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The Joy of Giving

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35b


     There are really just two kinds of people in this world: the givers and the takers. The first group of people sees life as an opportunity to make a positive impact. This group wants to be a blessing to those around them and making others happy is what makes them happy.
     The second group is the takers. Their primary motivation is to see what life has to offer them. They think it is unfair if anyone else has more than they do. They are often lazy, waiting for a free handout, and their discontented attitude is contagious to other takers and distasteful and discouraging to the givers they encounter.
     The truth is that we should all be givers. Giving is God's will, and it is the basic principle upon which this nation was built. Imagine living in a community where everyone's main purpose is to help each other, to encourage and build up one another and to freely supply each other's needs. Imagine attending a school like that.
     Sounds great, doesn't it? Actually, one day we will get to live in a gigantic community just like that--if we've put our faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. Until we get to heaven, however, our goal should be to make sure that we as individuals are living our lives as givers.
     I'm not perfect in this aspect, but I began learning to give at an early age. My parents, though often lacking in worldly possessions, would never have asked for a handout. In fact, my dad chose to quit his high-paying career and to receive a much lower salary, working for our church full-time. His motive in doing this was not to advance himself or his own best interests but instead to serve Christ and others, regardless of personal sacrifice. He is a giver.
     From my parents' examples, I soon learned the joy of giving. I can remember one Christmas when I wanted a beautiful big dollhouse. It was much nicer than the pressboard dollhouse I'd gotten from a yard sale, taped in several places to keep the second-story floor from collapsing.
     This new dollhouse was beautiful, made from a sturdy plastic. It was battery-operated, with a doorbell that actually rang and lights that glowed--the toilet even made a flushing sound!
     My parents told me that the house was too expensive for them to afford, and that if I wanted it, I could earn the money by doing chores and saving my small weekly allowance until I had earned enough to buy the dollhouse myself. And save I did--for about eight months I saved my dollars and cents until I had enough to buy that dream house.
     Throughout the summer, as I worked to earn and save my money, my church was also saving money for an important goal--to be debt free. When the church was built, a large loan was incurred, and twenty years or so later, the majority was yet to be repaid. Our pastor thought it an unwise use of God's money to continue paying the high interest rates and urged the congregation to give offerings to eliminate the remaining sum.
     The goal was to have the total reduced to zero by a specific date in the fall--just about the time I had reached my own savings goal. With only weeks to the church's deadline, thousands of dollars were still needed, and our pastor urged each church member to take a pledge card and pray about giving a sacrificial offering toward the building fund.
     Just like everyone else, I took a card--but now I was faced with a tough decision. Giving any money would mean delaying the reward I'd been working toward and anticipating for so long.
     Not giving would mean that I was putting my desire for a dollhouse above my love for God and my loyalty to His church. I knew I couldn't do that. In fact, I already knew what the Holy Spirit was leading me to do.
     The following Sunday, I shocked my parents by emptying my stash of money to give the entire amount to the Lord.
     Giving that money was one of the most satisfactory things I've ever done. In that instant, I became more than "just a kid." I knew that what I'd done was sacrificial and mature and that made me feel ten feet tall.
     Just like Jesus said, putting my treasure into God's work helped me feel personally invested. It demonstrated that my heart was in the right place, and I'd officially become part of the solution to a problem much bigger than myself. Deep down, I knew that if every member took their responsibility to the church as seriously as I had, the church's financial problems would cease to exist.
     Most importantly, giving became my first big step of faith and personal obedience to the Holy Spirit within me (after salvation and baptism).
     If I'd have bought that dollhouse back then, I would have gained a toy, but I believe that giving up the dollhouse changed my life. Yes, that act, that unselfish act of love toward God, has defined who I've become as a person and who I am today. Why? Because I got to experience first-hand the joy of giving, and I've never wanted to be anything other than a giver.
     That's my testimony, but I'm not asking you to take my word alone. The Bible is our foundation for all life's decisions, and it tells us why we should give, how we should give and to whom God wants us to give.
     First of all, why should we give? The why is always crucial because whenever we perform an act of Christian service, we should be doing it for the Lord and not to please people. We may be able to please people by going through the motions but not God--His main concern is our motivation for service, the why behind what we're doing. Since God sees down into the deepest part of us, He is constantly aware of our heart condition, and He knows whether our motivation is love, gratitude, obedience to the Holy Spirit, or personal reward.
     Love is the strongest motivator to give. That's because giving is love in action. John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." His gift was a natural outpouring of His love.
     Just like the phrase, "Where there's smoke, there's fire," the Bible teaches that "where there's love, there's giving." If you want to know what you truly love and deeply desire, look at the object of your money, time and energy: that's what you love.
     In fact, give-to-what-you-love and love-what-you-give-to is a "cause and effect" type truth. The more you give, the more you love. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). Want to know how to love God more deeply? The answer is simple: give.
     The second motivation for giving is in direct response to salvation. When you first heard the gospel story--how you were lost without hope until God Himself became flesh and endured human torture and death just to save you from hell--what was your heart's immediate response? Mine was gratitude. Gratitude that brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to show Christ how much His sacrifice means, though I could never come close to repaying the debt that I owe. 
     I know a story about a man who met Jesus and about the gratitude that led to a huge "giving" spree! That man was Zacchaeus, one of the most infamous takers of his time. He was a tax collector, a ruthless money gatherer who would not hesitate to seize a man's possessions, house and even children, in order to collect in full.
     That was his reputation before he met Jesus. Zacchaeus knew he was hated and feared. People even complained that Jesus would consider eating with this greedy, wicked man, but Jesus loved Zacchaeus absolutely, unconditionally. It was gratitude for Christ's love that transformed Zacchaeus into a man who promised, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by

 

false accusation, I restore to him fourfold" (Luke 19:8).
     Do you think that Zacchaeus cared that he had ended the day less that half as rich as he was in the morning? Not a bit! Zacchaeus had discovered the joy of giving in response to gratitude.
     The third motivator of giving is simple obedience to the Holy Spirit. My preacher, Pastor Trout, often reminds us that "Everything that God controls, gives." It's as true today as it was in Paul's time. He recorded that Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us…" (Galatians 1:4). Later, Paul saw this same behavior being imitated by a group of poor Christians at Macedonia. "Even though they were in such deep poverty," Paul wrote, "they just kept on giving--they gave more than they were even financially able to give. But before they gave us any money, they first gave their own selves to God, and to us" (paraphrase, 2 Corinthians, 8:1-5). Just like those Macedonians, we will become givers as we become more Christ-like by obeying His Holy Spirit.
     When God looks deep into our hearts, I hope that he does not find this final motivation for giving. It is giving for self-gain. Many of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus' day, were guilty of this type of giving. They gave for selfish reasons--to be seen and praised of men, to gain status and be sought for spiritual advice. Jesus preached against the Pharisees' selfish ways, and they hated Him for it.
     In contrast, Christ taught an unselfish giving: "Give to every man that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again" (Luke 6:30). In other words, our giving should not be a two-way transaction. Don't say, "If I give you this, what will you give me?" Give when you have absolutely nothing to gain by giving.
     Now that we've explored the three whys of giving, let's move on to the method of giving: how does God want us to give? I found several suggestions for godly giving, and these ways were: giving cheerfully, unselfishly, simply and instantly.
     "God loveth a cheerful giver," the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7b. Giving cheerfully means giving willingly. Have you ever gotten in an argument with a brother or sister? Unless you don't have a brother or sister, I'm guessing, "yes"! Well, imagine that you're arguing over the remote control. If your mom hears the noise, comes in and tells you to give up the remote, how are you going to give it? Will you hand it over cheerfully or grudgingly?
     You'll probably hand it over grudgingly, perhaps muttering some unflattering remarks under your breath. That's because you were forced to give the remote up unwillingly--you never made the choice to be the giver in that situation. God is pleased only when we choose to give, willingly and cheerfully.
     The second how is giving unselfishly. Proverbs 21:25-26 presents an interesting contrast of takers and givers, and verse 26 concludes by saying that "the righteous giveth and spareth not." A practical application of this concept could take place when you and a friend both reach the cookie jar on your kitchen counter at the same exact time. Inside the jar, you see one delicious chocolate chip cookie. Your mouth is watering. Do you, a) send your friend home and eat the whole cookie yourself, b) split the cookie (trying to get the slightly bigger half), or c) offer your guest the whole cookie, leaving none for yourself? The last option is an example of unselfish giving.
     Third, God wants us to give unpretentiously, or simply. Remember how we said the Pharisees gave? God wants us to be the opposite of that. "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity," we are instructed in Romans 12:8. Don't toot your own horn or make a big fuss; just give. If your motivation is pleasing God, you won't worry about who else notices.
     Finally, the Bible says that we should give instantly, without hesitation. If you truly want to give, you probably won't be tempted to procrastinate. "Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee" (Proverbs 3:28). When we see others in need, the Bible teaches that the time to act is now.
     So now that we know why to give and how to give, it's time to find out the object of our giving: to whom should we give? Well, I don't believe that it's ever wrong to be a giver, but the Bible seems to indicate that our giving should be prioritized in the following directions: God, our own family, other Christians, the poor, and anyone who asks.
     Of course our primary outlet of giving should be God, the ultimate Giver. Hannah is a prime example of someone who gave her most precious gift to God--her first-born son, Samuel (1 Samuel 1). Her sacrifice typifies the biblical teaching that God deserves the first and best of our giving. Are you giving God the best of your praise, your songs, your talents, time and money? Have you given Him your body as a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1)? As the chorus says, "How can I do less than give Him my best and live for Him completely after all He's done for me?"
     The second group of people to whom we should be giving is our family. Proverbs 31:15 tells us that the virtuous woman "riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household." This woman unselfishly gave up some of her own sleep to care for the needs of her family. Remember that giving is love in action. Often we say, "I love you!" to other members of our family, but are we backing up those words with our actions?
     Third, we are instructed to give to other Christians in need. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). God wants us to prioritize helping other Christians. When we give to and serve one another we are helping to build up Christ's body, the church.
     The next people to whom God wants us to give are poor people. In fact, the Bible never tells us to go out and get our first job so that we can afford a hot sports car, but it does tell us that one reason we work is so we can give to poor people. Ephesians 4:28b says that a person should "labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." If you're not willing to work, you'll almost certainly never be in the position to be a giver. It's God's plan that we work and wisely conserve our resources so that we can be a blessing to others in their time of need.
     The final person to whom we should give is to the person who asks. Now hopefully this isn't a person who is greedily asking for everything all the day long, but the Bible does teach that God especially responds to those who ask. "Ask, and it shall be given you," is God's promise to us in Matthew 7:7. Aren't you glad we have a God who delights in giving us good things?
     Like Him, we should enjoy giving good things to those who ask. "Give to him that asketh thee," says Jesus (Matthew 5:42). Of course, you can't give away your only winter coat and then tell your mom that she has to buy you a new one, but if you have two backpacks and your classmate has none, you can certainly pass along the extra one while being an example of giving: love in action.
     Well, thank you so much for patiently studying through this lesson on giving with me. I usually try to be more brief, but I just found such a wealth of information on this subject that I wanted to share it with you. By the many, many recurring mentions of the word "give" and variations thereof throughout God's Word, I conclude that this is a topic dear to His heart--arguably the most important of all, because without His gift, we would all be lost for eternity. It is my prayer that God will give each of us the desire and the opportunity to live our lives as givers, as we love one another in word and deed.

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