When You Give

leaning treeTwo of a mans most precious commodities are his time and his money. For the average man both are difficult to come by and even harder to keep. For that reason we tend to be very particular about what we do with both and who we allow to impose upon our supply.

The American Revolution was sourced out of the Colonists resistance to taxation without representation. It’s safe to say that their jealousy for their time and treasure is what fueled the Revolution. They refused to allow King George to take their money and waste their time while offering nothing in return.

It’s a fundamentally American trait. We don’t want anyone to make demands on our time or our money without adequate reason or our consent. So it’s no surprise that most American Christians are resistant to their Pastors and Bible Teachers encouraging them to give of their finances to their local church.

Jesus addresses our habits of giving and gives us instruction in The Sermon on The Mount when He says,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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 6:1-4 ESV)

Jesus tries to change our point of view when it comes to giving. He wants us to take our eyes off of the temporary and instead focus on the eternal. Giving helps us fight the lure of the immediate in favor of the promise of the eternal.

When we give of our finances to the Kingdom of God our eyes are not on the Earth but on Heaven. We use our finances as a tool to help us realign our hearts with the things that really matter. Jesus explains further in the sixth chapter of Matthew,

“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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

There are two truths here. First, what you give to God is never lost! The treasure that you commit to His trust cannot be taken from you. Investments in this life can be broken, be lost, be undervalued, devalued and stolen. However, whatever you invest in the Kingdom of God is secure “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

The second truth is that giving is an indicator of the inclination of your heart and the inclination of your heart matters. If a tree is going to fall, it’s going to fall the direction it leans. Jesus wants us to lean towards Heaven and our habits of giving is an indicator of that inclination, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. That’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver”. He wants giving to change the inclinations of our heart and replace duty with joy!

We were created for Gods glory. Furthermore, everything I do for Gods glory will also serve my joy. That’s the way God designed us to be most fulfilled and most at peace. That’s one of the reasons that Jesus prayed that our joy may be full (John 16:24). Because our joy is an indicator that we’re living our life for Gods glory.

Giving is for joy!

So, WHEN YOU GIVE:

Jesus said, “WHEN you give”, not “if”. The implication is that His disciples will be giving people. Giving is evidence of faith. It takes faith to give God a portion of your finances. Faith that the remainder will be enough to meet your needs and faith that God can do more with less! Knowing how important and necessary money is to every person it is no wonder that Jesus calls giving “the practice of righteousness” (Matt.6:1,ESV).

Jesus goes on to say, when you give, don’t give to be seen of men. The aim of someone who gives ostentatiously and explicitly is to be seen of men is to look pious and religious, to procure a reputation among their peers and community of being a righteous person because, again, giving is what Jesus called “the practice of righteousness”. Jesus calls that hypocrisy.

Our giving should be sourced out of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. Giving itself is not the goal but rather giving that is sourced from genuine heart change.

John the Baptist gives instruction regarding repentance in Luke 3. He gives his listeners three ways to show the “fruits of repentance”.

1) Share food & clothes with the poor (vs.11).
2) Tax collectors shouldn’t take more than they’re allowed (vs. 13).
3) Soldiers should be content with their wages & not extort money (vs.14).

Notice, they’re all related to how they handled money and possessions!

So now we have been presented with giving as the “fruit of repentance” and “the practice of righteousness”. Giving is important to the spiritual health of every believer!

The point of giving is genuine heart change, evidenced by a persons giving of their finances. We see this illustrated in a great way in Luke 19 in the life of Zacchaeus. After talking with Jesus, Zacchaeus the tax collector decided his life needed to change.

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [will] restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:8-9, ESV)

Zacchaeus had not repented yet. He had not yet been baptized. But Jesus viewed his commitment to generosity as evidence that there had been genuine heart change in Zacchaeus. When his heart towards giving changed Jesus said it was evidence that salvation had come to his house. Giving is about heart change.

Finally, Jesus goes on to teach His disciples to give as privately as possible. Privately to such a degree, that if you can prevent your left hand from knowing what your right hand is doing, do so when you give!

Jesus knew that the temptation is there to make a spectacle of the poor or the needy in the self interest of the givers reputation. In order to be seen as “practicing righteousness”, and gain a reputation as a generous person, some people would be inclined to make a public show of the poor and the less fortunate. It shows we are unconcerned for the dignity of the poor, we disrespect their personhood, when we make a spectacle of giving to them.

“Look at how poor they are, and how righteous we are, to be giving them these simple things they cannot even provide for themselves!” Jesus taught that is not the right spirit of giving.

He said to give privately. Avoid the show and the spectacle of generosity. That definitely means we shouldn’t post our generosity and giving on Facebook! He said give privately and our Father in Heaven will reward us openly. God rewards those who are givers, give cheerfully and give out of pure motives.

Randy Alcorn, in his bestselling book, The Treasure Principle, leaves us with six scriptural principles concerning giving.

  1. God Owns Everything and I Am His Money Manager
  2. My Heart Always Goes Where I Put God’s Money
  3. Heaven, Not Earth, Is My Home
  4. I Should Not Live Merely for the Moment but for Eternity
  5. Giving is the Only Antidote to Materialism
  6. God Prospers Me Not to Raise My Standard of Living, but to Raise My Standard of Giving

I don’t believe giving should be a chore. It should not be a duty. Giving should be a delight. Everything I do for God’s glory will also work for my joy and giving is one of those things. Giving is for joy.

One of the greatest steps of faith you can take is to trust God with your finances. If you do, be sure of this, He will bless those who bless His kingdom.

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