Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

Christendom resounds with requests, pleas and even shameless ‘demands’ for contributions and donations for various ministries, projects and ‘needs’. When devious and persistent methods of solicitation became common especially on TV, it has even created a very negative image of Christianity among non-Christians. Yet a lot of giving is done for wrong reasons—to ward off God’s displeasure or to procure His blessings—and also grudgingly or as a matter of sheer duty. Actually if we think that we can make God happy with such giving it only shows how little we know God.

That kind of giving demonstrates that we really don’t believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive, even if we know that verse by heart (Acts.20:35). It shows us that we are only giving under pressure and not because we like to give. We know that God is not dependent on our giving because He owns everything anyway (Psa.50:7-14), and He can find someone else to give for His work if we are not happy to give (Esth.4:14). God cannot be bribed into blessing us, and on the other hand we lose the greater blessing He would have given us if we had given in the right way.

How many preachers play on people’s guilt and fear in order to make them give! How many present giving to God as a good business deal—just give, and see how God will give back a hundredfold! How many manipulate people’s ignorance of God’s word to extract the maximum from them!

An Example Of Giving
The churches of Macedonia have given us a challenging example of Christian giving. “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints---and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2Cor.8:1-5). They gave in spite of their severe affliction and extreme poverty; they gave cheerfully; they gave of their own accord—not responding to a high pressure speaker, but out of their own eagerness for participating in the work of blessing the others—and they gave even beyond their means. The compelling reason behind all this was that they had first given themselves to the Lord and to His people.

Motivated By Love
If there is a true giving of ourselves to the Lord first, there will also be an availability to do what He tells us and also care and concern for His kingdom and His people. Isn’t this what we ourselves should do first of all, and isn’t this what preachers and teachers should primarily exhort believers to? Then we give not because we have to, but because we want to. Then we know that we have received a heart of giving. Then we give not because we want some returns but because we have the privilege of meeting a part of the need among God’s people.

Jesus once exhorted the people to give from their heart. “And the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you’” (Luke.11:39-41). We miss the whole point of giving when we focus on calculating how much to give and neglect the aspects of how—with what kind of heart—we give. We make the mistake of thinking that the greater value is in giving more, not realising that how we give is more important to God than how much we give. For God, Rs. 1 is the same as Rs. 100000 and Rs. 100000 is the same as Rs. 1 (2Pet.3:8). The heart from which we give is what makes the difference. That was one lesson Jesus taught from the example of the widow who gave two mites (Luke.21:1-3).

The Privilege Of Giving
When we give some money to someone or help someone we tend to think we are their benefactors! But the people in the churches in Macedonia, as we have seen, counted it their privilege to have the opportunity of serving others. Isn’t this an out-of-the-world kind of thinking? Isn’t this a result of understanding that it is more blessed to give than to receive? How much of God’s work will get done on earth without the hassle of having to prod people many times if we all had this heart!

We would think that the old time Pharisees who blew their trumpets in the market place before they gave alms are no longer there. But actually there is no dearth of such people even now, when we look around at the plaques telling others what people have contributed and the special mention people secretly or openly seek for in magazines, public meetings, radio and TV! By such things we indicate that we are not content just with the blessing that comes from God when we give (Matt.6:1-4). And then we end up losing God’s blessings too.

The Old And The New Way
The old way of giving, under the old covenant, was to give out of fear of getting cursed or the desire to receive back many fold (Mal.3:8-10). We can understand that God was essentially trying through the old covenant to reach out to a hard-hearted people (Matt.19:8). But when we come into the new covenant, we give cheerfully and as we decide in our heart and not under compulsion of having to give ten percent (2Cor.9:7). We have the freedom of heart to give as much as God has enabled us to prosper (1Cor.16:2), and not according to any fixed rate or with calculation.

People naturally fear that without any rule about how much we have to give people would end up without giving anything or giving only nominally. This does happen. But what that shows is that we have not got a heart to give. What we need is a change of heart, rather than some compulsion to give more which will only establish us again under the old covenant type of relationship with God.

God wants to give us a new heart and a new spirit, write His laws upon our heart and cause us to walk in His ways (Ezek.36:26,27). Let us ask Him to do that in our lives, and let us submit to His new ways.

-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, December 2011

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