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Biff and Bert went to their local church meeting on Sunday and heard a message on giving. It was a well-exegeted, well-crafted, and well-delivered sermon. Biff decided to write a check for $100 to give to the church. Bert chose not to write a check. Both men responded wrongly to the sermon.
There was something amiss, though it was not discernible to the human eye. Jesus said it this way, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Jesus nailed it. He got to the root of the problem, or better said, He got to the heart of the problem. Because God owns everything, our giving cannot be primarily about the gifts we give.
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).
What do you give a person who owns everything? The Lord is not primarily interested in our stuff since our stuff is not ours. The thing that truly matters to God and what He wants for us is our hearts. Neither Biff or Bert had submitted their hearts to the Lord, the Owner of all things. (I am pretending for this article that Biff’s motives were wrong.)
The quantity or the kind of gift is not the primary thing. What matters most is the heart behind the gift. Think about a gift exchange at Christmas with your family. Which would be more critical:
I have received both kinds of gifts, a gift given out of love, and one given because it was “rote tradition.” If a person loves me, has thought about me, and offers a gift born out of affection and thoughtfulness for me, the gift is not as vital as their love for me. The primary purpose of all giving is to show the love of a person.
Knowing they love me takes the point-of-emphasis off of the gift, which is the kind of giving the Father wants to receive from us. He wants captured and grateful hearts, not rote givers or traditionalists who give their money because it is part of the religious experience. One of the best ways to put God’s name on display in your family or local church is by creating a culture of generosity.
Vital Idea for Giving – A generous giver is a person who understands the gospel. Christ generously gave His all to us. One of the most potent implications of the gospel is this idea of giving: the Son of Man came with one intention: to die on the cross.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
All of your collected wealth belongs to God. None of us truly own anything. We are stewards of the gift of life and all the things that are in our lives. Concerning money, we are merely administrators of God’s wealth. It is our privilege and honor to be as generous with God’s money as He is generous with us. Your generosity is an excellent assessment tool to diagnose your understanding of the gospel.
The generous giver understands that he owns nothing, deserves nothing, and needs mercy from our great God (Luke 7:47). He also understands that he has been the recipient of God’s greatest kindness, which is forgiveness of sins. Based on this kind of understanding, he is proportionally generous with all that he has the power to give.
He is motivated to do unto others as God has done unto him. That is the heart of gospel-centered and gospel-motivated giving. A person who does not understand or live in this kind of grace will stunt his growth in Christ. You cannot be growing in grace if you’re not growing in generosity. The term ungenerous Christian is an oxymoron. Gospel-centered Christians are always seeking the good of others.
This view of giving goes beyond our wallets or checkbooks. Generosity is a way of life for the Christian. Here are a few categories where you can assess yourself to see how well you are living out gospel-generosity in your life.
Money – I have already spoken to this, but let me add one more point. The New Testament does not require or expect a person to give a tithe. Tithing in the Old Testament was much more than ten percent. When all the expected giving was added up for the Old Testament giver, it could go beyond twenty-three percent of his annual wealth. Ten percent is an excellent starting place, but not the limit of one’s financial giving. Be careful not to limit God in this area unwittingly.
Time – Your time is something else you do not own. There is no such thing as “my time.” It’s all God’s time. He created time and placed us in it to use for His glory. Our job is to steward God’s time in such a way to make His name great.
He did not give us time or money to lavish upon ourselves. Time and money are gifts from the Father that we steward so the gospel can go all over our neighborhood and beyond. Our temptation is to take God’s time and money and use it as though He has nothing to do with it. We can forget God. When we do, the time and money we spend turns on us and creates discontent.
The most satisfied people you’ll ever meet are folks who spend their time and money in ways that build up God’s name in their sphere of influence. If you use time or money in any other way, you will grow more and more dissatisfied while trying to get more and more as though more is the answer. Giving is God’s answer to a thankful heart.
Side note on the gift of rest: Stewarding time does not mean you don’t rest or have fun for the glory of God. Some people have not been good stewards of their time by not resting when taking a break would have been the best thing for them to do.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (Mark 6:31).
Spouse – Few gifts from God are more significant than a spouse. Spouses have the enormous privilege to lay down their lives for their mates. The biblical teaching could not be clearer.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
Your spouse is your co-heir or co-inheritor of this gift called the grace of life. You are partners who have the privilege to put God’s name on display in incredible ways through your covenantal partnership.
The gospel-centered man or woman understands this, and they are always seeking how to pour themselves into their spouse. Christ, who was in the form of God, took on the form of a servant so people could be saved (Philippians 2:6-7).
A husband, according to Ephesians 5:25, is a picture of Christ, and the wife is a picture of His church. Both of them together have a fantastic privilege to generously give themselves to each other, which becomes a striking picture to a confused world.
Stuff – Your mobile device is not yours. Neither is your computer, car, home, clothes, makeup, or anything else that you may think you own. Your stuff is not your stuff. My kids have heard all their young lives,
Your toys are not your toys. Your toys are God’s toys. Everything belongs to God. You have a responsibility to take care of God’s stuff.
That mantra never changes. Even when you are old, your big boy toys are not your toys. They belong to God. It’s all His. You came into this world naked, and you will leave the same way (Job 1:21). Whatever you gain while in this world is a gift from God.
It is up to you regarding how you use it. Enjoy it! Yes! Don’t be ashamed or feel guilty because you are enjoying God’s stuff. But never forget where it came from and who owns it. And don’t forget its primary purpose, which is to put God’s name on display.
Children – Perhaps you are the joyful steward of these gifts from God. If so, how many do you have? God has given me three gifts through Lucia. I tell them often that they are our gifts from God. He gave them to us to take care of, to steward. They are our third highest responsibility.
Outside of my walk with God and my call to love, lead, and serve my wife, my children are my greatest privilege as far as stewarding God’s gifts. This opportunity is fantastic. To be entrusted with three souls to model Christ before, while seeking to lead them to Him, is stunning. To be able to be the primary shaping influence over their lives is a high honor.
Wisdom – You have a story, an experience, a life. God has guided you through a few toils and snares. The longer you live, the more you will experience. The highs and lows make up your life; you are to steward them for God’s glory. One of the best ways you can steward the gift of life is by sharing your experience and wisdom with a fellow traveler.
Sharing wisdom is not just for the biblically trained (John 4:29). If you have the Spirit, you’re a Spirit-illuminated person whom God has called to share with another human what God has taught you. Don’t ever think you don’t have a voice for God. Use it. Speak up. Steward the gift. Tell others about your experience with the King.
Christian generosity is not an oxymoron. It is how God intended things to be. My prayer for the folks who read this is that this verse becomes the gospel-motivated message that grips their hearts.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The more you understand the gift of Christ to you, the more you will be a generous giver. Whether it is with your money, time, spouse, stuff, children, wisdom, or any other thing that God has given you to steward. How has the gospel gripped your heart? Are you a generous Christian?
I have a question under each one of the topics above. Will you take the time to answer, reflect, and chat with someone about your thoughts with those questions? And what are some other areas where you need to rethink generosity?