The Habit of Giving
The habit of giving touches the heart of the Christian life. Our life in Christ is possible because "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Love is at the center of our life in Christ but giving is the first and most direct result of love. Love to someone is proven in a willingness to sacrifice for that person. Jesus Christ expressed the importance of giving when He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). And, though we tend to measure everything in terms of dollars, the giving to which Christ refers is much more than just money. It includes all we are and all we have.
THE GIVING OF CHRIST
Galatians 1:3-4; 2:20 - Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world." Notice in Galatians 2:20 that Christ "loved me" and as a result "gave himself for me." No wonder that Paul expressed his gratitude with these words, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15). Over and over again in the New Testament (see Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14), we are told how that Jesus Christ gave His very life for our sakes. Sacrificial giving is central to everything that is identified with Christ and Christian living.
2 Corinthians 8:9 - How do we know or experience the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ"? We know it by the fact that "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." Jesus Christ "took upon him the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7) and "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (verse 8) so that we might be "joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Obviously, to be Christ-like, we must learn sacrificial giving.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES
2 Corinthians 8:5 - Paul tells of the Macedonians who did more than just give for the needs of others, "but first gave their own salves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." True Christian giving begins with the giving of ourselves to the Lord. Paul beseeched the Romans to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). More than anything else, God wants you. And, anything you give without giving yourself is only a token of what you truly owe to the Lord.
So many times, when we talk about giving, people think only of dollars and cents. There are many things that can be given to the Lord apart from money. How many things can you name that we should be giving to the Lord?
GIVING TO THE SAINTS
Romans 12:13 - As Christians we should be, "Distributing to the necessity of the saints; given to hospitality." Those Christians who have this world's goods should be "rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Timothy 6:18). Notice that these commands are not to the church but to individual Christians. Many are ready today to tell churches what they should be doing for the poor. However, the Biblical command to help those in need is always given to individual believers. This is not to say that churches are refrained from helping the poor, only that the bulk of the responsibility goes to the individual. Believers ought to be ministering to other believers who are in need. It does not have to be brought to the church for a vote. When you see a believer in need and the Lord tugs at your heart concerning their need, reach into your own billfold and be a blessing to them.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 - Paul tells the Corinthians that his purpose in them giving is not that "other men be eased, and ye burdened." Rather, he desires that their present "abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality." He is not suggesting the equality of communism where the goods of the wealthy are taken from them but the equality of Christian love. We are to gladly give to others out of our abundance knowing that God will use another to minister to us in our time of need.
GIVING TO THE POOR
James 2:15-16 - James teaches us that immediate action is required when a fellow Christian is lacking in either of two areas (see verse 15): if 1) they are naked [without adequate covering] or if 2) they need daily food. When we see this kind of desperate need in a brother or sister in Christ, we are to give them "those things which are needful to the body." What are some things that we might not be required to give them? What are some situations that might require careful consideration before giving to others.
Proverbs 19:17 - What about those who are not Christians? Are we commanded to help them as well? As God leads, we should be ready to help any who are in need. "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." That is a pretty good promise. The same thing was true under the law (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). They were not to harden their heart or shut their hand to a poor brother. But, rather, they are told to "lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth." The giving is personal and is to be applied to a particular need. The giver, therefore, has the right to make sure that the gift is used for a particular need. Sometimes the best thing is not to hand the person money but to buy them groceries, pay their utility bill, etc. The giver is expected to be careful in how he helps others.
GIVING TO THE WORK OF CHRIST
The scriptures say much about the support of God's work on earth by the people of God. This, of course, includes much more than money. But it does include money. One of the greatest blessings in our service to God is the opportunity to help financially in God's work. Giving of this sort recognizes the fact that God owns all we have and is certainly worthy of a portion back. It also places us in His caring hand. Paul told those Philippians who had given so sacrificially, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). That is God's promise to those who give to Him. How should we give to God? Here is God's plan for giving.
- Give Secretly
Matthew 6:1-4 - Christ warned against the doing of "alms before men." Those who do their alms to be seen of men have already received their reward. The Bible teaches that giving is not a public activity. Only God knows how much of a sacrifice each gift really is. The widow's two mites (Luke 21:1-4) were more than the bags of gold given out of abundance. Be satisfied that God knows what you give and He will certainly reward you in like kind.
- Give Proportionally
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 - Paul taught the Corinthians to give on the first day of the week "as God hath prospered him." That means that those who were prospered or blessed more should give more than those who had been prospered less. This sounds a lot like the concept of tithing (that is, the giving of ten percent). God expects us to give in proportion as He has given to us. The more He blesses us, the more we should give in return to Him. The giving of the tithe is not laid down in legal terms for us who are in the age of grace. We are to give because of love and not because of fear of breaking the law. However, this does not mean that we should give less because of love than because of law. Actually, it should probably be the other way around. But certainly, God expects proportional giving of His people.
- Give Sacrificially
2 Corinthians 8:1-3 - The Macedonians did not just give what they reasonably could ("to their power"). Paul testified that "beyond their power they were willing of themselves." They gave much more than could be reasonably expected. This is sacrificial giving and this is where the blessings of God are most abundant to the giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6 teaches, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." What kind of reaping are you receiving? What kind of sowing are you doing? They are one and the same.
- Give Willingly
2 Corinthians 8:11-12 - In order to do God's will as to giving, we must first have a "readiness to will, so there may be a performance also...For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." If we give simply out of fear or duty, we lose much of our reward. The willing mind is what makes the gift acceptable to God.
- Give Exactly
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Every man is to give unto God "according as he purposeth in his own heart." No one has a right to send you a bill or take a gift out of your paycheck. You must decide what to give unto the Lord. But do not give blindly by simply pulling something out of your wallet every once in a while. Determine what God wants you to give and give it faithfully. This also gives God a chance to increase your faith from time to time.
- Give Cheerfully
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Do not give to God "grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." When we give to God, we are returning a portion of His blessing to us. This is a blessed act and should be done with joyfulness and good cheer.
- Give Expectingly
Luke 6:38 - "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." Giving puts us under the watchful hand of God where He promises to take care of us. May we as Christians learn the holy habit of giving!