Giving advice is all around us. Some good. Some bad. Some terrible. Consider:
- “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth gifts from a grouch.” –Catherine Hall
- “You should give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving.” –unknown
- “Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting.” –Elizabeth Bibesco
- “Do yer givin’ while you’re livin’, so you’ll be knowing’ where its goin’.” –unknown
- “There is no grace in a gift that sticks to the fingers.” –Seneca
- “You’ll never be as lazy as the guy who named the fireplace.” –unknown
Okay, the last quote wasn’t about giving, but I found it encouraging. And when you talk about giving, you want to be encouraging. Today, I want to encourage you by answering the question, “What does giving do for us?” As it turns out, it does all sorts of things.
First, giving, like prayer, gives us a front row seat to see God at work. It opens our eyes to what God is doing around us; and because we now have skin in the game, we are much more involved. I guess it all depends upon your point of view. I don’t know of anyone who complains about giving their money to an amusement park because they know they will soon be off on a wild ride. Giving to the cause of Christ offers that same joy. When we invest in something God is doing, something we are passionate about, we are off on an eternal wild ride. We get to see our gift change lives. We get to see our gift touch the lives of children and youth. We get to see our gift bring hope and healing to desperate people. We get to see our gift bring people to Christ. But here’s the thing, while God is doing things like this all the time, only a very few get to see it. And who is in this special group? Those who have been praying and those who have been giving. Here’s God’s rule: only those who give or pray get a ticket to the greatest show on earth. And here’s God’s promise, you’ll have the best seats in town.
Second, giving frees us from so many things that enmesh us to this world, things like greed, idolatry, pride, covetousness and a host of other false gods of this world. Let’s face all of us struggle with these things. We want what we can’t have. Our false gods promise to make us feel whatever way we want (powerful, sexy, famous, happy, free, and on and on the list goes). And we want to be at the center of our world. Bottom line: we are selfish and self-centered and self-consumed. And what is the remedy? As strange as it may sound, generosity is. The more we give and give sacrificially and joyfully, the less we feel the pull of these struggles. And the more we give and see the difference our giving makes in the world, the more we want to give; and before we know it, we are changed. We celebrate Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and rightly so. No one should be enslaved. It is time we also celebrate giving for its power to set us free from the tyranny of self.
Third, giving works in us to make us more like our heavenly father. We said this before, but it is worth repeating. God is a generous giver. He delights in giving. We need no further proof than the gospel itself because the gospel defines sacrifice and love and compassion and abundant grace. And so when God calls us to give, he is not putting a harsh demand on us. He is inviting us to be like him, to grow in our capacity to reflect his character to others. Perhaps, this is the most important reason why we should invest in the grace of giving because giving makes us (slowly, but surely) like our father. Want to jump start your spiritual growth? Invest in the grace of giving.
Fourth, giving gives us a way to look into our heart. We’ve talked a lot about the dangers of self-deception in this blog series. As a result, what we need is a tool that will show us our heart and will assess our spiritual health. Giving is that tool. The more we practice spontaneous and generous giving, the more we get a clear picture of what’s going on in our heart. If there is push-back, if there is selfishness, if there is frustration, we can see that we have work to do. But if there is compassion, if there is excitement and if there is joy, we can see that our heart is truly being remade into the image of Jesus.
Fifth, giving opens our hearts to receive God’s grace. Augustine has this beautiful picture about giving. He sees that God wants to give us all sorts of things, to bless us deeply, but our hands are so tightly clenched around our possessions and our money that we can’t receive what God wants to give us. Our hands (and hearts) are so full with our stuff that there is no place for the things God wants to give us. There is a solution, though. It’s called giving. We let go of “our” stuff and our money to make room for God to pour out his grace into our lives.
Sixth, giving opens our eyes to the fact that life is bigger than us. Giving builds within us a sense of compassion and concern for others. It alerts us to the needs of those around us. It makes us aware of opportunities to advance God’s kingdom. It even shines on where love can do its greatest work. Giving opens our eyes to a whole new God-centered world; and that, my friends, is invaluable.
Seventh, giving allows us to partner with God in his reclaiming of his world. By giving, we are helping advance God’s kingdom in just a tiny way. See, I’ve lied to you throughout this whole series. I’ve been talking about you giving. That’s horse hockey. The reality is you are investing in the cause of Christ. You are investing in eternity. You are seeking ways and ministries and needs where you can invest so that you can make a significant kingdom bang with your worldly buck.
Eighth, giving changes us. The more faithful we are in giving, the more cheerful and excited, the more we are changed because giving is one of the key spiritual disciplines. Much like you invest in loving, when you invest in giving done well, you are being changed.
Ninth, giving gives us a way to express our gratitude. See, from beginning to end, from top to bottom, giving is really all about gratitude. In our first blog post we talked about gratitude, and so it is good to end on that same note. We give out of thanksgiving; and any giving that is done apart from that motive, misses the mark completely. That’s why we don’t believe in thermometers and marketing strategies and slick appeals because without gratitude as the foundation, giving becomes just another form of pharisaical hypocrisy. But giving driven by thanksgiving, changes the world. That’s why Paul ends his long discussion about giving, not with an appeal, but with the words, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Cor.9:15).
That’s what giving does for us. One more encouraging quote to send you on your way. This is from tennis great, Arthur Ashe. He said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” He may have been talking about learning to play tennis, but it is still good advice to apply to other endeavors. Wherever you are in your giving, start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And relax, give thanks, and enjoy the ride. That’s all we have to do because giving was always meant to be a way for God to encourage us in our daily lives. Who knew? Peace.