It is Blessed to Give

From the very first chapter of the Bible, the message presented to us is that we were made in the likeness of God.  To put it another way, what makes God tick also makes us tick.

What makes God tick is love—the continual and outflowing abundance of love!  Therefore, we need to recognize that what truly makes us tick is nothing less than the generous outflowing of love.  We find our deepest fulfillment in life when love is flowing generously out of us.

This is why Scripture frequently describes our giving (our financial stewardship) as a gift and as a joy rather than as a burden or a chore.  We get the opportunity to give and to find joy and fulfillment in the giving.    

In the closing paragraphs of his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul addresses the subject of financial stewardship.  

In Philippians 4:17, he writes, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account.”  Paul asserts that one of the wonderful things about giving to the support of others is that the giving enriches the life of the one who gives.  Winston Churchill expressed it succinctly, “We make a living through what we get; we make a life through what we give.”  On the other hand, selfish hoarding never leads to such contentment.  Erich Fromm points out, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”  Those who give generously reap blessings in their lives that are missed by those who cling to what they own.

In Philippians 4:18, Paul brings up a second benefit that comes from our giving: the joy we bring to God: “I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”  Our giving is a gift that brings joy to the heart of God.  Dr. Drew Gunnells remarks, “Love is something you do…. Love is active.  If you love your wife, you act like it.  If you love your family, you demonstrate it.  If you love God, you show it.  It’s as simple as that.  When you boil stewardship down to one common thought, it is the thought of loving God and showing it.  Augustine once said, ‘Love God and do as you please.’  How right he was because when you love God, you seek to please him.  I don’t think you can evaluate all a person’s love for God just by measuring their stewardship; however, neither do I believe that you can love God without some evidence of that love in stewardship.” 

Mildred E. McConnell contrasts loving stewardship with serving leftovers: “Leftovers are such a humble thing.  We would not serve them to a guest.  And yet we serve them to our Lord, who deserves the very best.  We give to him leftover time, stray minutes here and there.  Leftover cash we give to him, such few coins as we can spare.”  May we give to God our love rather than our leftovers. 

In Philippians 4:19, Paul shares a third benefit of giving: “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  As we give, God supplies our needs.  Despite what adherents of the Prosperity Gospel claim, this is not a magic formula that promises that God is compelled to supply back to us the wealth we give away.  No!  Christian stewardship involves sacrifice on our part.  We make decisions to do without certain things in order to invest more fully in the things of God.  But as we give, God promises to supply the deeper things we need. 

I appreciate Morrie Schwartz’s perspective on this, as recorded by Mitch Albom in his book Tuesdays with Morrie: “Wherever I went in my life, I met people wanting to gobble up something new. Gobble up a new car.  Gobble up a new piece of property.  Gobble up the latest toy.  And then they wanted to tell you about it.  ‘Guess what I got?  Guess what I got?’  You know how I always interpreted that?  These were people so hungry for love that they were accepting substitutes.  They were embracing material things and expecting a sort of hug back.  But it never works.  You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.  Money is not a substitute from tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness…. Neither money nor power will give you the feeling you’re looking for, no matter how much of them you have.”  It is God—not money—who supplies what our souls most deeply long for. 

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