A Top Ten List

Back in the day, nothing was better than watching Letterman’s Top Ten List.  While I don’t have time for all ten, here are five from his list entitled, “Top Ten Children’s Books NOT Recommended by the National Library Association:” “Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence.” “The Boy Who Died from Eating All His Vegetables.” “Teddy: The Elf with a Detached Retina.” “Things Rich Kids Have that You Never Will.” And number one: “The Care Bears Maul Some Campers and Are Shot Dead.”  Classic.  Simply classic.

Today, we want to look at Jesus’ top ten thoughts about giving.  We covered a lot of ground in our previous blog (and asked a lot of questions), but today we simply want to outline what Jesus has to say about giving and let his words speak to us. So here we go.

#10: Matthew 6:2-4 – Our motives are critical; Give secretively and as an act of devotion to God.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

#9: Matthew 6:19-21, 24 – Invest in things that will last for eternity and beware of the lure of money.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

#8: Matthew 10:8 – Give freely and generously.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

#7: Matthew 19:23-24 –Worldly wealth has the potential to lead us astray; Giving frees us from its power.

 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”

#6: Matthew 22:37-40 – Love and giving go hand-in-hand (you can’t love without giving).

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

#5: Luke 11:43 — Giving without love for God and others and without compassion means nothing.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”

#4: Matt 25:24-27 – Our calling is to invest our wealth and resources in the cause of Christ.

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.’”

#3: Luke 12: 12-21 – When all is said and done, being rich towards God is what matters.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

#2: Luke 12:32-34 – Your use of wealth tells the story of your heart.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

#1: Luke 21:1-4 – It’s not how much you give; it is how much of your heart you put into your giving.

“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”

And one more as a bonus: Acts 20:32-35 – It is more blessed to give than to receive.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

And one bonus footnote. Most of the time when Jesus talks about giving, he is calling us to give to the poor, the needy and the oppressed.  That should come as no surprise since Jesus sees ministry to the poor as part and parcel of his calling (see Luke 4:18-19); and if we are going to truly be his followers, we also will have this emphasis.  Interestingly though, most of the time when we talk about giving, we talk about you giving to us, your church, not about giving to the poor or to a ministry of compassion (not that there is anything wrong with giving to your church, but I find that contrast rather startling).  All that to say, we know Jesus was a huge advocate for his people to give, but we are often confused about what “giving like Jesus” really looks like.

In my opinion, everything we need to know about giving is right here in these eleven passages. Jesus provides us with all the warnings, encouragements, motives, guidelines and perspectives to make our giving rich.  I would argue we now know how we ought to give, but the question still remains as always, “Will we follow Jesus in this?” Or as Benjamin Franklin put it: “How many observe Christ’s birthday!  How few, his precepts!  O! ’tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” Boy, did he get that right!