The Gift of Giving

A three year old grandson smiles at his grandpa and asks, "May I have a candy?" Grandpa gets up from his chair, goes to his secret hiding place high in the cupboard, and brings down two fat chocolate covered almonds. He then hands these morsels to his little grandson, who exclaims, "Thank ooh, Grandpa!" Grandpa smiles and thinks that for the little he has just given, he has received much more in return! He knows the value of, "Thank ooh, Grandpa!" The gift of giving has touched his heart. That same little boy later brings his mom a fist full of dandelions freshly picked from the front lawn. He hurries into the house, holds them up proudly and announces, "Look Mom! Flowers for you!" Mom’s heart melts, as she carefully unzips his chubby fingers, removes the crumpled stems from his tight little grip, and places her prize in a "special vase," or maybe in just a coffee cup or odd glass. She then reaches down, squeezes her lips against his rosy cheek and says, "They’re beautiful!" He pulls loose and runs back to play, while she wipes a tear and admires the world’s most beautiful flower arrangement! The gift of giving has touched her heart in a special way. For every gift, there must be someone to receive. And for everything ever received, there must be someone willing to give. Jesus said, "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). How can we understand and practice this wonderful exercise called the gift of giving?

by Jerry Gentry

"And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much" (Mar 12:41).

"And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. (v. 42).

"And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: (v. 43).

"For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living" (v. 44).

Givers live and love to give. It is axiomatic. Without givers, ministries dry up. Without givers church porters turn out the lights, lock the doors, hang out a "closed" sign, and go home. Without givers, the homeless indigent dies of starvation. Without bountiful givers, the house of God always falls into disrepair, and ministers must find work elsewhere, as in the days of Nehemiah, when "the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field" (Neh. 13:10). Here we see a sorry state of the church, when those appointed to serve in the priestly duties had been given no "portions." They therefore "fled every one to his field."

Those who do not practice the gift of giving always hold on tightly to what they have. Without the gift of giving, the whole world self destructs in a selfish free for all. We see such examples all around us. Children fight over a favorite toy: "I had it first. No, I had it first!" They reflect the standards we adults teach them by example, when we drive in bumper to bumper freeway traffic and refuse to give an inch to another driver, or when we rush to grab a parking place first, even when we see someone else about take that spot. We tell our children to share. Then we look into our closets that bulge with excess clothing, and sometimes fail to remember that Jesus taught: "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise" (Luke 3:11).

The highest social expression in the universe is the gift of giving. This gift towers above all other gifts. It is exemplified in the selfless gift of God’s Son. Giving brings love into action. To give is to love in deed. God’s love is personified in the gift of Jesus Christ! Yes, He is that greatest gift of all, given to us by our loving Father. Have you received that gift? This greatest gift of God presupposes our reception. How will we receive that gift of Jesus? Without a reception, it is a mere offer, and no gift at all. And in giving us that ultimate gift, God exemplifies to us and teaches the gift of giving.

He tells us: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). This teaching is akin to the scientific "law of conservation of energy," in the physical universe. Jesus brings this law into the social realm, and teaches us that when we expend our energies for the material benefit of another, nothing is ever really lost even to us. The void thus created in ourselves is refilled in the process. It’s an inexorable law, just as real as the law of gravity. No matter how high you throw a ball into the air, it will return to earth again. No matter how much you give to others, it will return again into your bosom. It’s a universal principle. The Bible says: "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days" (Eccl. 11:1).

Whether it is a grandpa who gives his grandson a candy, or whether it is that same grandson who brings his mom a fist full of flowers, the gift of giving brings desired provision into our lives. Think for a moment. In providing us a Saviour, God teaches us the fundamental lesson of the gift of giving. He teaches, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

"More blessed to give than receive." What a concept! It sounds good, but what does it mean, in the practical real world, where there are no free lunches in life, where everything has a price. The finest things in the world cost money, as everybody knows who has ever gone automobile shopping, or who has checked out the prices on a new bedroom set. Nothing is free. Somebody always pays. How can it be that that to empty one’s self, through giving, is such a blessing?

Do you know someone who practices this "more blessed to give than receive" idea? Do you know someone whose natural gift is that of giver? If you do, then you have your eye on a unique, elusive individual. You will not be able always to put your finger on what this person does. This person gives in the most unsuspecting places. You seldom see the person’s name attached to his gift. Pure givers seldom tell others, seldom wave a red flag or blow a trumpet. Even so, they have a constant eye for identifying and supplying the needs of others, as the following examples illustrate.

When an elderly widow arrives home one day, she is surprised to find $100 in the top of her purse. "Where did this come from," she wonders? She has just returned from the Post Office, where she had spoken with a young man she knew. "I wonder if he put that money in my purse, when I was not looking?" She will never know for sure. But now she can pay for a bill that had already come by surprise, which she had asked God to make provision for. And guess what—that bill came to almost exactly $100! She prayed that night, "Thank you Lord, for sending me ample provision to cover what I owe."

On another occasion, there is a family with four boys. Mom stays home while Dad works as a security guard at night. It’s tough to make it financially, on his limited wages. Summer comes, and church camp is just around the corner. It’s a wonderful camp, and all four boys want to go. But where will $75 for tuition each come from? Will all four boys be able to go? The boys are all praying, so is Mom and Dan. Does God want them all to go to summer camp? They have collected about $100 among the four of them, by doing odd jobs. But that is $200 short of their need. Two days before camp, Mom gets a phone call from the church office. Someone has just donated exactly $200, earmarked for these four boys specifically! Who was it? No one knows. The money came in with no return address. The giver had followed the mandate of Jesus: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matt. 6:3).

These are the ways of the pure giver. He gives cheerfully with simplicity, with no strings attached. He has no expectations. Oh you can be sure that he checks and gets a report on those four boys he has invested in. He wants to be careful that he has invested wisely, that the boys have done well and held a high Christian standard at camp. His reward comes in the inner satisfaction he receives in knowing his investment is well made. He is proud of those four boys, now. He is pleased he gave freely for their benefit.

Later one day a married woman let a friend know that her car was in the shop. The lady and her husband had not enough money to pay the $728 mechanic bill. The car was sitting there ready to go, but it could not be used because she could not afford to pay the bill. Casually the woman’s friend let the situation be known. That knowledge prompted a local businessman to phone the car dealership, find out the charges and pay the bill anonymously, with instructions to inform the owners to go pick up their car, repair bill paid in full!

Upon hearing the news, the lady gasped to her husband, "This is a God send!" And so it was. For surely God provides for all the needs of his people, and he usually makes such provision through the gift of giving from others.
So it goes with the pure giver. Story upon story could be told of his life, if we only knew. But we’ll never know most of his stories, because he gives secretly, not to be seen of men, but out of a pure heart of simplicity. . . unless. . .

. . .unless this gift becomes darkened and is used to control others, or when he gives begrudgingly or with preconceived expectations. Money is power, as the darkened, begrudging giver has learned. He can sit in church, look at the stained glass window (with his name on the gold plaque beneath) and be proud. He can sit on the deacon’s board and use his money to influence church doctrine. When he slides into the iniquity of this darkened giving, with a design on the outcome, his gift is out of control. This is the great iniquity of the darkened giver, when his gift becomes a bribe. You say, "Oh heavens, God forbid that a giver might turn his gift into a bribe!" Oh, but Christian,this is a common iniquity that out of control givers fall into.

First the giver gives out of simplicity and purity of heart. He is cheerful, thankful that God has given him resources, from which he may give offerings, both to his church, and alms to the needy. He is glad to help. As time goes on, he gets involved deeply in the activities of his church. He begins to see the imperfections of various members. He realizes that even his minister is not immune to the influence of money. He wants more influence, and sees others whom he thinks have "gotten their way." He reasons and justifies that God has given him a hidden power to use. His business is prospering. His income is up ten fold over last year. He appreciates the influential power of money. So he justifies the means, in order to accomplish the end result which he alone "knows" is right.

Preachers and ministers have fallen to the out of control giver. Preachers have been corrupted when they could not resist the out of control giver, as the Bible warns: "They take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right" (Amos 5:12). This prophet writes to the church first, and to the world at large second. It is in the church, where gifts are turned into bribes and corruption follows! Because "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1Tim. 6:10), every minister is warned to be "not given to filthy lucre" (Titus 1:7). A "money" trial will come sooner or later on every minister. Will he serve God, or mammon? He cannot serve both. His main supporters are the very people he must preach to! How can he "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1), while his biggest supporters have become the most out of control givers in the congregation? How can he be loyal to God, without chopping off his own cash flow? There is only one answer. Unless he chooses faithfully to serve God (preach the word regardless), and confront the controlling gift giver, his ministry is ambushed. To the one giving, the Bible instructs: "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2Cor. 9:7).

In addition, there is a particular kind of out of control giver, one who has become wounded in spirit. He has given to others for as long as he has understood the gift of giving, and done so cheerfully, with no thought of anything in return. But over time he has experienced those who have taken his generosity for granted, even envied the resources God has given him. He has given and given and given. . . to the point where those whom he has "helped" the most have come to expect his generosity to continue indefinitely. An example will make this idea clear.

A young couple just starting married life together call a known giver, and ask for help. He extends some financial aid, for which they are grateful. They absorb this gift into their lifestyle, but do not make necessary corrections to live within their means. Soon, credit card bills are piling up, and they come to this giver again, who again bails them out with a major infusion of cash. They express their thank you’s at the moment. Then their car breaks down, and they need money to fix it. Once again, the giver steps in and helps by paying for the repair.

Over time, the couple begins to show resentment that this giver has many resources, while they have so few. They become jealous, even envious. They begin to covet what belongs to the giver. They abuse his friendship and generosity. They begin to use his resources in ways he has not authorized. They borrow his tools without permission and appropriate other resources, as though they now have "right" to those resources. They adopt an attitude of "what’s yours is mine." This couple sees that this giver also has faults, and begins to focus on his faults. They engage in finger pointing, and ultimately break off communication when they move to another state.

When this happens repeatedly, in the life of a giver, he becomes wounded. He begins to lose his desire to stick his neck out to help others. "Will they too bite the hand that feeds them? Will they too become resentful, envious, even bitter?" he wonders? He remembers how the people he has helped the most are the very ones who ultimately have abused him the most. He turns inward, becomes selfish and leaves generosity to others. He is hurt and wounded in spirit. He has lost his cheer, and if he gives at all it is begrudgingly. He holds others at a distance, careful not to get too close ever again, lest his gift of giving becomes his worst nightmare. He feels used, trapped, hurt.

Such wounded givers must make the full circle. These wounded givers, who have been so abused, must acknowledge that all their resources really belong to God anyway, and that God is very good at taking care of what He owns. They must remember that Jesus Christ gave it all, and still suffered rejection. The wounded giver must come to a change of heart, release his own hurt and bitterness to God, and return to the simplicity of giving with no expectations, from a pure heart. He must confess his sin of having expectations, of having a clouded vision of his giving. He must confess, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (Ps. 62:5).

The giver must also learn how to say "no" to abusers, who appropriate his resources carelessly. He must not become a facilitator for the failure of others. Those he helps must learn to stand alone. How can they stand alone, if he constantly picks up after them, thus facilitating the failure of the very people he is trying to help? This happens when it becomes easier to "give" (i.e., spoil,) than it does to teach, or even to turn loose and trust the person to call upon his own resources to solve a problem. A giver can give to the detriment of others. A receiver may never become responsible, where there is a giver to facilitate laziness. Why should an alcoholic quit drinking when a giver provides the wine? Why should a child learn to earn wages for chores when he is given an allowance for doing nothing? Givers can become facilitators when they fail to see the harm that their giving sometimes does.

The giver must learn to be selective with his giving. "No" sometimes becomes necessary, even for the good of those who too must learn the value of resources, that nothing is free, that everything comes with a price.

Whether it is a grandpa who expresses his love for a grandson by giving an occasional candy, or whether it is that same child who reflects the love he has learned, by giving a fist full of dandelions to his mom, the love of God is made personal and brought into our lives in deed through the gift of giving.

Givers, you are special. Guard your gift. Please give us your gift of giving cheerfully, with simplicity, and not begrudgingly, or with expectations. Know that many of us will let you down, because many of us have not yet learned how to fully appreciate your gift, and express it back to you. Be patient with us. We often take you for granted. Keep on giving anyway. We need you. We love you. Deep down, we all want to be like you, because you reflect Jesus, God’s greatest gift of all into our lives, through your marvellous gift of giving.
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