FBCW – “Body Builder” 7/08
Spiritual Disciplines Part 7:“Giving”
We’re back to continue with the spiritual discipline of giving. Now giving can include one’s time, talents and abilities through service but for the sake of this article, the focus is on our financial giving. Incidentally, this will be the last article in our series on Spiritual Disciplines. Last month I shared with you the first 5 principles of New Testament giving from Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. They were: 1) God Owns Everything You Own, 2) Giving is an Act of Worship, 3) Giving Reflects Faith in God’s Provision, 4) Giving Should Be Sacrificial and Generous, and 5) Giving Reflects Spiritual Trustworthiness. Now we’re on to the last five starting with…
6. Giving – Love, Not Legalism As a quick reminder, legalism can manifest in different ways but the way referred to here is when someone tries to do something to gain favor or merit with God apart from the proper heart attitude. In this kind of legalism, giving becomes a man-centered work versus a God-centered one. In other words, giving should be motivated by your love and devotion for God; it should be a reflection of how much you love God.The apostle Paul made this principle clear when he was exhorting the Corinthians to be like the Macedonians in their giving when he said in 2 Corinthians 8:8 “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.” Paul didn’t give them a rule or law in regards to their giving; instead he wanted them to give from sincere hearts as proof of their love for God. He continues this same principle in the next chapter when he says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart…(2 Cor. 9:7).” Whitney writes, “Paul never gave them an external, measurable standard of giving. He said that giving to God should be measured in the heart, and the standard is their love to God.”
7. Give Willfully, Thankfully and Cheerfully Let us consider all of 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” One person said, “There are three kinds of giving: grudge giving where the person gives because they feel they ‘have to,’ duty giving where they feel they ‘ought to,’ and thanksgiving because they ‘want to.’” Which one are you? Do you give with resentment in your heart or because you feel like you’re supposed to or do you truly desire to give to God? As Whitney asks, do you give like you would to the IRS after an audit or to the electric company when paying your bill or as if you are presenting a beautiful engagement ring to your fiancé?A legitimate question might be why should we give willfully, thankfully and cheerfully? Hopefully for the believer in Christ, the answer might be somewhat obvious – the Bible teaches us that it is God who created you along with a beautiful world to live in; He saved you (by His grace) from the pit of destruction; He sanctifies you by making you more and more into the image of His perfect Son; He is the one who has promised to glorify you when He re-unites your body and soul making you perfect and without sin ever again and He is the one who will bring you into His heavenly kingdom and allow you to live there with Him for all eternity. Not to mention the fact that while you are here on this earth He does everything by way of taking care of you. So when you think of your motivation and heart attitude for giving to Him, think about these things.
8. Giving – An Appropriate Response to Real Needs How do you react when you see a Christian brother or sister or your church with some kind immediate financial need? We see this kind of giving in the Scriptures. For instance in Acts 2:43-45 right after Pentecost when the early church had just been formed we read “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” The reason this was happening was because many thousands of Jewish people had descended upon Jerusalem form all parts of the Roman Empire to celebrate the Jewish feast. After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Jewish believers, many others got saved. In fact the Bible says that 3,000 of them became believers that very day and thousands more would follow. Of these thousands, many decided to stay in Jerusalem and make it their new home. This meant that there was an incredible need for all the basic necessities and that need was met by believers who were willing to pool their resources to help others. We see this play out again in Acts 4:32-35.How do you know if something is a legitimate need? Well if it’s your church taking a special offering, one hopes that the leadership has done its homework and have deemed the need legitimate. What about people you see on the street asking for money or those who claim to be Christians and say they are simply ‘down on their luck?” One way to be a little surer of these kinds of needs is to give to places like a Christian homeless shelter or our transient ministry here in Weaverville. These places are set up to help assess the true needs of those that come to them and they can give appropriately based on certain criteria. One other option is to give to the Deacons Fund here at FBCW which is specifically set up to be a benevolent fund – a fund that can be used for immediate or emergency type needs.
9. Giving Should Be Planned and Systematic Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” What happens if, when you get your paycheck or social security check or whatever means of income you have, you don’t take out that first portion and give it right away to the Lord? If you’re like many of us, you start spending the money on other things – needs like food, mortgage, rent, utility bill, etc., then maybe you have other things that are important but not necessarily needs like new clothes or shoes, water for your flowers and trees, etc., and then there are the ‘wants,’ things that we really don’t need but desire like entertainment, more clothes and shoes, frequent trips to Susie’s bakery or Starbucks, fishing gear (Ah! Did I say that?!), etc. Then after we’ve spent most of what God allowed us to bring in, we kind of remember that we forgot to give Him His portion. But now our bank account is so low we feel uncomfortable giving what we wished we had and opt this time to hold back from God because of this. We make a little deal with God that next time we will not only give right away but we will cover what we missed this week or this month. The problem is, when the next pay period rolls around, we forget about our little deal and the vicious cycle starts all over again. Can anyone else identify with this or does this only happen to people who ‘live back east?’ This is why Paul tells us in this passage to plan out your giving and be systematic with it. It doesn’t matter whether God gives you a lot or a little, however He has prospered you, you are to put aside and save whatever it is that God has purposed in your heart to give and have it ready for when the collection is taken. When Paul or one of his disciples would come to a city, they would take a collection for those churches in need; we take a collection every Sunday (as well as special collections) for the needs of FBCW which includes all operating costs, salaries, general ministry expenses (such as curriculum), missions budget, new building construction, benevolence, etc. God doesn’t want our leftovers; He wants our first-fruits. Doesn’t He deserve them? Lastly, when you give, do you leave it up to feelings or emotion? If on Sunday morning you wake up after a restful sleep, have a good breakfast and are now feeling generous do you give a little more than those mornings when you wake up late, forget to eat, fight with the kids and barely make it to church on time with giving the last thing on your mind? Do you give less those days because you’re not in a good mood? Christian, this should not be the case and that is why we are called to be systematic in our giving, “to put aside and save, as he may prosper.” This also means you might want to consider consistently giving a percentage of your income and as God blesses your finances, plan to increase your giving along with that. Tithing (10%) is an Old Testament term but when one examines the books of the OT Law, you’ll find that in actuality the required amount for the Jews to give was more around the 25% range! So where should you start? Take it up with the Lord but let your giving be planned and systematic.
10. Generous Giving Results in Bountiful Blessing Isn’t it interesting that we partake in different spiritual disciplines, including giving, and we are doing it out of our love, devotion and gratitude for God for His graciousness to us and then He turns around and blesses us even more!! Yet that is the great goodness of our heavenly Father who loves to bless His children! Listen to Jesus in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”Or Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”Please don’t misunderstand, this is not “prosperity theology.” God is not saying that if you want to get rich all you have to do is give to Him and He will make your bank account bulge with zeros. That’s not say that couldn’t happen, for God can do anything He wants for His people, but that is not the meaning behind these verses. Certainly, there is a promise of blessings and I believe this means earthly blessings but not always of a financial nature. He does promise bountiful reaping, abounding grace and because of this grace, an abundance for every good deed if we are generous with our giving. Remember Romans 8:28? “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This includes even our finances in that when we are cheerful and generous givers, God will use this not only for His glory, but also for our own good. If we let God be the one to have control over our finances, He will orchestrate things that will benefit us the most as well as bring us even greater joy than if we did things our own way with our money.Let’s not forget one other aspect of blessing: the spiritual and heavenly variety. Certainly by our generous, cheerful and proper heart-motivated giving, we are indeed storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:20). Friends, there most assuredly will come a time when God will heap those heavenly blessings upon you in a way that is almost unfathomable here on earth! You will be rewarded as God will “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows (Malachi 3:10).” Test God with your giving…I dare you!