A great way for modern Christians to put their trust in God is through financial generosity. We sing to Him to call us out upon the waters, and this is one of the ways He’ll ask us to get out of the boat. He asks us to give, sacrificially so, and it challenges us. But, through it, we will get to watch His finest work.
Through generosity we will see God work in and bless our lives. Our priorities will be rearranged. Our compassion will expand. Our trust will increase. Generosity will leave us better — more whole — than before.
I don’t want this post to be technical. I want to tell you how amazing giving can be. You might be looking for a number, a percentage. I’m not interested in that. I want to show you the promise. We want to grow. Generosity is part of it.
Do you want to watch God work in your life? Do you want to surrender all? Generosity is a vital component. Uncomfortable generosity puts you where God must show up.
We know this. Consider serving. We come home from missions trips knowing we were blessed more than those we attempted to bless. We stand exhausted after an outreach, but are humbled to have been used by God. We are fatigued in weekly church service, but are glad to have helped others grow in their walk with Christ. In those moments, we are experiencing God's power — after we got out of the boat.
The same holds true in generosity. Do you want to have a front row seat to God’s work on earth? Open up your finances to Him and His kingdom. You will be blessed. This is a promise.
Jesus, quoted by Paul, said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Think on this for a moment.
For one, we admit it is a blessing to receive. When someone goes out of their way to gift you it blesses you. I’ve had people care for a practical need or concern in my life before. It is humbling. It alleviates the immediate pressure I’m under. It takes a weight off. It is a blessing.
But it is a bigger blessing to be the giver. To meet a need, to send a church planter, to support the work of the local church. These are blessings. Letting go is a greater blessing than receiving.
This is hard for us to imagine until we experience it. Paul, the one who quoted Jesus on this, had lost his life for the Ephesian church. He had given and given and given. He had laid himself down for the church. In that context, talking to the leaders of that church, Paul quoted Jesus. He was more blessed as the giver than they could be as the receiver.
He had lived this. Now, as he passed from them on his way to Jerusalem, he reiterates the point. It was a blessing for him to give.
Elsewhere Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Matthew 16:25). There is a blessing in giving. To lose my life for Jesus and His gospel actually leads to the saving of my life. Clinging to my life will actually lead to losing it. I clutch and hold and grip onto it, but my life is gone.
The only way to find my life, the way to blessing, is through letting go. This is partly experienced through our finances. Let go. Find your life.
When Jesus says it is a larger blessing to give than to receive, this must be part of the mystery. Have you ever walked away from someone physically, emotionally, or spiritually drained as a result of serving them? Have you felt, in that moment, the smile of God upon your life? The blessing is indescribable. It is beyond endorphins, beyond adrenaline. It is depth and meaning so far beyond anything this world system could hold out to us. Generosity, like this, is a blessing.
We don’t give to get a financial blessing in return. There is no promise of that. We don't sow a seed in order to get back more seed. This isn’t an investment formula.
There are times, however, when God beautifully provides for us. Often, this provision comes into our lives after we’ve let go. The blessing we get from giving isn’t always or only a financial blessing, but sometimes it is.
Notice the words of Paul: “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10) .
God would give 'seed' back to the Corinthians so they could continue to be instruments of God’s grace on earth. If they gave, He would give to them, filling them up so they could fill others up. He wasn’t blessing them so they could bless themselves. He would provide for them so they could continue the work of generosity.
A similar concept is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. He wrote to thank them for their financial support of his ministry work. They believed in Paul, so much that they gave him financial support.
This meant the world to him. He then told them: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
This was a guarantee. They had given. God would provide for them. Paul knew it.
This is not only a New Testament concept, but carried over from the Old. Malachi was the last prophet before the coming of Christ. He urged the people and spiritual leaders in Israel to get their priorities straight. They had neglected the worship of God. The temple was in disrepair, an outward sign of their spiritual condition.
Ancient Israel Examples
Through Malachi, God challenged ancient Israel to test Him: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).
God would open 'the windows of heaven' — provision — if they opened up their wallets and purses to Him and His kingdom.
The same concept is found in the prophet Haggai. There, the people of Israel lived in frustration. The rebuilding of the temple had stalled. Their lives were in shambles. Poverty had crushed them.
That their poverty and the temple’s disrepair ran parallel was not a coincidence. God asked them: “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6).
God took credit for their lack. He challenged them. "Get things right. Do the right thing. Be the right people. Watch Me provide."
Obviously, type of concept is ripe for abuse. Modern hucksters who want to fleece the flock will promise us riches if we make the preacher rich. God is dishonored by this; the flock suffers.
Paul had anything but that in mind when he talked with the Ephesians (Acts 20:35) and wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8-9). He laid down his life. It's simple. Jesus, the ultimate giver, asks us to follow Him. There are great reasons to give. People like Paul — a minister of God’s word on earth and missionary gospel preacher — are biblically qualified to receive financial compensation (I’ll write on this later in this series). Still, Paul didn't abuse concept in the slightest. He didn’t manipulate a soul.
Still, do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a balance to be held, a tension to live in, on this point. We aren’t to give to get. We aren’t to follow the charlatans who would take advantage of the church. But, we are to give. We are to involve ourselves in the lives of others. We are to engage in the work of the kingdom of God.
Father’s Reward Example
When I began to practice tithing and generosity I began to discover the truth of Jesus' words. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Jesus also said, "And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:4). I have discovered this reward.
For one, I know there are eternal rewards that come by way of generosity and giving. I know I am making friends for myself in heaven (Luke 16:9). I believe God is able to draw the connection between what I gave and how it bore eternal fruit.
Beyond this, I am rewarded now. Provision, yes, but more than provision. I have received growing victory over the power of money. I have become more able to resist my impulsive desires for more possessions. I have become less focused on a need for personal comfort. I have become less disillusioned by the lie that money provides true security in life. I have deepened in my care for those who are hurting. I have become more heavenly minded. The 'reward' has been endless.
When we give, we are blessed. I cannot promise how that blessing will come, but it will come. This is certain, fixed by the God who dwells outside of time and space. He is able.