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Why is Giving Important for Christians?

Giving is one of those things that can often turn people off from the church. Many people have had a negative experience at a church where they were browbeaten over how much they must give. It can come in the form of a preacher focusing too much on giving, to the point that it seems to be most of what he wants to discuss. It could appear as someone saying that if you're going to gain money, you have first to give it to the church. These can be effective on people because there is a gain of truth in them. More often, though, these kinds of things can turn people off. It makes it seem like the church is all about money or that the Christian life is about getting rich. Neither of these is true. However, giving is an important aspect of the Christian life. If we are going to do it right, though, we need to understand what the Bible is actually teaching about the subject.

Starting In Proverbs

Proverbs 3:9-10 says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." At first glance, this seems to be saying that there is an exchange system in place, that the Lord promises to give you material wealth if you give him the first fruits and honor him with your wealth. Here, we need to remember the purpose of the Book of Proverbs if we are going to understand what it is teaching. Proverbs is not a book of promises. Instead, it is a book that teaches us how to live wisely. It is indeed wise to put the Lord first with our wealthy. How we use our finances is part of what it means to be a Christian. The main idea is that money can become something we worship, and nothing must get in between us and the Lord. To understand a little better, we need to look at the broader context of scripture.

A Cheerful Giver

One of the most explicit passages in scripture on giving comes in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. It says, "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." Again, this is not a one-for-one kind of deal but rather a principle. If we are not willing to trust the Lord fully, including with our finances, then we should not expect blessings. The last part sums it up, "The Lord loves a cheerful giver." Paul is talking about an attitude, not an investment strategy. When we trust the Lord with all we have and focus on him, financial concerns start to fade into the background. If we give generously, it does not mean that we will necessarily receive monetary benefits. It does mean that we will gain from it. We will undoubtedly gain peace and contentment when we trust the Lord with our finances.

A Question of Importance

The importance of where our treasure is underlies the whole discussion of money. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." A little later, he tells us, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." When Paul writes to Timothy, he tells him, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:10). All of this ties directly back to the Ten Commandments, specifically the second commandment which says, "“You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Money is an overwhelming temptation because it can become our overwhelming focus. It is something that is a necessary part of our lives, but often, it can become the focus of our lives. It becomes our god. We end up loving money more than God, and it leads to all kinds of evil.

An Ever Present Danger

John Calvin once wrote, "The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols" (Institutes I, xi, 8). His point is that we do not have to carve an image of wood or stone to make an idol. We are, as it were, constantly placing things in our lives in front of God. Money is one of the chief examples of this. The amount of passages in scripture that speak on the need to be careful about our finances and to trust in the Lord rather than money make this clear. An often-cited example is the story of the Rich Young Ruler. Here, Jesus tells this man that in order to receive eternal life, he must sell all that he has and give it to the poor. For the rich man, money was an idol, a stumbling block, that kept him from truly following the Lord. If we are not watchful, we will end up in the same place.

So what now?

I mentioned at the start that giving is an important part of the Christian life. I want to reiterate that here at the end. More than that, though, I want to emphasize why it is important and why it is not. To start with, God does not need your money. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. Nothing we have, no amount of money that we could give, would add anything to him. Our giving is not required to make his kingdom grow. He has told us that he will build his kingdom, and nothing, not even death, will be able to stop him. Our giving is about trusting him to do that. We trust him with our money and give out of a generous and cheerful heart. In Christ, we have been given more than we could ever imagine. Let us trust him with our finances. Let us be people who give cheerfully, without expecting to get that money back, and trust the Lord to care for us. To paraphrase scripture, it would be better to go through this life with no money than for that money to be the stumbling block that keeps us from the Kingdom of Heaven. Give generously and trust wholeheartedly in the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

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