A Season for Giving – But Why?
Americans have a reputation for being very generous people. Whenever there is a tragedy, globally or domestically, we respond with massive amounts of aid and supplies. Believers in the U.S. fund international mission efforts, local church building programs, and other Christian efforts to the tune of billions each year. Every Christmas retailers benefit massively from the gift-giving routines of family and friends. “Year-end” giving has become a primary focus of many charities as they seek to maximize the giving trends of donors.
However, like anything we do in Jesus’ name, it is important to ask, “Why?” With penetrating insight, Jesus pressed the issue of our motives in Matthew chapter six as He spoke of our giving, our praying, and our fasting. Jesus knew, and we soon learn, that we can do many “right” things for many “wrong” reasons.
As a Senior Pastor for over two decades, I did not think about this as often as I do now. In the local church, I taught periodically on the biblical truths about giving and we called the ushers forward each Sunday to collect the tithes and offerings of the faithful.
Now, fundraising is a completely different animal. I have been exposed to a completely new world of methodologies and motivations that cause me to do a regular gut-check as I watch others raise money and seek to do the same thing for my own ministry. It is a different world, requiring prayer, care, and evaluation at every turn.
In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus taught,
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
Jesus is not condemning charitable deeds in this text. In fact, we know from other Bible passages that He commanded us to give – regularly and sacrificially. He is challenging our motives in doing so, for the sake of the eternal reward He wants us to enjoy in connection with our humble service in His name.
His powerful financial wisdom continues later in this chapter when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:19-21). He then adds these words: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (6:24).
Perhaps we could summarize His wisdom in this way:
1. We should give for an audience of one — God. To do otherwise is man-centered and negates our eternal reward.
2. We must stay fully focused on the treasure of eternity’s reward, investing the bulk of our funds in things of eternal significance lest the attraction of earthly values capture our heart.
3. We should recognize the constant battle for the love and loyalty of our heart. Our money follows our heart, and our heart eventually follows our money. Money can remain a servant, not a master, as we manage our funds with biblical purpose and right priorities.
Not all giving is created equal when it comes to the rewards of eternity. I am learning that my heart can be motivated and manipulated by a variety of stimuli. Each must be evaluated and monitored for the sake of wise decisions and eternal rewards.
Recognition Giving – As we have seen, Jesus addressed this issue in the Bible. Of course, it is not wrong if some organization or ministry leader decides to say thank you in some tangible way in gratitude for our giving. It is wrong to give for that reason.
“Return on Investment” Giving – In our American society, it is easy to manage our giving with a business mind-set that contradicts the truths of the Bible. Many of us want to give so that we can “see” the results. On one hand, this might just be a pure motivation of good stewardship. On the other hand, it can still be a man-centered idea of wanting personal gratification of knowing that others will notice what we have done through the “accomplishments” of our giving. Again, the reminder is needed that our investments are for God’s glory, His kingdom, and for eternal purposes that may or may not impress anyone here on earth. As Paul said, “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Generous but Non-Sacrificial Giving – A number of years ago I heard the principle, “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.” Studies have proven that the poorest people give the highest percentage of their income. Conversely, the more someone makes, the less sacrificial their giving typically becomes, even though the amounts may increase significantly. We are familiar with the story of the poor widow who gave her two mites (about 1/8 of one cent) to the temple treasury. Her gift was insignificant compared to the large gifts others were making. However, Jesus said that she gave more than all the wealthy people combined because she gave with great sacrifice while the wealthy gave out of their abundance, representing little sacrifice (Mark 12:41-44). This speaks to my heart about the fact that the more we have, the more sacrificial we must become, if our giving is going to matter in eternity.
Christ-Honoring and Christ-Honored Giving
My prayer for my own heart – and yours – is that we will engage in Christ-honoring giving, as outlined in the Scriptures. It must be God-centered, eternally focused, humble, and very sacrificial. If we can keep our hearts in the right place and our giving conducted in the right way, the Lord promises to reward these sacrifices in eternity.
This reward will encompass our capacity to bring Him glory throughout eternity as we cast our crowns at His feet, recognizing Christ as the source and goal of all that we ever “owned” – or ever gave. Ultimately, the eternal scoreboard is the only one that matters and eternal values the only ones that will last.