Materialism is the air that we breathe. We barely notice how much value we place upon money, possessions, and material wealth. While our world plunges into a recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, it’s our misplaced hearts that need to change.
I was introduced to the idea of ‘gracious living’ by some friends—time out, good friends, laughter, rejoicing, wine and cheese, sunsets and oceans, enjoying the blessings of God.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (1 Timothy 4:4 NIV)
But at church this past weekend I was reminded of another kind of gracious living—the grace of giving generously. I had to pause and think. Do I really know what that means? Not just in theory, but in practice? Have I ever truly given generously? Or do I merely give out of my surplus, redistributing what I don’t need anyway?
Take a look at how the Apostle Paul describes the Christians in Macedonia:
1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
(2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NIV)
A close look at these verses challenges me to my core. It turns upside down many of my assumptions and expectations about the grace of God.
- God gives his grace to his people so that they are able to give to others who are in need. This is the idea of it being more blessed to give than to receive. God does a supernatural, gracious work in the hearts of the Macedonian Christians and this motivates and enables them to give.
- God’s grace works to prevent needy people becoming greedy people. The capacity to give doesn’t flow from having more than we need, and then giving the surplus away to appease our guilt. It comes from the joy of knowing that God provides, so that even in their poverty the Macedonians gave to meet the needs of others.
- Gracious giving is costly. It’s sacrificial. It’s giving beyond our assumed capacity to give. It is generous, not because of the amount that is given or the percentage that is given, but because it gives away what we would normally keep for ourselves.
- Gracious giving is taking the initiative to give to the needs of others without prompting, pleading, special marketing campaigns, or end of financial year fund raisers. It’s common to give when called upon to do so, but unusual to ‘entirely on our own’ plead for the privilege of being generous.
- Gracious giving is giving first of all to God and then to others. And it’s way more than money—and nothing less than giving our whole selves.
Have you discovered this grace in your life—the grace that moves you to delight in giving your God-given time, money, and resources to him and to others?
There was an Old Testament pattern of giving called a tithe. I grew up on the idea of a tithe, literally a tenth. So every time I earned money, I would set aside 10% of what I earned and give it to church, or missions, or charity, or child sponsorship, or such like. And I thought I was generous. But it didn’t hurt because I still had 90% left to spend on myself. Now I’m all grown up and I know how much more complicated it is. Giving 10% doesn’t mean that I have 90% for play money. There are never ending bills and expenses. There are the weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly costs of groceries, fuel, utilities, insurance, education, clothing, housing, you name it. And it’s so easy to we consumed by these things.
It’s a rare thing for me to give beyond my ability. To be honest, I don’t know if I ever have. Have you? I’m missing out really—missing out on the gracious living that only comes from God.
Please God, lead me to give cheerfully, generously, graciously. Lead me to consider what I can give and then give more. And lead others who know your amazing grace to do the same. Amen