Why do we give?
The Apostle Paul: “I do want you to experience the blessing that issues from generosity.” (Philippians 4:17 Message)
1. Giving is good for us because it proves what is really important to us.
That which you value most in life is that which you can never give away. It’s easy to give away stuff that doesn’t matter to us. But what happens when it is important to us.
I've played a little bridge and 42. Sometimes, in playing a hand of bridge or 42, someone is winning all the tricks. At first it’s easy to throw off cards or dominoes because you know you can’t win with them. But as your opponent keeps winning it becomes harder and harder to throw off. Finally, you get down to the last two or three and it gets really hard to decide which to throw off, knowing that one of them may be the very one to stop your opponent. Eventually you get down to that last one, that given all you know, offers you the best chance to stop your opponent and save your game.
What’s that last thing in your life that you would hold onto until the very end? Whatever that is, that is your real god. Is it the Lord God, or something or someone else?
The Bible tells us the First Commandment, from Genesis 20:3, is: “You must not have any other gods except me.” God tells us this because He knows no other god can ultimately save us. Every other god offers promises but never ultimately fulfills them.
Money is not a bad thing, and we need it to operate in this world, but money will not save you. Yet, many, many folks seemed to have placed it at the top of their lists.
Jack Benny, the comedian who always acted the part of a miser, told of the time he was held up. The robber stuck a gun to his back and said, “Your money or your life.” After a long pause the robber repeated his threat to which Benny replied, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!”
Jack Benny was, of course, kidding, but a lot of folks aren’t. God is telling you and me that He will not tolerate money being your god, work being your god, pleasure being your god, or even family. When you put family ahead of God, you have made it an idol. And the truth is, you and your family will suffer if that is the case because we weren’tcreated to live that way—we’re misusing the product. It doesn’t mean family and work aren’t important, but what is most important? What will you hold until the very end—that has the power to save you?
If you can’t give financially to God’s work, God can’t be very high on your list, can He? God doesn’t ask for everything He’s given you, but He does ask and expect a tithe, which is 10%. If God is first, He should receive His 10% first. We all know we can make room for those things that really matter to us, so is God first in your life? If He is, among other things, your checkbook and credit card statement should show it.
Proverbs 3:9 (Message): “Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best.”
Does God get His 10% first, or only if there’s anything left after everything else you want and need to do. Don’t misunderstand me—God wants you to have food, clothing and shelter. But, do we have too much food, or too expensive food, like eating out too often? Do we have more clothing and things than we really need? Is our home reasonable, or did we build or buy or rent too much home?
To be faithful in this area should require sacrifice on our parts, but then we always sacrifice for those things that matter most to us. And lest we forget, God sacrificed His Son on the cross for us, so He certainly understands sacrifice.
If you have recently become a believer, you may be stuck with some choices you made earlier in your life. God knows where you are, and while He understands, He still wants your life to express your priorities. The question for you is what can you do, now and in the near future, to move your life in the right direction?
If you’ve been an active, practicing believer for a while, and your life and finances do not demonstrate God as first in your life, you will have more to answer for. So, are you making adjustments in your life that are allowing you to move in that direction? God honors our efforts to move in the right direction so that every area of our life reflects His priority in our lives.
I might add that I heard a recent survey that indicated that 95% of people who tithe did it cold turkey, without working up to it. At Gateway we offer the 90-Tithing Challenge, because God says in Malachi 3 that in this one circumstance we can test the LORD. If He says you can, then so do we - consider giving it a try.
C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
2. Giving is good for us because it demonstrates our obedience.
Malachi 3:10 (NLT): “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…”
There are many other passages in the Old Testament that demonstrate that God expects us to give the tithe, a tenth of our income. And in the New Testament Jesus affirms it as the norm, though he really sets a higher standard. I could go on here, but the Scriptures are clear here.
3. Giving is good for us because it is an expression of thanks to God.
Psalm 116:12 (NLT): “What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?”
We have life, family, a place to live and places to work. We have talents and gifts. When we failed Him and turned from Him, He remained faithful to us. He sent us Son to teach us and love us and die for us. Through him we have forgiveness of our sins and eternal salvation. And we have the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, to remind us God is always with us and He is working in our lives to change us into the very image and likeness of Jesus himself. God has prepared an eternal home for each of us who believe Him and put our faith and trust in Him.
Frankly, you and I can’t outgive God and we can’t thank God enough. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and continue to do so on a regular basis. Through our worship, our prayers, our service, our gifts, and our witness we express our thanks to God.
4. Giving is good for us because it teaches us dependence on God.
How many of us ever do anything that depends on God in order for it to be a success? Many never do and wonder why they never experience God’s miracles.
But when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the wilderness, they quickly discovered they could not survive without God’s help. There were way too many of them to survive on what they could find out there. But each morning they found enough manna—a bread-like substance—for that day. If they gathered more than they needed, it spoiled by the next day. The only exception was the day before the Sabbath, when they were allowed to collect two days worth of manna, since they were not to work on the Sabbath. In these cases, the manna never spoiled on the Sabbath. (Exodus 16)
What did the Hebrews learn from this—absolute dependence on God. And a few thousand years later, God wants nothing less from us. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11—part of the Lord’s Prayer) In other words, “Lord, give us what we need for today.” Yet, how many of us depend on God for what we need today?
When we give the tithe, it’s not necessarily easy. For some it becomes a real sacrifice, and we sometimes wonder, “How in the world will this work out.” And frankly, we often don’t know. But it is precisely at that point that God can really begin to work in our life. Because when we can’t do it ourselves, but we are attempting to do what God wants us to do, then we have to put it in His hands and trust Him. And it is amazing how it always seems to work out.
In my own life in the mid to late 1980s, I attended seminary, while making only thirteen thousand dollars a year by working in a church part-time. But I tithed. And…I paid for my seminary education, which cost well over twenty thousand dollars, bought my first Macintosh computer, married Susan and bought her a small diamond ring, and paid for all our living expenses, without incurring any debt! I honestly don’t know how that happened, except that it was the hand of God leading us and providing for us.
When we give, when we tithe, we are placing ourselves at God’s mercy. We have to depend on Him, and it will mean that we may not always get what we want, but we will always have what we need. I promise you that God has given every one of us enough to tithe—depend on it!
5. Giving is good for us because it teaches us how to be content.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT): “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Paul was content. Did he have lots of things—apparently not. In fact, he indicates there were times he went without. All of this from a man who probably had a very privileged upbringing, who was used to having everything he wanted.
People tend to think that having more money, more things, living in the right house, having the right job, etc. will make them happy. Happiness is just around the corner, and if we can just find the right thing, we’ll have it.
But Paul said he was happy, regardless of what he had or didn’t have. His happiness, his contentment was based on Christ, not on anything in this world. And once that was settled, Paul discovered he really didn’t need very much.
We get the idea that we need a great deal, when it actually turns out we want a great deal. And there is a big difference between our true needs and our wants. One survey showed that 82% of Americans believe “most of us buy and consume far more than we need.”
Giving helps to keep everything in perspective, because it reminds us we aren’t putting our trust in money and things, but in the Lord. So, we can give easily and freely because those are not things that bring ultimate happiness and contentment into our lives.
6. Giving is good for us because it is a way God blesses us and brings us His joy.
Scripture is full of promises here:
Malachi 3:10 (NLT): “'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’”
Proverbs 3:9-10 (NLT): “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.”
Jesus: “'Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.’” (Luke 6:38 NLT)
This doesn’t mean God necessarily blesses us financially when we give (as some like to promise). It means, simply, that we are blessed and filled with joy. Giving gives me some of the greatest joys of living. I can’t tell you how God will bless you in giving, but I guarantee He does.
One caution, however: if you are giving in order to receive, don’t expect blessings. God blesses giving done for the right reasons. There’s no guarantee you will be blessed when you give simply to receive. Your attitude is the key here.
7. Giving is good for us because it is a way we provide a living for pastors and staff God has called to ministry.
This is certainly a little awkward to talk about and I won’t spend much time here, but if I am going to be faithful to the Bible, I have to mention this. In the Old Testament, the Levites were the Hebrew tribe set apart by God to lead the spiritual affairs of the nation, not unlike pastors and church staff today.
The LORD said to Aaron, the first high priest, “'As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel.’” (Numbers 18:21 NLT) However, those who serve as pastors and staff are not exempt from tithing.
Numbers 18:25-26 (NLT): “The LORD also told Moses, 'Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive—a tithe of the tithe—to the LORD as a sacred offering.’”
Susan and I have tithed and given offerings beyond the tithe our entire married life, and we've been grateful God has allowed us to give back a portion of what He first gave us.
8. Giving is good for us because it provides the resources to share and spread the Gospel.
Paul thanked the Philippians for helping him when he needed it as he spread the Gospel (Philippians 4:14).
The church is the only institution that exists for the sake of its non-members. We aren’t a club, but a mission, and Jesus gave us our mission to make disciples. And as in giving, it is in the actual giving of ourselves in mission and ministry that we are blessed and fulfilled.
But, it takes financial resources to accomplish this, and in calling for the tithe, God provided the resources needed to share and spread the Gospel. Your gifts make ministry with our children possible, touching hundreds of children and youth in an ongoing basis regularly.
But folks, that can only be the starting point because we know that by the time youth reach high school the majority of them are not involved in any church. That means fewer youth who have had Jesus Christ help shape their values and who can forward to eternity with him. We need to be asking ourselves, “What will it take to minister to hundreds more children and youth?”
We know that probably two-thirds of the adults in our area have either no church home or are not active in their church. Jesus Christ cares about those folks, and he wants us to help make them disciples. People are hurting in this world more than ever more, and we know Jesus Christ has answers.
People are hurting in this world more than ever, and we know Jesus Christ doesn't just have answers—he is the answer! How do we effectively reach out to people struggling with losses through death and divorce, people struggling with illness and family issues, and much more? We need to be helping people locally, but also in missions to other places and countries, to share the Gospel in word and deed.
All of this requires resources—staff, materials, facilities, and more. When you and I give, we are providing the resources to make these things, and more, possible. God wants us to be obedient and gratefully join Jesus Christ in his mission to the people of this world that he died for.
Oswald Smith said, “It’s not how much of my money will I give to God, but how much of God’s money will I keep for myself.”
God blesses us to give, to be generous people. I hope you think on this and talk with God and see where He leads you. You might just discover that God's ways bring more blessings than you imagined!