But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7
I recently cleaned out 20+ years (1986-2006) of tax return documents and receipts and took them to my friend’s document shredding company for proper disposal. As I made my way through mounds of paper, I came across some mail in each year’s tax files from the church I was attending during that tax year. I could not resist the opportunity to open these letters and review my year-end giving record to my church as I cleaned out these files. I was amazed that I never missed any money I gave away during my lifetime, and I noticed a pattern of increasing my giving over this time as my income and resources grew. I smiled as I reflected on what God had entrusted to my care and how blessed I have been on this journey of learning to trust God to provide for my entire life! I was thankful, but to whom?
The Bible makes clear that my gratitude goes first to God, because “every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above…” James 1:17. I also realized that I am grateful to four others who have taught me how to give of what God has entrusted to my care. Maybe you have benefited from the same teachers in your life. If so, today is a good day to stop and say “Thank you.”
From reading my bible, and especially the letters written by Paul to the New Testament churches, I have gleaned much from God inspiring Paul to be very specific in teaching other followers of Jesus about giving. He took seriously the command of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20) to teach new believers everything that Jesus had commanded, including his instruction on giving. For more about Paul’s teaching on giving see , Romans 12:3-16, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Galatians 6:7-10, II Corinthians 8-9, Philippians 4:6-20 and 1 Timothy 6.
As a young child, I was keenly aware that my mother specifically gave a tithe of her income each and every week. She took out her checkbook each Saturday evening and wrote out a check for one-tenth of her week’s pay and placed it in her offering envelope, ready to place in the offering the next day. While we did not have a lot in material possessions, we always had enough. I credit my mother with teaching by example and instruction about the portion of our possessions that we were to return to God. I am thankful that I was taught by word and deed the value of giving to my church as a child.
In the summer of 1980 before leaving for college, our church air-conditioner had to be replaced. I am forever grateful to my pastor, Dr. Fred Lackey for calling our church to a challenge that summer to double-tithe for one month to meet the needs in our church. I trusted my pastor, and God used him to teach me about the blessing of giving over and above my tithe. His call to action stretched my faith to do more than I thought possible.
It was election night in November of 1980, the day Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States that I recall getting a phone call that my father had collapsed from a heart attack and I needed to return home from college. As a broke college student, I was unsure of how I would make this trip back home. I had gone to see a friend in my dorm and when I returned another friend, Dale, had left an envelope on my desk with “Philippians 4:19” written on the envelope. Inside was cash I would need to travel home. I am sure I had read the book of Philippians before, but never had this verse come so alive before now. It was in this moment that I saw a living picture of how “My God would supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!” This peer was used by God to teach me a lifelong lesson in being generous with God’s blessings. His example spoke volumes. That summer, I also saw God provide for my needs for college in ways I could have never dreamed or imagined.
So, my question for you is…Who taught you to give? Giving is not our nature. The effects of sin are overwhelmingly strong, so we enter into this world selfish to the core. As a result, we must be taught to give. A heart transformed by the love and grace of God expressed in Jesus is the only remedy for this selfish nature. Once we follow Jesus, we begin a journey of learning what it means to give generously and sacrificially for God’s kingdom purposes. God uses many tools and teachers to help us grow in this journey. As we grow, we learn to live with our hands open, receiving from the Lord and giving generously as he entrusts his blessings to us.
Would you reply with your story of who taught you to give?