Have you ever felt like you can’t afford to give? Do you wonder why giving is an important part of Christian worship?
This simple answer is this: [clickToTweet tweet=”Giving releases us from the grip of greed by keeping us grateful” quote=”Giving releases us from the grip of greed by keeping us grateful”] Let me explain.
Common wisdom says we need more financial education on how to save, invest and manage our expenses. I certainly recommend taking courses like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University as a way to learn to better manage your finances. But financial education doesn’t address the root issue for most Christians: greed.
You might not like me calling it greed because that sounds too evil and sinister, so let me call it the desire to accumulate. The passion for more. It’s a longing to keep up with our neighbors or to live the good life.
When we want more than we have and it consumes us, that is greed.
I woke up from a scary dream once. In this dream, I got into a fight with a former employer over my salary and he fired me on the spot. I woke up panicked because I knew I “needed” that job. I’m not the fighting type, but this dream showed me that I was consumed with finances.
Do you find yourself losing sleep because of financial troubles? Does it seem like you never have enough?
The remedy God prescribes is quite different from modern wisdom. He tells us to give so our hearts can be set free from greed. Look at how God addresses Israel in Malachi chapter 3.
Scripture: Malachi 3:7-12 (NIV)
Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Releasing the Grip of Greed from our Giving
Most Christians have erroneous thinking about giving. We see it as optional. We believe we’re giving God something that we inherently own. Therefore, we’re doing God a favor by giving anything, no matter the percentage.
Scripture says something different. In 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, King David prays:
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
All wealth comes from God. He owns it all and chooses to let us use it. So when we give we’re really giving back to him what he already owns. Perhaps we should ask a different question of God: “How would you like me to use your resources?”
When we cling to our wealth and feel like we can’t afford to tithe (a tithe is the biblical command to give 10% of our income), we are essentially robbing God and saying he can’t be trusted.
It’s counter-intuitive, but when we choose to give freely God chooses to bless us in many ways. Notice how he says in Malachi, “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (vs 10)
I believe the fundamental issue is one of trust. It’s scary to trust God when we don’t see how our resources can cover our obligations, but he asks for our first fruits. This means we should give when our paycheck first arrives, not waiting to see if we can afford to give by the end of the month.
Jesus said it differently in Matthew 6. In response to concerns about where we will find food, clothing or even a place to stay, he says: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6:33)
How to Exercise Faith in Giving
Trusting God with our finances feels like pushing a boat out to sea without being able to see the other shore. The waves will crash upon us, and doubts and fears will arise. God calls us to believe in the same way that Jesus calmed his disciples during the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).
Reading scripture we find God is completely trustworthy. He never breaks his promises (Numbers 23:19). God is faithful and his compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).
The problem is not with God, but with our perception of him and our grasping after something that isn’t ours in the first place.
Giving frees us from clinging too tightly to things and allows us to find the joy and blessing of watching God move powerfully.
My wife and I can testify that we have seen this work it’s way out throughout our lives. During seasons where we have given faithfully and joyfully, we have experienced tremendous blessing. However, during the seasons where we reduced our giving because we didn’t think we could “afford” to give, we have experienced heartache and stress over finances (even when we earned more money than during some of the seasons where we gave faithfully).
The stories are rampant from pastors and Christian leaders who have seen God work in this way. I particularly enjoy Randy Alcorn’s little book The Treasure Principle where he describes the joy of giving while facing circumstances where he should have been saving.
This article is not an attempt to get you to give to any specific ministry or church. Instead, I write this because I believe a lack of giving leads to greed and that robs us of joy in our worship. Giving generously comes from a place of gratitude to God for the Gospel and allows us the opportunity to watch him do amazing things.
As I look into the scary future where I see things like college bills larger than I can afford, an uncertain economic horizon and things beyond my control, I find deep comfort that God is sovereignly leading me and can be trusted with everything I own.
The song Oceans from Hillsong writers Matt Crocker, Joel Houston and Salomon Ligthelm conveys the attitude I want to have:
Prayers for Today
Self: Lord, I confess I frequently doubt your goodness and provision for my needs. I have come to believe it’s up to me to provide for all my needs and desires. Forgive me. Change my heart. Protect me from the dangers of greed. Help me to trust you to provide abundantly for all my needs as I give.
Family: Father, I pray you would teach my family to trust you. May my children learn lessons now of how important it is to give even when it doesn’t make sense. Show them the blessing of giving and may they not be consumed with concern over your provision. May my wife/husband and I learn to trust you with all our current and future needs.
Work: Master, protect me from anxiety over the future of the market and my employment. Just as you have always provided, help me trust you with my future as I work diligently on the tasks you’ve given me today.
Church: Jesus, I pray you would provide abundantly to your church in ways that stretch our faith and teach us to focus on your kingdom. Protect our leaders from becoming stingy or doubtful during seasons where finances seem to lack. Release our congregation members from the stranglehold of debt and greed that we might give generously for the sake of Gospel ministry in our city and across the globe.
Community: As I look around my neighborhood and community, show me small tangible ways to give this week. Use me to make a difference in someone’s life.
World: I pray you would free your global church from the debts that encumber so many households that we might give lavishly for the sake of your global mission to transform lives and set captives free from sin and death.