate need, and then also seeing Him bless you in ways so specific they’re hilarious – how can getting yourself a slightly newer phone, another jumper, or an extra coffee compare with this?
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)