I think I’m about to ruffle some feathers. Maybe not. If nothing else, I hope what I am about to say will make us all think. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to remember the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Jesus said to a roomful of self-serving Pharisees, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14). Both of these statements remind us that when we give of our means in the name of the Lord, we are to do so because we want to serve the Lord by serving our fellow man. So now, here comes the potential feather ruffling part. If you suddenly had the tax deductibility of your charitable contributions taken away by the federal government, would you stop giving? Would you decrease your giving? How about this: Suppose you had been asked to give $1,000 to a great cause. Would you be more likely to give it if it came with a meal and a chance to listen to and rub shoulders with a celebrity or political leader or would you just go ahead and give it because you believed in the cause? This line of questioning could go on but hopefully by now you see where I’m headed. This is not a condemnation of taking tax deductions or going to banquets. It’s a plea for each of us to look at our motives for giving.
I’m not limiting this discussion to our weekly giving to the work of the church. There is no authority in the New Testament for the church to raise funds by anything other than free-will contributions (I Corinthians 16:1-2). There is nothing in the New Testament about banquets, car washes, bake sales, et al. to support the work of the church. I’m talking about giving in general. We are stewards of that which God has bestowed upon us. He expects us to share what we have (Matthew 25:34-45; James 2:15-16; I John 3:17). Why do we do it? What, if anything, are we expecting in return? The hypocrites of Jesus’ day gave so that they could get pats on the back from other people (Matthew 6:1-2). In contrast, a poor widow gave just because she wanted to and she knew it was the right thing to do (Mark 12:41-44). See the difference? Jesus even expounded on the difference. Of the hypocrites, He said, “They have their reward.” The pats on the back, the praises of men, were all they would get. Of the widow, He said that she gave more than any wealthy contributor who had tossed his bag of coins into the treasury. The widow did not receive the commendation of men. She received the commendation of the Lord. Which is better?
Let’s face it. Giving, or at least the way in which the Lord intends for us to give, is not glamorous. Nobody sounds a siren when someone sacrifices to support a faithful brother and his family in the preaching of the Gospel. Newspaper reporters do not typically come out of the woodwork to write about someone who donates generously to an orphanage. The internet does not typically explode with excitement when someone delivers groceries to a family who has fallen on hard times. So why do people give like that? Could it be that they give just for the sake of giving? When we see a need, should that not be our motivation as well? Solomon wrote, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.” (Proverbs 3:27-28). Paul commended the Macedonian Christians because they saw a need and they gave. They didn’t have much, but they gave anyway (II Corinthians 8:1ff).
There are ample opportunities to share our blessings with others. The next time one of these opportunities is brought to your attention, may I urge you to carefully stop and consider it. Perhaps you can help spread the Gospel. Perhaps you can feed and clothe an orphan. Whatever the opportunity is, perhaps your contribution can help lead souls to Christ. Even if the ones to whom you give don’t give you anything back, remember again, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and remember that the Lord’s blessings are greater gifts than any person can bestow.