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Giving as a Spiritual Discipline

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Why does God want your money if God doesn’t need your money? The answer to that question is the core of this short article: God asks us to give because we need to give. 

When you think about how to grow as a Christian, is giving your money away part of your plan? It should be. Galatians 6:6 tell us, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” Are you taught God’s word? Do you have money? Then you should be part of paying for the teaching you receive. And since most of your teaching comes from your church, most of your giving should go to your church.

Ok, this sounds pretty simple. But why is that God wants you to give? After all, God doesn’t need your money, does he? “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine” (Psalm 50:12). It’s not as though God’s plans to bring light to the nations are on hold until you cough up some cash. So why does he tell you to give your money?  It’s important to answer that question biblically because why you give informs how you give.

The Why and How of our Giving
The apostle Paul offers a good clue in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Interesting. The Red Cross doesn’t care whether you’re cheerful when you give; they just want the check. Political candidates don’t care about your heart when you give. But God does. “God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful giving proclaims that God is so good, putting money toward his purposes is a great and exciting thing to do. On the other hand, grudging giving says that there was a better use of your money, but your greedy God wants it so you’ll comply. Do you see the difference? 

God’s great aim is to show off how good and delightful he is, and giving is an important piece of that. Just like regular Bible reading, prayer, sharing the gospel, and other spiritual disciplines, giving is part of how we grow in our appreciation and wonder in light of the excellence and glory of Jesus Christ. That’s true whether you have a lot or a little. In fact, it’s especially true if you don’t have a lot. After all, the giving heroes of the Bible (freed Egyptian slaves in Exodus 36:3–7, the widow in the temple in Mark 12:41–44, poor Christians in Macedonia, 2 Corinthians 8:1–5) were all poor! 

The Effects of Our Giving
So how exactly does giving grow our love for Jesus? I’ll give you two ways that giving regularly and substantially of your money is part of God’s normal plan to bring Christians to maturity in Christ.

  1. Giving shapes your heart.
    Remember what Jesus said: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Imagine if you’d just bought shares of stock in Amazon.com. You’d pay more attention to the company, wouldn’t you? You’d feel a little connection to all those smile boxes being delivered on your block. How much more is that the case with eternal things? 

Giving money to your church isn’t throwing money down the drain. Quite the contrary, it’s an investment. You part with that money now, but on the Last Day when you stand before the Lord Jesus to account for your life (Rom. 14:12), you will see all that God has done with those funds. This isn’t the kind of false promise that some people throw around, namely, that if you give to your church you’ll get rich in this life.  No, it’s something better: promise of eternal reward. And if such treasure is waiting for you in heaven, then that’s where your heart will naturally be drawn. That’s what you’ll care about. So here’s an important question: Do you give enough of your money to God’s work that it draws your heart toward heaven? Or does your giving feel more like a compulsory “check the box” routine that doesn’t really shape what you care about?

  1. Giving protects your heart.
    Not only does giving shape your heart, giving also protects your heart, freeing you from the bondage and lies of a materialistic age. Our culture is keenly aware that money can’t buy happiness. After all, in every Disney movie you ever watched as a kid, it was the villains who were greedy and the heroes who where generous, right? And yet, we must be the most materialistic society in the history of the planet! Why is that? Because materialism is a prison that’s not easy to escape. 

As a Christian, every time you give to God’s purposes, you’re declaring God to be better than whatever else you would have done with that money. And that is so much fun! It is fantastically fun to spurn what this world values in order to invest in God’s true and lasting promises when you give, declaring your freedom in Christ from our materialistic age. First John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Give in order to free yourself from the love of the world that seeks to strangle your heart to death.

And what’s the result of a heart guarded against the stranglehold of this world? Joy! Joy in this life, and joy in the next. That’s what’s at stake here. Learn to gladly give away the money you have (that will quickly turn to dust anyway) so that your heart can delight in God and in all he is doing, and you will find joy. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

So as you give your money to show off the surpassing worth of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, do you see how this protects you from wrongly hoarding your money and from wrongly feeling guilty about using money instead of giving it? Do you see how this biblical motive for giving turns giving dutiful obligation into God-honoring joy? “But since you excel in everything … see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).

Jamie Dunlop is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. He is the author of Budgeting for a Healthy Church: Aligning Finances with Biblical Priorities for Ministry.
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