The Way of Christian Giving
Sometimes describing what giving isn’t, is the best way to explain what it is. In my interaction with givers globally, I have found that when they ask me to help them grow in Christian generosity, a list of contrasts of what it isn’t and what it is aids in getting a message across clearly and concisely. Jesus used this construct often because there’s no such thing as partial obedience. We either follow His instructions or we don’t.
Jesus presented the cultural and religious patterns of the world alongside God’s design for life and living so people could see the difference. For example, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). But Jesus never forced his hearers to choose the right path. Paul and other NT writers followed suit and pointed the way by grace.
Think of “the way of Christian giving” as a road with ditches on both sides. Christian giving neither follows religious traditions, though they may be rooted in the Old Testament (the right ditch), nor the world’s rules for giving (the left ditch). How do we chart the course down the middle? Consider seven contrasts to stay on the Christ-centered way.
Law vs. Love.
We don’t have to give. We get to give from all we have received. Our motivation changes in Christ. Every good gift we have has come to us from our loving God to enjoy and share with love. If we give without love, we gain nothing, and our self-righteousness sends us off the road (see John 3:16; James 1:17; 1 Cor. 13:3).
Merit vs. Mercy.
To whom should we give? The world limits giving to those that “deserve” aid. Yet, the Word tells us that though undeserving, we received mercy and grace from God. Getting this right avoids looking worldly in our giving. Showing mercy to others reflects uniquely gracious generosity. Consider giving to the least deserving person you can imagine. That’s what Christ did for you. Go and do likewise (see Luke 6:36; Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:4-8).
Percentage vs. Proportion.
Neither Jesus nor other NT writers prescribe the tithe to disciples. Why? It’s law language, and Jesus fulfilled the law for us. To go that way is to return to “slavery.” The measure of giving that is “acceptable” to God is now based on what we have, not what we don’t have. As God supplies, we give. This also helps us avoid becoming enslaved to what we don’t give (see Luke 16:9-13; Gal. 5:1; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:12).
Favoritism vs. Fairness.
This contrast envisions a guide for giving. God has been generous to everyone, and so should we! We must love our neighbor as ourselves, while not showing favoritism to those we like more than others. All who follow the worldly pattern show preferential treatment to their friends and thus promote injustice. The NT calls for voluntary giving that brings “equality” (see Matt. 20:16; 22:34-40; 2 Cor. 8:13-15; James 2:1-11).
Obligation vs. Opportunity.
God’s people were obligated to care for the poor in the OT. Jesus tells those who want to follow Him who have more than enough (the rich), to share all they have with those with less than enough (the poor). When the rich do this, they grasp “life” following God’s design. Consequently, followers of Christ make the most of every opportunity to remember the poor (see Deut. 14:28-29; Mark 10:17-31; Gal. 2:10; 6:10)!
Donor vs. Distributor.
The world uses “donor” language that implies both ownership and control. We must abandon such language because God owns and reigns over everything. His Word commands us not to store up treasure for ourselves on earth but to enjoy and share as a way of life. When we do this, we discover that we don’t end up empty, but rather, enriched by God for generosity (see Matt. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 9:8-15; 1 Tim. 6:17-19).
Surplus vs. Sacrifice.
Surplus givers aim at preserving their standard of living and comfort. They give out of their “wealth” and reveal by what they retain where their trust remains. Jesus celebrates it when we sacrifice and give from our “poverty” showing we depend on Him for our daily bread and all else. The world looks at what we give. God cares about what we don’t give and what that says about our hearts (see Matt. 6:9-13, 21; Luke 21:1-4).
Perhaps you can think of more contrasts? I know I can! This list does not contain everything there is to know about the way of Christian giving, but it points you down the path of obedience. I share it not because of I want from you, but because of what I want for you. I want you to hear two words when you meet Jesus someday: “Well done!”
Want anyone else to hear that too? Consider discussing this list with your spouse or a friend at work or at church.
Gary Hoag, Ph.D., (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK), serves as a visiting professor at six seminaries, on part-time basis as ECFA International Liaison, and is known widely as “the Generosity Monk” because he has dedicated his life to encouraging Christian generosity. Check out Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living to watch videos freely to learn to budget in order to prepare to give an account for your stewardship.
Gary Hoag will also be serving as faulty for The Outcomes Conference 2018. He will be a key presenter in the BRAND NEW Collaborative Intensive Day. Register and check out his session in the Leadership Roundtable!
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