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FIRST-PERSON: Should you give til it hurts?

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–God selects only a few to receive and dispose of large amounts of his resources. Nevertheless, Jesus made a promise to any Christian who will apply it: “Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).

The principle behind this promise is that of sowing and reaping, giving and receiving — not giving in order to receive.

Does God want me to give until it hurts?

The apostle Paul wrote, “This is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13). In other words, God doesn’t want us to give and give until it hurts or until we are impoverished, unless of course it is to improve our lives spiritually.

Instead, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

So, don’t give until it hurts. Instead, give until you’re cheerful about it.

Being contented is not a bad idea.

The apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (Philippians 4:11-12).

The writer of Proverbs expressed a balanced attitude toward material things: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Should others know what I give?

Jesus said, “When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3).

Those who have a problem with pride need to give in a modest and humble way. This doesn’t mean that all giving must be done entirely in secret. It does mean that we’re not to draw attention to ourselves when we give.

However, God’s Word also says that giving openly can help bond Christians together, as the apostle Paul expressed in 2 Corinthians 8:24. And be sure to allow your children to witness your giving, particularly when sacrificial giving is involved, because it will teach them the importance of commitment.

The tithe is not the goal.

Tithing is simply a good place to begin. The word tithe means one-tenth. The tithe’s purpose is to be a testimony of God’s ownership and is meant to be individualized. It’s the minimum portion that a Christian should give.

Old Testament Jews gave a tithe each year to the storehouse; a second tithe was given annually for Jewish widows and orphans; and a third tithe was given every third year to gentile widows and orphans. Some of the Old Testament Jews probably tithed more than 23 percent.

Certainly Christians, living under God’s grace in the reality of Jesus Christ, should neither look for ways to give less nor be satisfied to do so, but should give out of abundance. An important principle is taught in 2 Corinthians 8:14: “At the present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality.”

Give out of commitment.

Commitment is an important ingredient in giving, but confusion exists when it comes to distinguishing between faith promises and pledges.

A faith promise is a commitment to give a certain amount, which allows churches and ministries to prepare good, logical financial planning for the year. It is understood that if God does not provide the funds, you are not obligated to give them.

A pledge, on the other hand, is an absolute commitment to pay something. This type of giving is presumptuous, but a faith promise is scriptural. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Not all giving consists of cash donations

Give of your time, talents and love. You may donate your time or services to your church or an organization, or you may give non-cash gifts of food, furniture and clothing. But, please, don’t ever give useless or junk “gifts.”

You also may give something with an appreciated value (an asset you bought at a low price that is now worth much more). This would include such things as stocks, bonds, jewelry, real estate or anything that grows in value.

One caution about giving is that sometimes people are encouraged to borrow in order to give. This isn’t scriptural. It doesn’t require much trust to borrow money. Deuteronomy 15:4-6 says that if we obey and trust God we will not have to borrow money.

There is no example in Scripture of God ever using a loan to manifest his will in the lives of his people. Borrowing to give is a manifestation of a lack of understanding (see Proverbs 17:18).

Giving should be a matter of the heart.

Giving is related to more than simply the pocketbook. In this country very few of us have a problem with sacrificing too much. Someone has correctly said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. So, give sacrificially as a way to honor God with your heart’s attitude of love.

Never give to impress others. It’s clear that neither a voluntary rejection of all wealth nor a display of material success are part of a balanced Christian walk. The purpose of God blessing us with an abundance is so that we can give in order to further the Kingdom of God.

But, even if you don’t have an abundance, you can still give sacrificially and honor God with your cheerful heart.
Burkett is chairman of the board of Crown Financial Ministries. A Southern Baptist layman based in Gainesville, Ga., Burkett is the host of the national “Money Matters” radio program and author of two resources published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention: “How Much Is Enough? 30 Days to Personal Revival” and “Jesus on Money.”

    About the Author

  • Larry Burkett