As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas giving season, there will be no shortage of opportunities to support worthy causes, charities, and organizations. No other time of year puts as many demands on our time and our wallets. We start November with good intentions to pack a shoebox for a needy child, serve a meal at a shelter, or donate to a local ministry. Yet we often reach the end of December with few of those things actually accomplished. So before the holiday season is in full steam let’s look at some biblical principles to guide our giving.
The Apostle Paul’s writings say a lot about generosity and gracious giving. A major part of his third missionary journey was dedicated to collecting an offering from Gentile believers for persecuted Christians in Judea who were living in poverty. The church at Corinth quickly agreed to give to the cause. A year later, however, the Corinthians had not followed through on their good intentions. Sound familiar? Paul encouraged them to excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:6-7). He instructed them to give generously, intentionally, and cheerfully.
The law of harvesting illustrates how God blesses authentic generosity. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Can you picture a farmer walking over his field, reaching into his bag, and tossing a huge handful of seed? If he wants to take in a plentiful harvest, then he cannot hold onto the seed; he must be openhanded and scatter it generously. Now, relate that to being openhanded with your personal resources. We ask God to meet our needs, opening our hands to receive His blessings, but then often closing our fists around what He provides rather than being generous. Are you closed fisted with your time, talents, and treasure? Or are you willing to wholly offer yourself and all that you have to the Lord – for His purpose?
Paul also instructed the Corinthians to give intentionally. Spontaneous generosity is good but it tends to be inconsistent. For instance, we all come across the bell ringers while shopping at Christmastime. You might give a little something each time you pass by or give one time but not the next. This year, spend some time in prayer about where God would have you invest your time and your money. Consider carrying that generosity into the new year by helping your church in their missions and church planting endeavors, or by making a recurring donation to a worthy ministry or charity. Giving a predetermined percentage or amount requires a commitment and follow through – a decision made in your heart (2 Corinthians 9:7).
You see, gracious giving is directly related to the motives of our hearts. We need to guard against any motives for giving that don’t line up with God’s Word and God’s character. Our motives for giving will determine the attitude with which we give. Nothing exposes our motives and attitudes more quickly than money matters. If you’re slow to be openhanded, then check whether your reluctance stems from financial insecurity, fear, or greed. If you feel pressure rather than joy in giving, then search your heart to see if there’s an area of ingratitude or rebellion to God. Learning to appreciate God’s generosity to you makes it possible to give cheerfully – with a smile, literally (2 Corinthians 9:7).
We have to remember that God graciously supplies all that’s needed to sow and reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:8-11). When God prompts you to give, He either has already supplied or will supply the gift. Gracious giving means that you trust God to do the math. He uses what we give to do what only He can do; the harvest is both tangible and eternal! As the Supplier of both the gift and the grace to give, God receives the praise and thanks for our generosity (2 Corinthians 9:11-15). Somewhere right now, a pastor, researcher, or aid worker is praying for God to supply the funds and volunteers to continue their work. Your obedience in giving is cause for someone else to turn to the Lord in worship. We often stop short by simply praying for God to meet someone’s needs when He may want us to be part of the answer to that prayer.
Will you accept the challenge to grow in the grace of giving? Start by talking with your family about what causes, organizations, and ministries they care about. Discuss how you can be generous with your time and money through your church this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Give children an opportunity to participate so that giving of their resources becomes part of their lifestyle. Most importantly, pray together. Seek God’s direction then follow through on your good intentions. Who will give thanks to the Lord because of your generosity? Remember, God’s resources are for God’s purposes.
(Excerpts from Gracious Me: Exploring God’s grace and what it means to be gracious by Lea Eppling)
Lea Eppling serves as the Ministry Coordinator for Bucky Kennedy Ministries. She is a writer, editor, and women’s speaker. Lea and her husband, David, have served in ministry for over 25 years.