God is a generous Giver. Real love gives and does not take. You are blessed if you have something to give. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Act 20:35).
In our early walk with the Lord we practiced the discipline of giving based on the letter of the law. We practiced first tithe, second tithe, and third tithe as taught in the Old Testament. The first tithe (ten percent of our gross income) was given to the church for operating purposes. The second tithe was used to cover the costs for the annual festival seasons. The third tithe was given every three years to help the widows and orphans in the Lord. Through this entire period of our life, God physically blessed us in our mechanical faithfulness. We say physically blessed because our heart gave not only because we believed God required us to for salvation, but we gave because of God’s promises of physical blessings to the tithe giver. You may say we gave so that we could receive more. A very self centered approach to giving. To this day we still shrug in dismay when we hear ministers preach that tithing is a requirement for Christian salvation, or that by tithing you will accumulate more physical wealth to lavishly spend on yourself. Ouch!
When Grace changed our outlook of living from the letter of the law to the Spirit of the law, it also changed our view of giving. Since God loves a cheerful giver (2Co9:7), how much of our giving comes from a joyful heart versus from a legal heart? How much comes from a heart trusting God to generously supply our needs and desires versus trusting God because of some binding contractual agreement? Think of the parable of the labors in the vineyard (MT.20: 1-15). When the owner searched for labors in the morning hours they agreed or negotiated to work for one penny. When the owner found workers later in the day, he agreed to give them what was right. At the end of the day, he gave the laborers who worked all day the penny that was agreed upon. And the laborers who worked only one hour likewise received one penny from the generosity of the owner. What does this teach us about the way God gives? We like to think that it teaches us that God is a very generous Giver. God does keep His promises. If you want to practice the letter of the law in giving, God will fulfill His promises. However, if you want to trust God’s generosity, you most likely will receive more than you ever agreed to. Truly, God is a very generous Giver. But what is cheap giving?
Jesus indirectly brings it up when He chastises the Pharisees and their practice of keeping the law without following the lead of the Spirit from the heart (MT23: 23). The Pharisees tithed. They would tithe by calculating every source of income including what they may have traded in barter to determine the exact amount they owed. But Jesus scowled them because they tithe from a mechanical approach and not from a spiritual foundation. They neglected to base their giving with mercy, with justice, and with faith. They tithed because it was their religious duty to do so. They tithed because it made them feel religiously important. They tithed because it was expected by the religious people of their day. Sound familiar? Been there? Done that?
On the other hand, Jesus spoke about the widow giving more from her poverty than the rich giving from their abundance (MK 12: 42-44). Or our favorite, the rich man (MT.l9: 26-26) who came to Christ seeking eternal life but left when he realized even all his law keeping didn’t qualify him for eternal life unless he surrendered that which controlled him; his riches. What Jesus was demonstrating relates to the heart. Something must change within us from that self-centered, self-interest, self-indulging desire to a motivation of serving others first. Our selfish desires must be replaced with a self-less desire. Our mind, attitude, and spirit must change. Impossible you say? For us, yes. But for God nothing is impossible.
What is cheap giving?
Would you believe any type of giving that doesn’t come from the abundance of the heart? The amount doesn’t matter. What matters is the attitude and spirit of the giving. When you realize that God owns everything. He gives us the responsibility, authority, and accountability to manage His resources. As we learn how He wants us to manage His resources His way, His way becomes our way.
Quality giving comes from the heart. It comes surrounded with love and compassion. It gives so that others may have more. It doesn’t give so we can have more. It gives not from duty, but from joy. It gives without measure, and receives without measure. It gives from surpluses and it gives from scarcities. It gives quietly and without fanfare. It gives so others may enjoy. It gives without selfish gain. There are no strings attached to the giving. It is lavish in its generosity but simple in its approach. In everything, we give to others because God gives to us. The more we receive, the more we give. The more we give, the more we receive. The more we receive, the more we give, and the cycle continues. As a disciple of His, one of our favorite disciplines is giving.
A DISCIPLE’S PRAYER
Our Generous God and Dad, we thank you for being ever so generous with everything you possess. Help us to learn from you and to live like you.
Saturate us with your spirit of generosity. Help us practice giving from the heart. Fill our heart, mind, and soul with riches to give. Let us not measure our giving by comparing ourselves with others. Instead, let our giving be like yours. Prosper us so we may prosper others. Richly bless us so we may richly bless others. Freely give to us so we may freely give to others. Let us be your conduit of giving. Help us enjoy giving more than receiving. Let there be nothing of value that we refrain from gladly giving to others in your glory. Amen.
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