By Karen Oliver, IFI Staff
“After I read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, I asked myself, ‘Do I really love my neighbor as myself?’ My giving didn’t indicate that. After some thought and prayer, I decided to give half of my income to others.”
When I heard a long-time IFI volunteer say that, I gulped. That’s really crazy love! I thought. But then I wondered: Do I let God express His heart through my giving–financial and otherwise? I consulted the Bible and several other sources for some direction and answers. Here’s what I found.
According to BibleGateway.com, 1,433 verses in the New International Version of the Bible contain the word “give,” most referring to God as the giver. Because we are made in God’s image, we’re designed to be givers! God tells us what to give: perfect sacrifices, praise, thanks, tithes and offerings, and gifts to the poor. And He tells us how to give—lovingly, joyfully, gratefully, willingly, cheerfully, and humbly.
1. Motivated by love and grace
Behind our giving is God’s heart, eager to pour out His love to others through us. Like the widow who gave all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-43), God works in us to see giving as a privilege that brings us closer to Him, not as a duty to be fulfilled. Biblical giving is a response to God’s “…glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one He loves.” (Ephesians 1:6) When God’s grace moves us to give, we share His delight in giving. And we’re eager to do it again. When we give generously and joyfully, we show the world God’s heart: Our Father in heaven loves to give and so do we! Generous giving also shows that we trust God’s goodness and are content with what He’s given us, which Paul says is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).
2. Stewards, not owners
Biblical giving recognizes that, because all we have comes from God, we are stewards of what He owns (Psalm 24:1). Therefore, He has the right to tell us what, when, to whom, and how to give. His purpose is to advance His kingdom in us and in the rest of the world. He calls us to give ourselves to Him trustingly, just as the Macedonians did (2 Corinthians 8:5), knowing that He—the owner and supplier–will provide more for our future.
3. For others’ sake
1 Peter 5:9-10 exhorts us to grow in Christ for others’ sake: “Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Because God cares greatly about strangers, widows, orphans, and the poor, so will we. Paul constantly urged Christians to ease the suffering of those around them, beginning with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Care for the poor, both local and distant, should be a part of our budget. God blesses us so that He can bless others through us. He prospers us so we can give more, not so we can have more. Many Christians advocate “living simply so others can simply live.”
As God directs our attention to others’ needs, He calls us to share with them–for His joy, ours, and theirs.
As others see the peace with which we give, they may want to know more. We should be eager to tell them, not so we can boast about our giving, but to boast about God’s generosity and how He’s led us to trust that He’ll provide for us, even in tough times. This kind of talk advances His kingdom in others’ heart and ours.
God is the ultimate sacrificial giver! Jesus is the visible evidence of that: He left His exalted position in heaven to come to earth and went to the cross in our place. Because we are God’s image-bearers, sacrificial giving is part of our genetic makeup.
Sacrificial giving requires self-control. It urges us to resist greed and focus on contentment. It also requires careful money management and says no to our desire for bigger, better, more, and newer stuff. It frees us from the natural temptation to accumulate. And it sends the message that we are defined by who we are in Christ, not by what we have.
5. Family first
“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1Timothy 5:4) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)
6. Rewarded by God
Boaz, blessing Ruth for her faithful support of Naomi, said, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12) When we give as He directs, giver and receiver see His love and experience His joy. Generous, cheerful giving directed by God reaps eternal rewards for the giver and can result in multiplied blessings when our giving inspires others to give.
I realized that God has changed me a lot since I’ve become His child. First, I’ve quit worrying about money, something I did a lot before I knew God as Father. Second, I’ve become a lot more content with what I have. These changes are completely God’s work! My part was asking Him to change me. Third, He’s changed my attitude toward giving: When I was a new believer, working a well-paying corporate job, I felt pretty good about dropping a $20 bill into the offering. Lovingly, persistently, God changed both my attitude and the amount I gave. Today, when I sense God urging me to give an amount I consider extravagant, I also sense Him asking me, “Whose money is it?” and “Do you have enough?” I always have to answer, “It’s Yours, Lord. And yes, I have enough.”
Now He’s asking me, “Are you willing to live a more intentional, disciplined life so that I can love others even more through you? I promise, it will be a great adventure!”
I take a deep breath, then respond, “By Your grace, Lord, I will.”
I think I’ll tape this verse from the Amplified Bible inside the cover of my checkbook and beside my bedroom door: “Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift].”
I’ve found really helpful ideas for Biblical money management, living contentedly within my means, and giving well and wisely in the following books:
- Alcorn, Randy: The Treasure Principle
- Burkett, Larry: Using Your Money Wisely: Biblical Principles Under Scrutiny
- Chan, Francis: Crazy Love
- Craker, Lorilee: Money Secrets of the Amish
- Hancock, Maxine: Living On Less and Liking It More
- Kopke, Jonathan E: God’s Thrifty Extravagance
- Lupton, Robert D: Toxic Charity