As we leave the Christmas season, I am amazed at how selfish we’ve become. I guess we’ve always been selfish, but it seems as if we flaunt it more (or don’t hide it as much) this time of year. I know my Amazon wish lists grow during Christmas (you did read that right, lists is plural—leave me alone), yours probably do too. I also know that this is a season that should be marked by giving, not getting. While this is generally true, we do like to receive, don’t we?
An attitude is simply a posture. How is our mind positioned? When it comes to giving, what are we thinking about? Do we give to get? Do we give for the warm fuzzy feelings it creates in us? Do we give to see the joy and pleasure that it brings to others?
My 2-year old daughter is obsessed with the Ice Age movies. In the latest installment, Ice Age: Collision Course, the main mammoth’s daughter is getting married. The husband-to-be always brings gifts to the bride-to-be’s parents. When he does so, the future in-laws remind him that he doesn’t need to always bring them gifts. His response… “But it makes me happy!” I like that line. Giving makes us happy and it should make others happy.
The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse shows an amazing reality: God is a giver! He gives out of His love, He gives His most precious possession, and He gives it for our benefit. It makes God happy and it makes us eternally happy.
The rest of the Bible has a lot to say about giving as well. While some of these passages are directed at giving financially to the church, my hope and prayer is that through these encouragements, we would have a better attitude towards giving in ALL areas of our life.
There are six qualities that should characterize our attitude in giving.
- Willingness to give. In his second encouraging letter to the Corinthians, Paul commends the Macedonian Church for their attitude in giving: “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own…” (8:3), and “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (8:12). The word willingness points to the zeal and eagerness one has in doing something. These disciples of Jesus were willing, eager, zealous even, to give to God. They had decided what they should give by listening to God and then gave “not reluctantly or under compulsion” (9:7), but willingly. Don’t give begrudgingly. Give out of a willing heart. Give because you know God gave you everything you have.
- Cheerfulness in giving. If you were to look at the offering envelopes Faith Bible Church (where I pastor) provides for you to put your tithes and offerings in, 2 Corinthians 9:7 (or a part of the verse) is on it. The verse says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are not alone; this is the same verse that is on almost every offering envelope in every church. Cheerful means “lively, animated, having good spirits.” I saw a video once that showed a church during offering. The folks were dancing and singing up the aisle and cheerfully giving their gifts. It was fun to watch. But I wonder how many of us truly can give cheerfully. I’m not talking about the plastic grin you have on your face when you are gritting your teeth, not wanting to let go of your hard-earned money (or time). Our attitude should be cheerful, celebratory, and excited.
- Love in giving. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (8:8). Love should be a prevailing attitude in the Christian life. There are several words in Greek that we translate into love. This one is agape, which means “a strong, non-sexual affection and regard for a person and their good as understood by God’s moral character; especially characterized by a willing forfeiture of rights or privileges in another person’s behalf.” All that we do must be done in love or it is worthless in the eyes of God. When love is not our motivation, things tend to get messed up, especially in giving. And folks can tell when love is not your motivation. God certainly can.
- Sacrifice in giving. Paul relies on the Macedonian church as an example of sacrificial giving. Listen to 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” The Macedonians were undergoing a severe trial, they were deep in poverty. They had the status of beggar’s! Yet, what did they do? They gave. They gave joyfully! They gave generously. Often, pastor’s misuse this passage to promote the line, “Give until it hurts.” These believers were already hurting, but they continued to sacrifice for the cause of Christ. They practiced giving gracefully despite their situation.
- Liberality in giving. Verse 2 in 2 Corinthians 8 also discusses “rich generosity.” This can also be translated, “liberality.” They gave liberally. It is a donation that implies plurality. This is the practical outworking of verses 8 and 11 in 2 Corinthians 9: “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Somehow, God can take our generosity in poverty and turn it into abundance! This is not saying we give to get, or that God always blesses us the way we want to be blessed. However, when we give, God does look out for our needs. We give so that God can bless us so that we can give some more! 2 Corinthians 9:6 concludes, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Don’t be stingy! God’s accounting doesn’t always add up.
- Secretly giving. For this last characteristic, we turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:2-4, “2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” This characteristic is pretty self-explanatory. Our giving should largely be done in secret. This means we don’t take our picture and post it on social media with our check, bragging about how much we gave; we don’t include it our Christmas letter. But, we give and know that God sees everything. He sees our heart, He sees the amount, and He sees what the people we give to are going to do with the money. Leave your giving between you and God.
When I was a kid, my parents were constantly telling me to “Check your attitude.” I’m asking you to do the same. What is your attitude towards giving? God is a giver; we should be too. We should give willingly, cheerfully, lovingly, sacrificially, liberally, and secretly.
I would ask that you do two things in response to what you just read.
First, go somewhere by yourself (or with your spouse if you are married), and ask God to reveal your attitude in giving. If it doesn’t line up with Scripture, confess your sin, repent, and then ask God to correct your attitude. If your attitude lines up with Scripture, praise God! Ask God to reveal any other hidden motivations for giving.
Second, pray about giving to the ministry of Faith Bible Church. If you have a local church, give to them. If you don’t have a local church, find one ASAP! If you are in the Colorado Springs area, we’d love to have you join us in our mission: We are going about God’s business of developing ordinary people into vibrant followers of Christ. You can support our ministry by clicking here.
Have a good week!
This blog contains material from Motivating with Scripture by John Regier. Used with permission. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
Preached on January 8, 2017, at the evening service of Faith Bible Church. Updated for this blog.