Giving: Not a Given
My parents were quite keen on their offspring reading good biographies. Thus I was in my early teens the first time I read George Muller of Bristol.
George Muller’s faith and giving were inextricably joined. Mr. Muller gave generously to the Lord’s work (above and beyond his orphanages), usually giving away 60-75% of his income. As I read this as a teen, I was convicted to give generously, sacrificially, and regularly. This example of giving profoundly shaped my thoughts and habits of personal giving.
Though I fall quite short of the 60% mark, I’ve learned firsthand the benefits and blessings of both planned and spontaneous giving. Incidentally, God blessed me with a husband who loves to give, so we can be united in this endeavor.
Giving in scripture
Giving is a Scriptural concept! God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17) While God’s giving nature is on display throughout the entire Bible, His most generous and sacrificial gift was the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)
Not only does God give, but He expects His people to be cheerful, generous givers. (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving fulfills a two-pronged purpose. It is the tool God uses to meet the needs of His people. It is also one of the means that resounds in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 8:14-15) Giving is even included in the list of spiritual gifts. (Romans 12:8)
The New Testament does not specify amounts or percentages that believers should give. Instead, we need to be seeking the Lord, asking Him to reveal needs and what He wants us to give in any situation. Giving requires dependance on God for His leading and faith that as He has provided in the past, He will continue to do so in the future.
Make it a habit to give to God first from your income. You will never regret this. As we give to God first, we experience Proverbs 3:9-10: Honor the Lord with thy substance and with the first fruits of all thine increase. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. This principle of giving is reiterated over and over in Scripture. (Malachi 3:8-12, Luke 6:38, I Kings 17)
Planned and reactive giving
Make giving both planned and spontaneous. Planned, because the saying goes, fail to plan-plan to fail. If you don’t plan to give, you probably won’t give. Paul teaches this in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Plan to give regularly to your home church as well as to missionaries and organizations that are doing God’s work.
Spontaneous giving is also very important. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and give reactively to needs that you observe or are made aware of.
On our spiritual high horses, we can get judgmental when believers ask for money. But, Jesus had something to say about that. Give to him that asks of thee. (Matthew 5:42) No caveats. We can’t see, and thus shouldn’t judge, hearts and motives.
(Which is not to discount prudence in our giving. Even in giving we can be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. When giving to an organization, investigate how they steward the gifts given to them.)
Giving is good-whether from abundance or in a pinch. Sometimes it is our regular tithe off the top. Sometimes giving means we have to sacrifice something we’d like in order to give to someone else’s need. Giving should occasionally actually cost us something. (2 Samuel 24:24) Sometimes the measure of our generosity is not what we give, but what we keep. (Luke 21:1-4)
We must teach the discipline of giving to the next generation, in our homes and churches, through our words and actions. Talk to your children about giving, and share with them exactly how you give. Point youth to the rich heritage of giving found throughout Scripture and church history. Promote the habit of giving. Encourage young couples to start their joint finances on a foundation of planned giving.
Freely you have received, freely give…