This is a picture of my dad—the most generous person I have ever known.
My parents are no longer alive but they are constantly with me because they taught me so much. One important lesson I learned from them is the concept of not missing out on what is truly important.
They taught me not to miss out on every day opportunities to salute a veteran, to pay for their meal, to thank them for their service one way or another. They instilled in me the desire and willingness to relinquish my seat on a bus or train should a woman, an elderly person, or an individual with limited movement were to get on board. They inculcated in me the philosophy of seizing every opportunity to develop keen and compassionate eyes in order to spot needs and meet them if I had access to the right resources. They taught me missing out on any opportunity to walk humbly, to love mercy, and to do justly would do nothing but add hardness to my heart, and a succession of missed opportunities would surely atrophy my heart irreparably.
Giving away money was seen by them as a party not to miss out on, an opportunity far too important to let pass by. They’d say, “You don’t have to have a lot of money to practice giving; if you learn to be grateful for what little money you have, you’ll find an honest reason to give at least 10% of it away.”
Even though through the typical Westerner’s eye my Haitian parents were not wealthy people, I never saw them as such because our real needs were always met and they were so incredibly generous until the day they died. In fact, one of my earliest memories of my dad (who was a minister) was seeing him with pencil and paper at the dining room table seeking to determine how much God would have him give far above the tithe. He did it so often every child of his will now tell you the first rule of giving in our family is this:
Give to God first.
Our priority giving is seeing the importance of not missing out on the best party known to a Christ-follower—relinquishing the first fruits of our earnings to the benefit of advancing God’s Kingdom as the LORD deems best. Giving above and beyond what I think I can afford tells God, “Father, I believe in Your power to provide for me and I surrender to You the control of my finances. I trust You to direct my eyes toward needs that will in turn stir my heart to love God and neighbor increasingly and wholeheartedly.”
Hoarding, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. Simply stated, it tells God we aren’t grateful for His provision and we don’t trust Him to handle things right. So, believing we can’t afford to do it, we don’t give. Sadly, missing out on the opportunity to give feeds a spirit of miserly stinginess no matter how much money one has in the bank. That spirit has a hard time finding any love for God . . . let alone neighbor.
So, why not give?
I believe there’s a natural impulse inside of us to worship; we are designed to adore God. However, when we don’t worship God, that same natural impulse replaces God with an idol, enslaving our hearts to ingratitude and idolatry—that is, unbelief.
It is a vast understatement and no laughing matter to say money is our number 1 idol. It competes with God for the throne of our hearts.
When we don’t give any of the money entrusted to us at all, we make it clear to God and a watching world money easily dethrones the Creator in our hearts. When we delay in giving, we readily imply God and His Kingdom should only be given the leftovers of our resources. When we choose to give but a meager percentage of our income, it says we are more devoted to a high consumption lifestyle than faithful generosity.
My friend explains the above condition in these terms, “People don’t give more because they overestimate their ‘needs’ and their ‘generosity’.”
Do you find yourself in the “I can’t afford to give” camp? Now might be a good time to inventory your needs and generosity:
- Do you need a brand new car or do you need safe transportation from point A to point B?
- Do you need a McMansion in a gated community or do you need shelter?
- Do you need a vacation in Maui, eating caviar and staying in luxury hotels or do you need rest?
- Are you really as generous as you think?
There was a time in grad school, I was between a rock and a hard place. I felt as if I had nowhere to turn. I submitted myself to the above inventory and realized I had not been giving regularly. That’s when I found some incredible teaching at Northridge Church in Rochester NY. Following are my biggest takeaways in relation to giving:
- All Christ-followers are called and expected to give (rich and poor, young and old, married and single, etc.) No one is excluded.
- When giving is scheduled and systematic, generosity is more likely to happen consistently. Giving is statistically more.
- The top financial priority of a Christ-follower is to set money aside first for Kingdom work before personal spending. Although giving to God from leftovers may be a grateful act, it is not a respectful/faithful act.
- Although the Old Testament tithe is not a New Testament requirement, to say giving money period is optional is a serious practical stretch that misreads God’s Word.
- Giving, therefore, should be based on a percentage not an amount. So, Christians would do well to inventory actual giving and assess current percentages, asking, “Is this sacrificial? How can I grow my giving percentage?
- Although tax-deductibility is nice, giving shouldn’t be guided by self-benefit potential; it should primarily be for the benefit of others.
- Giving is to be a faithful, regular, continual practice instead of just seasonal and occasional (end-of-year giving, for example).
I hope you and I will continue to be challenged by God’s Word to give regularly, joyfully, sacrificially, and generously. Would you and I commit to make intentional steps in that direction and excel in giving (2 Cor 8:7)?