The truth is, the natural man doesn’t like to give his stuff away. In our basest form we want to hoard and grab. It isn’t easy to let go and give. One of the things I enjoy sharing in the No Debt No Sweat! Seminar are some of the blessings that accompany Godly giving. When we get our giving right—a lot of other things fall into place.
But to do it God’s way we have to understand just how counter-intuitive the Christian faith really is. As I’ve already said, the world says, "If you want to get ahead, you strive to get the most toys—no matter who you crawl over on the way."
Jesus teaches a different ethic. Jesus says, "If you want to be first—then you must become last." "If you want to sit at the head of the table—start at the foot of the table." "If you want to lead others—first become a servant."
Allow me to share three blessings that I believe come to those who get their giving right:
1) Without question, one of the greatest blessings that comes from giving is the way it frees the giver from the tyranny of money. When we give our money away—it’s no longer our money. It’s hard to remain a slave to a master who is no longer present.
2) Giving helps us stay involved in the lives of others. In today’s high-octane world we tend to stay busy and focused on ourselves too much. Our comfortable cars have great radios that insulate us from people who are hurting. Our homes have become personal fortresses that all too often are used to close the world out. Giving is a good way to become involved in the lives of other people who have needs that we can address.
3) Giving brings personal joy. If you are unaware of this fact, it may be because you’ve never chosen to give sacrificially. History books are replete with stories of greedy, crusty, old businessmen who spent their lives making and hoarding money—only to die in misery and solitude. I have nothing against people leaving money for good works after they die, but the best time to give is when you can get the enjoyment of seeing others benefit from your gifts.
Have you heard the story of the unpopular pig? He was jealous of the cow in the pen next to him because everyone loved the bovine’s gentle spirit and kind eyes. Grudgingly, the pig admitted that the cow gave lots of milk and cream, but maintained that pigs give more. "Why," the chubby little guy complained, "we pigs give ham and bacon and people pickle our feet. I don’t see why you cows are so much more popular."
Gently the cow said, "Maybe it’s because we cows give while we’re still living."
Now, I want to discuss the relationship between giving to God and receiving blessings back from God. You will never find anyone who has less patience than I have with what I call the "Gospel Greed Merchants." Their message and methods have been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. In one of my earlier books, Free To Succeed, I had several things to say about this teaching.
You know the philosophy I’m talking about. We see those who promote it on television, hear them on the radio, we receive their periodicals, and sometimes run into them in our own churches. These are the people who raise money by playing to greedy hearts. They talk of God as though He is nothing more than a cosmic game show host who pays off like a heavenly slot machine. The more you give, so the message goes, the more you will get back. Some of these folks have even gone so far as to promise percentages of return—if you give a certain number of dollars, you’ll get such-and-such back in return. Whether we call it the "name it and claim it" theology, or prosperity religion—I believe it’s wrong!
Today’s problems with money and ministry aren’t new. There have always been people who wanted to get paid for their goods deeds. In 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul talks about the "constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that Godliness is a means of gain." (emphasis mine) Just a few lines later in verse 10, the apostle warns "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang." Several years earlier in Luke 12:15, Jesus had warned, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed…"
My greatest concern in regards to prosperity theology is that it can lead to perverted motives. When I make a contribution, it should be to please God and help others—not primarily for a personal return on my "investment." When I give in order to get back more, all sorts of wrong motives come into play. Suddenly, what should be a loving act becomes an act of selfishness and personal promotion.
However, to leave this subject here would be unfair and unbalanced. I believe the Bible does indicate that God blesses those who give. Note the following:
Jesus said, "Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return." (Luke 6:38, NASV)
Is God sending us mixed messages? Is He the author of confusion? Not at all! Do I have answers to all the in’s and out’s on this issue? No. But I have spent a lot of years thinking about it, and I do have a few observations (that are subject to change as I study and learn more) that make sense to me today.
First, I believe that God is perfectly capable of searching and knowing each of our hearts. And, while the principles He wants each of us to learn are the same—I don’t believe He always uses the same methodology with each believer.
For example, as the father of four children, there are certain common principles I want each of my kids to accept. However, because each child has a different personality, I have to approach each of the four in a different way. It’s not that the principles I’m teaching vary from one child to another—it’s simply that I use different methods to teach the same principles, because each child responds differently.
I think God works with us in the same way. He wants to bless each of us with as much as we can handle—but He loves me too much to give me a blessing that I’m unable to control and that could lead to spiritual destruction. So, if He blesses and challenges each of His children differently, while always teaching the same principles, doesn’t it follow that God is able to give different children different blessings, too? For instance, Christian #1 is blessed with the ability to sing while Christian #2 wonders why he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Maybe it’s because God knows that Christian #2 would use the gift of music in a worldly way. And, God loves him too much to allow him to lose his soul because he mishandled his gift.
I wonder if it isn’t the same way with financial issues. Rather than asking God to give us wealth, maybe we should pray for Him to search our hearts and bless us only with those things we can handle. Then, if finances come your way, your mandate is to give and steward those monies properly. And, to the degree you show yourself a worthy administrator of those blessings, God is able to bless you with more. The following passage seems to support this view:
"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully…And God is able to make all grace abound in you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…Now He who supplies seed for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality which through us is producing thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:6, 8, 10, 11, NASV)
Note how Paul suggests that God gives financial resources to those who are already using what they have in the right way. If one gives bountifully, with a cheerful heart, void of selfishness, God may be more inclined to continue flowing blessings into that good Christian’s life. Maybe this is why some Christians are convinced they cannot out-give God—because they have tried, and failed!
Should We Test God in This Matter?
The only place in Scripture that I know of where God tells His people to test Him is in the Old Testament book of Malachi, and it's in regards to this very topic of giving. Speaking on God’s behalf, Malachi came on the scene about 430 years before Jesus. Despite hundreds of years of prophetic teaching and exhortation, the Israeli culture did not bear the evidence of their labor. Most of the people were corrupt—as were many of the priests. But God was still in charge, on the throne—sovereign. In chapter three, Malachi confronts the people for their selfish hearts and ungiving spirits:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee? In tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes…and all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land."
There is so much to say about this passage, but for my purposes at this time, I will note the following two points:
1) God is upset that His people have "robbed" Him by not giving as they should.
2) He tells them to change their ways, and to test Him to see if He does not bless their giving in three specific ways: A blessing from heaven, crop protection, and honor from other nations.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminarat churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.
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