"Most people give enough just to be miserable," said Jack Taylor, author and Christian conference speaker. I haven’t talked with Jack for twenty years and we may well have divergent views on a number of other things, but he’s dead right on this aspect of practical Christianity.
I began to be curious about giving early on. In fact, I can still picture the book on giving that my mother read to me, one of only two children’s books I remember. My first book on George Muller, the man who fed and clothed over 10,000 orphans, made the deepest impression. I was drawn into a lifestyle that was so attractive that I could not resist it. I immediately began to live out what I had learned in a radical way. That pursuit still enchants me.
On the one hand, I’m enamored with the promises related to giving. How is it that we can give and give and give and still have enough to give more? When Jesus said, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Lk. 6:38). He was describing what has happened in my experience so often, so dramatically, so regularly, and so faithfully, that its validity as a promise is unquestionable.
The size of our giving is not to be a matter of revelation, but of devotion. In other words, each of us should "do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). Now think about that carefully. God likes giving to be as far removed from drudgery and duty (though it is our duty), as possible. It is to be pure joy. The word "cheerful" is hilaron—hilarious! Remember the Macedonians who "begged us with much entreaty for the favor of participating in the support of the saints" (2 Cor. 8:4)?
And secondly, giving is a sign of something. You give according to your own desire, not begrudgingly and mournfully as if you are parting with your vital organs. It is the expression of your love. God likes to keep it on this basis. Attitude is every bit as important as amount—no, much more so. You should want to give.
Have you ever dreamed of giving more? I mean, have you dreamed of giving a lot. By "a lot" I mean "a lot compared with what you have, not what somebody else has." What about 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60% or more? You wouldn’t do that without love and God wouldn’t want you to do it without cheerfulness. But it can happen.
Years ago I decided that I would try to give more every year. I’m not sure if I’ve done this perfectly, but I think it has happened each year, or nearly every year since that little whimper of a desire was voiced to God. It wasn’t a vow and I’m under no obligation, but I am free to do it. Jesus never put down radical givers. Remember the woman who gave all she had to live on? Of course, I have to keep in mind two other matters: First, "Am I taking care of my family in a reasonable way?" Americans have an inflated view of what this means, as you know, so we have to be moderate here. And second, "Am I in debt in such a way that I’m giving away what belongs to others?" Outside of these issues, the sky is the limit. I love it! And I’m married to a woman who has gotten the same vision both from her family and from being exposed to the same disease that I have.
Here are a few aids to help move you in the right direction:
- Give at least the foundational amount (I start with the tithe of the Old Covenant) through your local church. It is very important to give through the church when possible since the church is God’s plan for reaching the world. After all, Christ gave His life for it. Actually, I double the tithe to the church just for starters. And, I try to be ready for special needs that our church encounters.
- Beyond that, give to meet needs of individuals inside and outside the body. Have some fun doing it. Do you know somebody who struggles with finances or is under a financial burden? Go right to them and slip them some cash or a check. You may do that anonymously if you wish, or not. It is not always right to be anonymous; sometimes it is important to bless them with words and actions coming straight from you as a fellow believer so that they can see it and rejoice with you. I do both. Can’t you get excited about somebody’s burden being lifted and joy coming into their face because their prayers are being answered? Pam and I try not to pray for anyone’s need unless we are willing to be the instrument God uses to meet that need.
- Attach yourself to some great cause or mission; maybe connect with more than one. Perhaps there is a person of great integrity whose ministry you can support, or maybe a young missionary couple leaving for another place, or maybe a prison ministry, or a group that reaches tribal areas. Connect with real people and real ministry and then do some extra things for them. Surprise them. Sacrifice to help the cause. Keep in touch. I can tell you personally that there are some people who have done that with us and with CCW through the years to whom we are tremendously indebted. I almost tear up when I think about them. They have made this work go forward in amazing ways. We need a lot of this throughout the broader body of Christ.
- Make it a family affair. There are times when the whole family can participate in a giving project. It’s well worth it for all of you to pray that what is given will bless and help. Children can contribute to the project.
- Plan bigger each year. Consider setting aside an additional percentage each year related to your overall income. Let it accrue by percentage rather than by set amount. God may just open wide the doors of heaven for you and pour out a huge amount just to give you additional giving opportunities.
- Pray for some surprising "windfalls" to come in. We’ve seen this happen many times. Just when you think you cannot give more, God steps in with something that was totally unexpected. You may even want to say to the Lord and your family, "Look, we’ll give this percentage now, but if something extra comes in, let’s give __% more. Let’s see what God does!"
Well, you get the idea. And you who are leaders must become infectious in this area. I know you are afraid to teach on giving, but that is because it comes across as duty. If you are living the generous lifestyle that I’m describing you will win the right to talk about money. There are churches where everyone has their own little private story about a leader’s giving. They’ll listen to people like that. You should want them to "see your good works" as a way to "glorify your Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:16).
I once knew a man who blessed my father week after week. He was always giving him something, or paying for something. My dad found him a great man to confide in because he was so totally unselfish. He wasn’t buying a voice, but was simply living out his convictions about money. He was like this with everybody. In fact, he always carried quarters and candy in his pocket for the kids. He was the "giving man." What a wonderful reputation to have. It honored God.
One day my father asked this generous man the secret of his life. He said, "J.T., I learned years ago that God blesses a river, not a reservoir."