The Spirit of Giving
Studies have proven that the act of giving contributes to your own sense of self, well-being and happiness. Give to others and you’re also giving to yourself! There’s also a well known saying: “charity begins at home”. Often the best and most effective place to start giving is to those who are in our immediate context.
But the Bible also provides a deeper meaning to what it really is “to give” and why being a giver is so beneficial, not just to others, but also ourselves.
How Is “Giving” Defined?
Giving can be defined in different ways, but most acts of giving fall into one of the following categories:
- Mental – Giving thought to others’ needs, praying for others.
- Emotional – Being present with people in their joy or pain.
- Physical – Assisting with everyday needs, money, labour-based tasks.
- Spiritual – Being a positive role model through teaching, writing, blogging…
There are many ways to give. The above are just a few examples.
Some forms of giving may require little effort, others a lot. Giving of our time may also require giving mentally and emotionally in the process. However, no matter what form it takes, all forms of giving are good and worthy.
Are There Any Limits To Giving?
The short answer is yes. It’s not always possible to give or continue giving to something. But how do we know our limits at the same time as not holding back? How do we find balance in our giving to others?
We often say “do your best… leave the rest to God.” But is this what the Bible suggests?
Consider the following:
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17 (NASB)
“Let each contribute what he has decided upon in his own mind, and not do it reluctantly or under compulsion. It is a cheerful giver that God loves.” 2 Cor 9:7 (WEY)
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13 (ESV)
“Commit your work to the Lord,and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)
It’s clear that each person has to work out what they are able to give – but not hold back unnecessarily. Giving also needs to be done with enthusiasm and sincere love.
Humans tend to exhaust themselves in acts of giving, trying to prove their worth, but we are told to do things “as to the Lord” – not for pride or self worth. You can’t give heartily if you are exhausted!
Is It Good To Always Give?
Giving may sometimes require limitations. There are certainly times when it is best not to give – an attitude of entitlement is only enabled further by unlimited generosity.
Looking to God as an example, we see that He often held back on the Israelites; sending famine and the sword and using their enemies against them.
It’s also not a good idea to give when it causes your own hurt or the hurt of others who may be dependent on you.
However, there are great examples of people who did ‘give all’ in scripture ‘out of faith’. “Each, according to their faith” is perhaps a good measure in this instance.
“It is acceptable, according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality – at this 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; as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.'” 2 Corinthians 8:12-15 (NASB)
You Will Be More Blessed Through Giving Than Receiving
Bible verses that deal with the subject of giving may appear misleading, if we take them too literally. Proverbs 3, which states “honour the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine (verses 9-10) could be taken to imply that strong spiritual faith guarantees financial wealth. Or Proverbs 11:25 – “the generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” seems to suggest that being generous with what we possess will guarantee further prosperity.
We know that this is often the opposite to what we personally experience in real life and contradicts what we see elsewhere throughout the Bible. Take God’s servant Paul, who gave his life to the ministry but said “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12).
And, of course, there are many faithful individuals throughout the world who are poverty-stricken, or, if not in poverty, certainly not living in situations of affluence.
These verses were perhaps intended to be more metaphoric of a spiritual life and state of mind. It’s not logical to conclude that anyone who gives their life fully to Christ will be wealthy and prosperous in temporal things, as we know this isn’t always the case.
When we consider the context of Paul’s words above (Philippians 4:12), we start to learn something very important about giving. We begin to understand how it is that givers lack nothing and how Christ’s statement is true – that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Consider the following thoughts from the Bible in relation to giving:
- Givers are blessed because they never lack
- Givers are freed from the destructive sin of greed
- Givers are blessed because they form deep and enduring relationships
- Givers are blessed because they are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ
- Givers are blessed because they reap eternal rewards
What Is A Giver Like?
Check out the examples in Philippians 4:4-7 and 10-19. These people were known givers and had learned the true spirit of giving from Paul, who had modeled it to them! As you move through the chapter, pay particular attention to both Paul’s attitude as the model giver and the attitude of this community of believers, who were notorious for exhibiting the true spirit of giving:
Givers are happy! (“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – verse 4).
Givers are balanced, patient and moderate people. They don’t suffer from greed or materialism (“Let your moderation be evident to all. The Lord is near.” – verse 5).
Givers aren’t anxious (“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – verse 6).
Givers receive peace of mind which transcends the present. Their hearts and minds are protected by the secure knowledge of Christ and where ‘giving in love’ leads – the very character of Christ himself. Note that Paul does not say that if they presented their needs to God they could be guaranteed God would provide gifts; peace of mind, an aspect of the mind of Christ is a guaranteed reward however! (“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – verse 7).
Givers seek out opportunities to share. They care to love and they love to care! (“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” – verse 10).
Givers feel and know contentment. (“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” – verse 11-12).
Givers know and feel the strength of Christ, who enables them to live joyfully and strengthens them to keep on giving. (“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – verse 13)
Givers experience long and lasting friendships. They are loved without reserve. (“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” – verse 14).
True givers really get it. There were other believing communities who gave in Paul’s time. But only the Philippians truly understood the principles of equality in Christ that lie behind giving and receiving. (“Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.” – verse 15).
Givers enjoy giving because they do it for love. They will give at every genuine opportunity! (“For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.” – verse 16)
Givers are very unselfish. They prefer and love to see others giving. They desire to see others ‘heaping up treasures in heaven’! (“Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” – verse 17).
Givers are gracious and see all gifts of love as an offering to the greatest giver of all, God himself. (“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” – verse 18).
How Are Givers’ Needs Ultimately Met?
Givers will receive riches and glory with Christ! They will never experience need again. And how much more noble and honourable will it be then, because they have tasted and lived the principle of ‘Cross before Crown’! (“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” – verse 19).
What Are We Really Required To Give?
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”- (1 Corinthians 13:3).
The answer? Anything – in love! And to whom? To whoever needs the gift. Did Christ ever ask “Father, whom should I love and to whom should I give?” Rather, he reiterated the command to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’.
The true blessing gained through giving isn’t measured in things, but in the appreciation we gain of what we ourselves have been given by God. Sharing the love of God to others, in every way possible and wherever needful, is the greatest gift anyone can give! Freely we have received (love and life), freely give (back love and life!)
“This is how we have come to know love: the Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.” – 1 John 3:16