THE COMMANDMENT TO GIVE
God paved the path of righteousness for us on the principle of Giving. Jn 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (kjv)
Giving, therefore, ought to be the earliest formed characteristic in a new believer, the hallmark of a christian. As exemplified by Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk 19:8). Let us read and find out afresh what Lk 19:8 has to testify about Zacchaeus the new believer, “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’.”
YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR AMONG YOU:
And, so that all of us are trained in ‘giving’, we’ve a promise of God to rely upon – an ever-rewarding but nevertheless the most ignored of all God’s promises! Which is, “You will always have the poor among you….” (Jn 12:8, Mk 14:7).
The same held true even in OT days of instant rewards and blessings – Deut 15:11, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
What’s more? God commands us to give in such a way that, “However there should be no poor among you….” Deut 15:4. Also read Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32, 34-35.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7(b)), and He honors and blesses all givers. Lk 6:38 reads, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Also read Matt 10:42, Mk 9:41, Matt 25:34-36, Gal 6:9-10, 2 Cor 9:10-11, Phil 4:18(b)-19, 2 Cor 9:6, Mal 3:10, Eph 6:8(a).
Therefore, instead of looking down upon and shunning the poor and needy among us, let us begin to see them in true spiritual perspective, as they truly are – BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE! They not only train us to be giving but also help add to our blessings constantly.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION WITH OT LAWS OF GIVING:
1. Giving is essentially, offering to God. Even when we give to our fellowmen.
Making offerings to God became apparent after man’s separation from Him in the garden of Eden. Refer Genesis 4. Though man was banished from His presence, God continues to provide for all his needs.
Yes, God does not abandon us. In fact He had already envisaged His plan of redemption for the restoration of mankind unto Himself (Deut 30:2-6). Therefore, God expects and desires that we remember Him and not stray away from Him after we have been satisfied with the goodness of the land and eaten to our heart’s content. A quick perusal of the passage in Deut 8:10-19 reads, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God….. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees…. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God…..You may say to yourself, ‘My power and strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He Who gives you the ability to produce wealth……”
The spiritual maturity that prompts one to give is simply this – all that we have is from God and all that we make or achieve is also from God because He gives us the ability for it. As the psalmist testifies, Ps 87:7, “……’All my fountains are in you’.” Only a person who hasn’t come to this understanding would withhold his/her giving self.
2. Follow His will and be in His favor. Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice.
The earliest recorded giving or ‘offering’ is found in Gen 4:3-4. Proceeding verses, 5 and 6, reveal that Cain had failed to make his offerings according to the will of God – he simply offered ‘some of the fruit of the soil’, not specifically the first-fruits. On the other hand, God looked with favor on Abel’s offering of ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock‘.
It is clear from Abel’s offering and God’s exhortation to Cain to do right (Gen 4:7) that the accepted pattern for offerings was also already made known to man.
3. God’s provision for: ‘restitution’ for man, His work, His servants, the aliens/strangers and the underprivileged.
As we move on, we find, God reminding and teaching the people of Israel to give by tithing, offering first-fruits, setting apart the firstborns, besides, making provisions for freewill offerings.
Tithes and offerings, we learn, served the following purposes:
- Made temporary restitution for sins. (Num 28 and 29, Lev 1-7:21). In fact none could present themselves before God without making restitution for their sins. Even the priests. It taught the people of their unworthiness because of sin and encouraged them to seek reconciliation with God.
- They testified to His blessings, expressed gratitude better than words. People were commanded to come into His presence, hold feasts and celebrate before the Lord with all the members of their household including servants and slaves (Deut 26:5-11, Deut 15:19-20, Deut 16:10-11,13-15,17, Deut 14:24-27).
- Made provisions for all the needy (Num 18:8-21,23-24, Deut 14:11(b),27-29, Deut 15:1-3,7-10). The Israelites were commanded to build store houses in their towns and villages for the purpose. (Deut 14:28-29). Also Lev 19:9-10.)
- It provided for the making of the tabernacle and, later on for building and restoration of the temple of God. (Exod 25:1-2, 1 Chron 22:14, 1 Chron 29:2-4, 6-9, 14-18; 2 Chron 34:8-11 etc).
TO BE IN FAVOR OF GOD: Surmising on all above, firstly, we understand that God provides for all mankind. All of us partake of His bountiful provisions. But that does not mean all mankind enjoy the favor of God. Some, like Cain, fail to find God’s favor (even though they come quite close), by persisting in their waywardness. Only those who abide by the will of God, like Abel, find favor with God.
Enjoying the mercy of God is not the same as enjoying the favor of God. Even though Cain murdered Abel soon afterwards, God has not forgotten Abel, and his future is secure in Him. (Gen 4:10, Heb 12:24, Matt 23:35, Heb 11:4, Rev 6:9-11, Rev 8:3, Rev 18:20, 24; Rev 19:1-6, 14; Rev 20:4). Another instance is that of Sarah and Hagar. Though Hagar enjoyed the mercy and miraculous providence of God even when she had none to turn to, she did not continue in the favor of God like Sarah did.
THE SACRED PORTION OF GOD: Secondly, God’s provision includes God’s portion. Which means, He entrusts us with His portion known as ‘the sacred portion of God’ (Deut 26:13). It is the portion that belongs to God (Lev 27:30-33, Lev 27:26). Therefore, we find, even Levites commanded to tithe (Num 18:26,28-32). Failing to offer the sacred portions of God or tithing is equivalent to robbing God (Mal 3:8).
FROM TITHERS TO CENT PERCENT GIVERS: Thirdly, the above piece of wisdom should drive home the truth that we do not begin to give unless we give from what is our portion or share of God’s provision – the 9/10 of it, to be precise. Therefore, we see Jesus teaching us that anything we do in the name of righteousness would only measure up if it exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law – who were of course very diligent tithers (Matt 5:20, Matt 23:23-24, Lk 18:12). From tithers to cent percent givers! That is the kind of faith God desires to see in us (Lk 16:9, Mk 12:44).
JESUS THE GIVER: Jesus exemplifies and teaches the perfected giving by willingly giving Himself up to die for us. Why perfected? Because, in His mercy and long suffering patience by which man was brought to the knowledge of His redemptive plan, God led His people step by step, pouring upon them His abundant grace and granting them His all, withholding back nothing until at last they were readied for the Perfect. Again, perfected, because by His PERFECT provision He made up for the temporary restitution man had to seek repeatedly. Now that the perfection has come, we no longer lean back on temporary restitution of OT times.
What do we lack today? Besides material advancement, we have the kingdom of God given to us; salvation through Jesus, His only Son; abundant and fulfilling life in the Spirit…. the list goes on as each of us who have partaken of them would gladly testify. What shall we withhold from Him Who has given us His all?
Therefore, the NT perspective of ‘Giving’ i.e. the perfected giving is as follows:
1. GIVING IS AN ACT OF WORSHIP:
Giving is an expression of worship brimming from a grateful heart. Because when we give, we inadvertently also do the following:
- We glorify God the Provider (Deut 26:5-10, 2 Cor 9:12, Ps 87:7).
- We testify that He alone sustains us. (Mk 12:41-44 – the honored widow’s mite). NO ONE IS TOO POOR IN GOD’S KINGDOM TO NOT GIVE, UNLESS ONE IS BANKRUPT ON FAITH.
- We honor Him by being faithful givers (Gen 4:4, Matt 2:11, Matt 25:40, 2 Cor 8:19 (b), 1 Chron 16:29).
- We declare our great hope in the promised eternal inheritance (Matt 25:34, Matt 6:20, Eph 1:13-14, 1 Tim 6:17-19, Lk 12:32-34.
- We testify to our spiritual maturity. Our true blessedness. Truly, blessedness is not in accruing but in giving. Acts 20:35 reminds, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Ezek 11:19(b) promises, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
- Thus, we also testify that we are not dominated by material goals of this world (Lk 12:15, 20-21, 29-30, 32-34, Lk 16:13. 15(b), Col 3:2). It is the fruit of a Spirit-led life and therefore ought to show forth.
2. GIVING IS A SPECIFIC CALLING:
1 Cor 12:28, “…and those able to help others..”. This is a specific calling of God and a particular service to fellow brethren. It is of equal spiritual worth, if not more, as the other spiritual services within the Church (Mk 10:21, Matt 19:21, 2 Cor 9:8-9). Read Phil 2:13, “For it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
Yes, it is enabled by the grace of God (2 Cor 9:14, Mk 10:27, Matt 19:26, 2 Cor 8:1,6-7). Apostle Paul calls it an indescribable gift of God to be able to give (2 Cor 9:15). Also read 1 Pet 4:10, 2 Cor 8:7, 12, Gal 6:10. Egs. Obadiah (1 Kings 18:3-4), Abigail (1 Sam 25:23-31), Daniel, Esther, Joseph (Gen 41:55-57, Gen 42:25-26, Gen 43:16, 24, Gen 44:1-2, Gen 45:4-24, Gen 46, 47).
3. GIVING ENABLES RESTITUTION WITH FELLOW-MEN:
Giving should not be misconstrued as an act of restitution with God for the forgiveness of our sins. Nothing we could give would suffice for that (let’s not forget such sacrifices in the past only gave temporary relief). Therefore, GOD GAVE US HIS SON AS THE PERFECT SACRIFICE, ONCE AND FOR ALL, FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS.
However, like Zacchaeus (Lk 19:8), we ought to make restitution with men if we have wronged anybody in word, deed or kind. Read Matt 5:23-24.
4. GIVING ESTABLISHES OUR TRUSTWORTHINESS BEFORE GOD:
In Lk 16:11, Jesus says, “So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Again, in Lk 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” And Lk 16:9 shows our trustworthiness is measured by our giving, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Beware, friends as of spiritual fellowship. Because, the Word of God is very clear, ‘Giving in His Name or for His sake’ (Matt 10:42). Eg. “…for Me and the gospel…” (Mk 10:29-30, Matt 19:29). Squandering money would definitely not measure up likewise.
It does not matter whether we are equipped with little or more (as in the parable of the ten minas – Lk 19:11-26), what is important is that we are found trustworthy with what is entrusted to us. And, if found trustworthy more will certainly be entrusted (Lk 19:26, Matt 25:28). THE MORE WE INVEST, THE MORE WE’LL BE ENTRUSTED TO RE-INVEST WITH IS THE DIVINE PROMISE!
NEXT, HOW SHOULD WE GIVE?
- That there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13-15, Acts 2:44-45).
- That there may be no poor among us (Deut 15:4, Acts 4:32, 34-35).
- Cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7, Deut 15:10).
- Liberally, rich in generosity, excelling in the grace of giving (Lk 6:38, 2 Cor 8:1-2, 7, 1 Tim 6:18-19).
- Willingly, and according to what one has (2 Cor 8:12).
- Secretly (Matt 6:3-4).
- Expending all for eternity’s sake (Lk 16:9).
- Without expecting back (Mk 5:40, Lk 6:35).
- As unto Him, so that His Name is honored (2 Cor 9:13, Matt 25:40, Col 3:23-24, Eph 6:7).
- As one who serves. Like Jesus, “….But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22:25-30,27(b), 1 Pet 4:9-11). Jesus lavishes His gifts on us, and yet He is moved with compassion again and again so that He continues to lavish them upon us.
TO WHOM SHOULD WE GIVE?
- To all needy people, particularly to our needy brethren (Gal 6:10, Deut 15:1-3, 7-10, 1 Tim 6:17-19, Titus 3:4-8, 1 Jn 3:17-18).
- To the orphans and widows (James 1:27, Deut 26:12-13, 1 Tim 5:3-4, 8, 16).
- To full-time God’s servants (Gal 6:6, 1 Cor 9:14, Matt 10:9-10, Lk 10:3-8, 1 Cor 16:2, 15-18, 2 Cor 8:3-5, 10-11, Phil 4:14-17, 2 Tim 2:6, 3 Jn 5-8, 1 Tim 5:17-18).
- To anyone who asks (Matt 5:40-42), even if it is to one’s enemy – Give or lend without expecting back. (Lk 6:30-31, 34-35).
- To whomever the Spirit prompts us to give (2 Cor 9:7(a), Phil 2:13). Such deeds make for timely and miraculous provisions, and they raise a continual sacrifice of praise and thanks offering to God (2 Cor 9:12-13, 2 Cor 8:1-5).
THREE WAYS IN WHICH ONE WOULD GIVE YET FORFEIT GOD’S REWARDS:
1. Giving that is done before men to be seen by them (Matt 6:1, 1 Thess 2:5-6).
2. Giving that is heavily publicised to be honored by men. By receiving honor and praise of men our motive receives its reward in full. Thus we forfeit our reward from God. It is one or the other – never both! (Matt 6:2)
3. Giving as benefactors, lording it over. God is the only Benefactor. We’re all called to dispense His gifts entrusted to us faithfully (Lk 22:25-30, 1 Pet 4:9-11, Eph 6:7).
Giving away what we believe belongs to us is not an easy thing to do. Jesus looks on our dilemma with deepest compassion and love us an added assurance. For eg. Mk 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him….”, Rev 3:19, “Those whom I love….” to the rich young man and Laodiceans respectively. Love was the converging point for backsliding Peter (Jn 21:15-17).
Let us therefore, train ourselves to look up to the compassionate eyes of our dear Lord and seek His encouragement to freely let go of that which He has freely entrusted to us and will continue to do so.
May God bless you!
To be contd…..NEXT: The commandment to Watch.