I hope you’ve never felt guilted in to giving at church, or giving back to God. I just want to make it perfectly clear to you that whether you choose to respond to God in giving or not will not affect your salvation. God doesn’t take tithes and offering in exchange for grace. The whole point of the gift of salvation is that it’s totally, completely, and unconditionally free. I firmly believe that giving should only be done out of worship and praise, not so you can buy God’s blessings. But in case you do want to give, and want to become a better giver, I think these “4 Secrets to Good Giving” found in 2 Corinthians 8,9 can help
Just a little disclaimer too, these chapters are specifically talking about financial giving and support through monetary offerings, but that doesn’t mean that these “4 Secrets to Good Giving” can only be applied to finances. I think that learning to be a good giver can help us in all areas of our lives; finances, workplace, relationships, anything.
Paul writes to the people in Corinth a second letter, and in the 8th chapter he asks the Corinthians to support fellow believers in Jerusalem. You see, the Jerusalem Christians had become incredibly poor through persecution, war and famine. While most converts were poor to begin with, there were many more who lost all they had. This isn’t Paul’s first request for financial support either, he writes to the Romans in chapter 15, and to the Corinthians before in 1 Corinthians 16. Fun fact, (fun may be relative here) 2 Corinthians was written sometime before the events of Acts 24 where Paul is arrested in Jerusalem and then is shipped off to Rome in Acts 27 where they shipwreck in Malta.
Secret #1: Initiative
Anyways, So Paul writes to these Corinthians using the example of the Macedonian believers as inspiration for continued giving. You see the Macedonians had fallen on some incredibly hard times. In fact the Greek phrase Paul uses to describe their poverty (he kata bathous ptocheia) literally translates to “down-to-the-depth-poverty.” These Macedonians were literally dirt poor, and yet they “desperately begged for the privilege” (v.4) to support the Jerusalem believers financially. Paul never wrote to them to donate, “the idea was entirely theirs” (v.5).
The Macedonians took the initiative to give; they saw a need and acted. In our giving we should take the initiative to give. Don’t wait to be asked to do something before you do it. Get that project done early. Give your seat to the elderly lady, or the pregnant lady on the bus. Do the dishes without being asked to. Initiative isn’t just defined by a desire to do something, but rather by the ability and desire to act, and the follow through on that action.
Take initiative in your relationships; let those around you know how much you cherish and appreciate them. Take initiative in your relationship with God too. Don’t wait until things go wrong, or until you need something before you turn to God.
Secret #2: Emptying
How could the Macedonians give despite their “rock bottom” poverty? Paul explains it in verse 5, “they had first given themselves completely and unreservedly (without excuse) to God and to us.” To be good givers, we must empty ourselves of all selfishness and excuse. The Macedonian people empty themselves of their excuses and self-pity, and out of their deep love for God and their neighbours, they gave despite their own hardships.
Often the things that prevent us from taking the initiative to be radical givers are the excuses for selfishness we hold on to. We’re worried about our finances, about our time management, about the cost to our effort. But when we empty ourselves of excuses and selfishness, and when we allow love to saturate our every action, giving becomes not a matter of duty, but a matter of privilege! When we empty ourselves of excuses and allow the love of God to fill our hearts, that love transforms our sacrifice!
Secret #3: Value
This important, so don’t ever forget this: the value of your gift is not determined intrinsically. What I mean is that your giving cannot be determined by numbers or in terms of “small”, “large”, “little” or “great”. The fact that you have chosen to give out of your own free will means your gift is tremendous! Surely whatever these dirt poor Macedonians gave (even though Paul says they gave far more than they could afford [v.3]) couldn’t even come close to what the Romans or Corinthians gave.
But it doesn’t matter whether you give $1 or $1,000,000, 5 min of your time or 5 hours of your time, or whether your gift costs you “a lot” or “a little”. When you give 100% of whatever you can and feel convicted to give your gift becomes priceless. In Mark 12, the story of the poor widow and her two coins, Jesus says, “the truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Her gift was valuable because she took the initiative to give, not out of compulsion, but out of love for God, emptied of excuses, she gives 100% of what she is convicted to give. The value of your gift, is the love behind the giving. This is why Jesus was able to head to the cross and face death by crucifixion, because He valued our hearts. It didn’t matter what the world or the devil tried to offer Him (Matthew 4), nothing could be of greater worth than the love of His creation.
Secret #4: Gratitude
The final secret to good giving, is giving with a grateful heart; not out of compulsion or guilt, but out of a deep love for God and those around you. 2 Cor. 9:7 “God loves it when the giver delights in giving.” When we take the initiative to give, empty ourselves of excuses and allow love free rein in our hearts, and when we understand that the value of our giving is determined by our heart and not its quantity, then giving in gratitude becomes easy. A heart full of love makes giving easy.
Try these secrets out in your life:
Watch God transform your life when you put these 4 principles into practice. Ultimately, all this giving is a response to God’s goodness. “God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done” (9:8). God doesn’t just give you the means to do what needs to be done; He won’t just help you get through; He won’t just help you survive. God will give you more than you need! God will help you to come through your seasons of difficulty stronger than when you entered them! God will cause you to thrive, and reap blessings in abundance! He will pour out blessing in astonishing ways so that you are ready for anything and everything that life has to throw at you. The blessings are coming your way. I believe that.
God help me to respond to your amazing gift of salvation, and the daily blessings (seen and unseen). Help me to give in gratitude and thankfulness for all that you’ve done for me. Help me to respond to your voice prompting me to take the initiative and give in whatever way you want me to. Help me to give understanding that the value of my gift is the heart behind my giving, not the quantity of the gift. Help me to empty myself of all selfish motives and excuses, and fill my heart with your heart Jesus; one that loves, accepts, and gives in radical ways. Help me to claim your promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8, and help me to see all the astonishing ways you are blessing me! Amen.