Four Possible Giving Teachers…Which one most influenced you?

We enter this world selfish as a result of the fall. This leaves us in need of being taught to give generously, but who will teach us? There are at least four very good possibilities.

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?

Changing Four Letter Words to Three

I remember it like it was yesterday – a ministry moment of clarity that has been etched in my memory for more than 25 years. My pastor, Dr. Dennis Newkirk, had been travelling home from Arizona and arrived home around 2:00a.m. on Sunday morning.  As our staff was walking into a pre-worship staff meeting on that Sunday, he mentioned being tired.  I replied, “That’s right, you have to preach three times today.” As if on cue, he turned abruptly and retorted, “No. I get to preach today. I do not have to preach today.”  He smiled and entered the office for our brief meeting.

Why does this stand out in my mind?  I think it was the clarity with which he spoke and the instantaneous response to my statement. He did not need to think for a moment in his reply. It was a well-engrained attitude he had developed about the privilege of preaching the gospel of Jesus each week. It was also a profound moment of teaching for a young youth pastor to hear from his senior pastor. I have never forgotten that moment.  It was not a rebuke, nor a harsh reprimand.  It was a statement never to be confused in my mind again.

This powerful lesson was not lost on me.  I have repeated that statement more times than I can recall.

I believe this simple change from the four letter word HAVE to the three letter word GET can be applied in much of life. Have you considered it in your response to our high calling of financial stewardship? 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 records some of the most profound words in scripture that embody this idea of having to vs. getting to.

Remember this, the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously, will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart – NOT out of regret or of necessity (HAVE TO), for God loves a cheerful giver (emphasis added).   -2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (HCSB)

Consider the attitude expressed by Paul to these Corinthian believers. He reminds them (and us) that the best and most generous gifts should proceed first from the heart, not out of a sense of guilt or obligation. The decision to give to the Lord through His church may be viewed by some as something they HAVE to do, as if it is a burden or an obligation.  Others, however, have grown in their giving to understand the secret of generosity is that it is indeed a privilege that is ours to partner with and to be used by God to give in ways that bless others and make a difference in their lives. These Corinthian believers were getting to share in the work of God as He used them to supply the needs of the body of believers in Jerusalem.

Consider how Paul illustrated the attitude of GETTING to GIVE as expressed by the Macedonian believers. In 2 Corinthians 8:4 he describes this group of believers as being generous beyond their ability to give. He wrote, “they begged us intensely for the privilege (GET to) of sharing in the ministry to the saints…” (emphasis added). Wow!  What a different attitude toward giving. Our giving begins with a right heart and a right attitude.

Prayer:  Lord, would you help me grow to have a Christ-like attitude in my generosity toward others through your church. Would you help me grow to be like the Macedonian believers who understood that we get to join you in your work through our giving of our touch, time, talent, testimony and treasures? Help me today to see what I get to do on Your behalf instead of approaching my day with what I have to do. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your Kingdom’s work here on earth.  – Amen