Are you a giver ready to grow?
To help givers grow, I suggest they find themselves in the groups that mirror the four soils in Mark 4:1-20. Though only one exhibits the fruit of the Spirit of “generosity” (Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV), there’s hope for anyone willing to work their soil, receive the seed of the Word, and do what it says.
Group #1 gives nothing to God.
It’s not hard to guess that these hearts are the hard “path” (Mark 4:4,15). They give nothing at church or to other ministries. Their lives reveal that they don’t know that all they have was given to them from God for enjoyment and sharing (1 Timothy 6:17-19). They are good at enjoyment but not sharing. Like the Dead Sea, life flows in, not out.
This group thinks all they have belongs to them to do as they please. I thought this early in life! They live beyond their means, have many material possessions, and much debt. Unless they learn to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus, life will be empty (Mark 8:36). If this is you, turn to Jesus. He’s not trying to rob you. He wants to help you.
Group #2 give with little sacrifice.
This group thinks they have little to give. I urge them to visit www.globalrichlist.com. They find that an annual salary of $25,000 ranks among the top 2% of salaries in the world. That really woke me up! While the cost of living in the USA may be greater, most are not content with basic necessities, despite clear biblical instructions (1 Timothy 6:8).
Their “shallow” giving reveals the rocks of other priorities in their hearts (Mark 4:5-6,16-17). Rocks are the stuff to which they cling. The world exalts those who give “out of their wealth” but this group does not impress Jesus (Luke 21:1-4). If this is you, let go! Say “no” to all other priorities, and say “yes” to God. Lose your life, and you will find it!
Group #3 gives a certain percentage.
This group gives 10% and lives largely the same as the world with the other 90%. The limit on their giving reveals a limited grasp of and obedience to teachings of Jesus. See texts like Matthew 6:19-34. Their bank accounts betray their trust in money. Having money is not sin, holding it back for yourself is! Money tries to trick all who possess it.
Jesus says, “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Money whispers, “You need me!” They believe it. I believed it for years! God wants 100%. Our trust follows the cash. If this is you, ponder this idea that helps us weed out worldly thinking.
“God’s ownership of everything also changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ we learn to ask, ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?’ The difference between these two questions is of monumental proportions.” Richard Foster, The Challenge of the Disciplined Life
Group #4 gives according to their ability with love.
The last group gives proportionately and lovingly (Acts 11:28; 1 Corinthians 13:3; 16:1-2). As they are blessed, they bless. They live simply and give generously with love, realizing all they have came to them from God by grace. They don’t rationalize disobedience and hold back as containers, but enjoy and share as cheerful conduits of God’s giving.
This group only figured it out as they lived it out. That’s our testimony. In hearing the Word and doing what it says, they produce a rich harvest. They bear fruit at different levels (30x, 60x, or 100x) as stewards vary in ability (Mark 4:8, 20). If this is you, help others get the fact that those who fail to distribute are the ones who end up destitute.
In what group does your giving place you?
Jesus wants all of us to bear fruit. Soil that is hard, rocky and shallow, or thorny and deceived, cannot bear fruit. As necessary, we must work the soil of our hearts and remove the rocks and weeds. Then, as we receive the Word and do what it says, we bear the fruit of generosity. We grasp God’s design for life, and the world sees Christ in us.
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK), serves as a visiting professor at six seminaries, as ECFA International Liaison, and as “the Generosity Monk” having dedicated his life to encouraging Christian generosity. For more insights, check out his book, Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living.
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