The Discipline of Giving

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“Open your hand wide,” was the posture Moses instructed Israel to have toward the poor (Deut. 15:7-11). What the Law put on paper, Jesus put in flesh. He was the One who fed the crowds when they were hungry, healed the sick with the touch of His hand, and taught the multitude when He was exhausted. He was by far the most lavish giver the world has ever seen. He humbly confessed, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus’ mission was to “serve” and “give.” In a world “on the take” Jesus showed us it is more “Blessed to give” (Acts 20:35).

But, let’s admit it, giving doesn’t come easily. From the time we are babies taking is the natural order of things. One of the first words we learn is “mine.” The highest calling in our culture is to be a consumer. Giving is a spiritual discipline. It does not come naturally to the flesh. This is why Paul held up Jesus as the ultimate example of how we are to give.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Giving Grows from Grace

Ultimately our giving must be motivated by our gratitude for God’s grace. In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul encourages the church to give and never once uses the word “money,” but he uses the word “grace” ten times. Those who have received the abundant grace of God cannot contain their desire to give graciously themselves.

Christian giving is more than just a display of compassion. A lot of people who are not Christians compassionately give to worthy causes. However, the reason a disciple of Jesus gives is directly related to his understanding and appreciation of God’s grace. That’s why the issue is so urgent. People desperately need the grace of God and they are to see that grace in the way we treat others.

Grace will also affect the object of our giving. God’s grace is dispensed on undeserving sinners. It is not given on the basis of worthiness but need. Giving is truly gracious only when it is undeserved. If we merely give to people we think deserve it, we will miss opportunities to demonstrate the grace of God to those who need it most.

Giving is Expressed by Sacrifice

When our giving is motivated by grace it will then be expressed in sacrifice. Why did Jesus come to earth? Was it duty? Was it obligation? Paul says it was grace that made Jesus come. A grace that willingly gave up riches and took on poverty to meet the needs of the helpless. Jesus gave sacrificially. And so do His followers. Paul talks about how the Macedonian believers gave “beyond their ability” (2 Cor. 8:3). The Lord’s calling is not only to give, but to give sacrificially. That takes discipline!

Perhaps for Americans sacrificial giving is our greatest challenge. We are willing to give just so long as it doesn’t affect our standard of living. We are willing to serve as long as it doesn’t infringe on our plans. We are willing to care as long as it doesn’t hurt too much. Our giving rarely scoops out more than the surface of our excess. We may be good at taking up collections, but the Bible says only sacrifices become offerings.

We’re like the little boy who sat on Santa’s knee at the mall. Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said, “I want two toy trucks, two teddy bears, two remote control cars, and two video games.” Santa said, “That’s a pretty tall order. Why do you want two of everything?” He said, “So I can share.” Giving is not the result of having more than we need. It’s the result of the grace of God changing our attitude toward what we have.

The tabernacle was erected by the sacrificial giving of the people (Exodus 35:4-36:7). The temple was built by the sacrificial giving of king David (1 Chronicles 29). The temple was rebuilt by the sacrificial giving of the nation’s leaders (Ezra 2:68-69). And the temple of God today is built and propelled by believers who are willing to give sacrificially of their time, energy, talents, and possessions for the glory of God.

If you only give what is comfortable people will never see God in you. God drew people to Himself by lifting up Jesus on a cross (John 12:32). In that loving act of sacrifice the world took notice. It is only when we sacrificially give that the world will take notice of what God has done in us (Matt. 5:14-16).

Giving Should Be Personal

The power of the giving is heard in the pronouns Paul used, “He was…He became…that you might” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God gives so personally! We live in a day when we pay others to do the unpleasant tasks of life so we don’t have to get our hands dirty. Not Jesus. He didn’t send an angel. He didn’t sit on a couch waiting for Calvary. His got His feet dirty. He touched the sick. He ate with the outcast.

The New Testament shows how believers can give their resources to do collective works. So we pass the plate on Sunday. Yet, too many Christians have the idea that is the only time they give to God. It is comfortable, easy, and totally impersonal.

In our day of affluence, it is easier to throw money at a need than throw ourselves into it. God doesn’t want our handout. He wants our hand! The Macedonians were such great givers because they first “gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). If giving our things is not connected to giving ourselves, it’s not Christ-like giving. Giving needs to have a personal touch.

The exciting thing about giving is it opens the door to God’s blessing. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor. 9:6). The best solution for a thin crop is more sowing, and that requires a hand that is open wide.

Tim Jennings

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)