Giving. We hear a lot about it. It seems like everyone is looking for “donations”. It is not just churches any more. It is getting so it feels like every time I go to the mailbox there is another letter asking for money for one “worthy” project or another. And then there are all the “TV evangelists” telling us, “If you want to be ‘prosperous’ send us lots of money and God will bless you.” By which they mean He will make you rich. Even Jesus told one rich man to sell every thing he owned and give the money to the poor. And the Bible is full of instructions on caring for the poor and needy. So it seems like giving is something we should be doing. But how should we look at giving? Is it really a way to get on God’s “good side”? A way to “earn points” with God? Or is it something else entirely?
A few months ago I turned on the radio just in time to hear part of a song by the Gaither Vocal Band called “Give it Away”. The bit of the song I heard talked about giving away whatever God gives us rather than keeping it for ourselves. And that got me to thinking about what Jesus had to say about how we should treat others. Luke recorded it this way, “Treat other people as you would like them to treat you. What credit is it to you if you love only those who love you? Why, even sinners love those who love them. What credit is it to you if you do good only to those who do good to you? Even sinners do that. What credit is it to you if you lend only to those who you expect will pay you back? Even sinners lend to each other, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing back! Your reward will be great, and you will be children of Ha‘Elyon [the Most High]; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive gifts — the full measure, compacted, shaken together and overflowing, will be put right in your lap. For the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure back to you!” (Luke 6:31-38 The Complete Jewish Bible)
So are all those TV preachers correct? Will we get rich if we send them our money? After all Jesus does tell us to give and He will bless us. Yes He did say that, however, He said we are to show compassion as part of our giving. Do you really think sending your money to someone who lives in a million dollar mansion is “showing compassion”? Or do you think that just maybe Jesus meant we should be helping those who really need our help? After all, He did say to help those who can not repay you in any way. (He did not say to send your money to those who are too selfish to repay you!) And when we help them we should be just as generous as God is with us. In fact, Jesus said He will use whatever measure we chose to bless others to bless us. If we choose to use a small measure and to use it grudgingly, then that is how we will be blessed – not much at all. However, if we give with a large measure and fill it so full that it runs over into the other person’s lap, then that is how God will bless us. But don’t expect to be able to stop giving and have those blessings continue so you can be rich. As soon as you stop blessing others so you can start filling your own barns, God will stop blessing you and let you get by on your own. God does not believe in the popular “give to get” principle that is taught in so many churches today.
Jesus had this to say about those who want to keep what they get for themselves, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16b-21 NASB Revised) I do need to point out that Jesus did not condemn the man for “storing up” for the future, but that he did so selfishly. He had no desire at all to help anyone but himself with what he had been given. So, yes, we can put aside money for the future, but not to the exclusion of helping others now. We are also to be “rich toward God” at the same time, and we do this by helping those in need that God puts in our lives.
I have noticed something interesting in all this, when I am freely using what God gives me to bless others, God’s measure always seems to be bigger than mine. I have a very hard time keeping up with Him. But that allows me to help more people! And the more people I help, the more God gives me to help them with.
However, I have also learned that something else can happen as well. God may choose to test you to see just what it is you are relying on – Him or His blessings. And He does this by stopping those blessings completely. Sources of income may go away, you might lose a job, you might be faced with huge medical bills, or car repair bills, or need to buy a different car. You might even have to move to a different part of the country. And you will not have enough money for any of this. And God is asking you, “Is it my money you are after or is it Me you are seeking? Are you willing to put yourself completely in My hands and rely totally on Me and let me deal with all this or do you just want me to give you some more money so you can take care of it yourself?”
It is when we let go completely and say, “OK God, it’s all yours, I choose not deal with this on my own. It is Yours to do with as You see fit and I will accept what ever you choose” that the most fantastic things happen. Money will come in just in time to pay that bill, the car that is not supposed to run will keep going in spite of the broken parts, the most amazing “coincidences” will happen, you will never have enough money to “make it to the next payday”, but you will anyway as long as you are honoring God with what He gives you. I am not saying we just sit back and do nothing, but I am saying that we only do what God gives us to do. And that is the hardest part. It is all too easy to jump in and start saying, “I can do it now” when God is not ready for us. But then on the other hand, we better not refuse to move when God says, “OK, it is time now.” And that can be a hard-line to walk at times. Many people seem to think they can just “sit back and let God do it all” when God wants to work through us, to guide us, and direct us as we do what He wants us to do. But on the other hand, it is just as easy to want to get in there and take care of it ourselves because, who better than us knows what needs to be done, right? But don’t you think an omniscient God might know even more about the situation than you do?
And we also have a tendency to plan for the worst case scenario. I’m not saying we shouldn’t consider what could go wrong and plan for it, but all to often that is where we stop planning. We never even think about what we would do if God gave us way more than we need.
I read a story a while ago about the team that is working on the Hope Radio station that is being built near the Hospital of Hope in Mango, Togo, West Africa. I will let them tell the story in their own words:
“For more than three years a team of ABWE missionaries [Association of Baptists for World Evangelism] has been preparing for Hope Radio, and when it came time for construction, they planned several months of focused, fervent prayer for the fund-raising. Just a few days after they began praying, a local businessman got in contact with Evan Drake the father of Hope Radio missionary Adam Drake. The businessman said he’d like to contribute and asked how much the radio project needed. Evan told him that $25,000 would give them enough to construct the first building on the site, and he appeared to be seriously considering the large mount. Evan was encouraged by the way God seemed to be providing so abundantly just a few days into the prayer campaign.
“Then, a couple of days later, the businessman came back with a check and a sheet detailing the building costs for the entire project. The man had circled every number on the sheet, added all the costs together, then tacked on several thousand dollars to cover miscellaneous expenses, and handed over a check for ten times more than what was originally asked for.”
Pretty nice answer to prayer isn’t it? Or is it? Yes, they were praying for God to fund the project, but when God answered and sent the man He had chosen to provide the funding, it turns out that in reality they were only expecting, at best, $25,000 from him, enough for just the first phase of the project. An indication of this is the man asked, “How much do you need?” and they answered with what it would cost for the first building. But did you notice who God sent them? It seems that this businessman either knew something about building radio stations or knew people who did, because when he came back with his donation, he had gone through their plans and apparently found some things that they might have overlooked. Why else add extra money to their planned budget? And he had written them a check, not for a small part of the first phase of construction, not for a large part of it, not even for all of the first phase, but for the entire project! When they first met this man, they were hoping for, at best, $25,000, but God gave them more money than they thought they would need for the entire job. They thought they had planned for everything, they thought they were dreaming big by hoping God would lead this man to give them enough to build the first building, but He sent them a man who either knew more about these kinds of jobs and what they would really cost than they did, or he knew who to ask to find out what he needed to know, AND God gave him a such heart for the radio project that he was willing to fund it completely himself. Even though they were supposed to be praying for God to fund the entire project, it turns out their “dreaming big” was only enough to build the first building. God’s “dream big” plan for them was more than they thought they would need for the whole job!
As the Apostle Paul said, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think [imagine – NIV], according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NASB Revised)
God CAN do what we ask, He can even do MORE than we can think or imagine! (And I have a real good imagination!) How often do we sell God short because we are just planning for the short fall, when we should also be planning for the excess?
Another thing to think about, do you really think God needs your money? In fact do you think He really wants your money? Or is it something else He is truly after? King Saul tried to use the excuse that the reason he had not done as God had commanded and killed all the livestock of the Amalekites, was that “the people forced me to do it so we could make sacrifices to God.” (See 1 Samuel 15) In other words “We didn’t do what God told us to do so we could give God gifts.” This is what God had the Prophet Samuel tell him, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
God isn’t looking for our money, do you really think the God of all the Universe really needs our money? He is really looking to see if we will do what He wants us to do. It reminds me of a Christian music group from England back in the 90’s. The name of the group was “Six Pence None the Wiser”. The reason they had chosen that name is they felt that everything we have is given to us by God and we think we are doing Him a great service by giving Him part of it back in our tithes, offerings, and service. We are acting like little kids who go to their dad and ask for “six pence” so they can buy him a gift, and think they have done something great for him, being “none the wiser” that they used his money to buy him the gift, so really didn’t give him anything at all.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have, whatever we have we were given by God. And when God gives us things, He expects us to bless others just as He has blessed us. We should never look at what we have as something we are due, but as what God has given us stewardship of. It is what He has put us in control of, and He expects us to put it to good use. We are to use it to help others. And we should not be asking, “What is the minimum I can get away with giving.” But, “God, what do you want me to do with this? Who do you want me to help with what you have given me?” As Jesus said, “Give, and you will receive gifts — the full measure, compacted, shaken together and overflowing, will be put right in your lap. For the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure back to you!” Not for you to keep in your clenched fist, but for you to hold out to others that God will lead you to.
Has God blessed you? How often do you stop by the coffee shop and spend a couple of dollars? Two or three times a week? Once a day? More? There are countries in this world where people live on less than $3 a day. Gives you a different view of what the “poverty level” really is doesn’t? What are you doing with whatever He has given you? Are you using it to bless those around you? Or are you holding on to it with a clenched fist? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Where is your heart? Where is your treasure?