If you felt heart palpitations come on when you read the word “giving,” please keep reading. This post isn’t at all meant to guilt anyone into doing anything. My heart is not to shame us for not giving enough. Many of us are in a difficult place financially wondering how in the world we’re going to make ends meet, let alone give to causes we care about. The need is great right now and there’s only so much we can do.
I empathize with that. I am in that exact same boat. But I want us to fight against the lie that because we can’t do everything we shouldn’t do anything.
I recently realized that I tend to want a big deal made out of certain things that I do and giving is one of them. Our culture has taught me that when I give to a person or a cause, I deserve some sort of perk in return. We get “thank you” cards or gifts or discount codes in exchange for our hard-earned cash. I have been conditioned to expect praise or accolades when I give.
This is something that I’m having to repent of. I think I have picked up an incorrect expectation along the way. Instead of seeing giving as my responsibility and privilege, I see it as an add-on to prove my devotion. I have added some conditions to what should be a natural response to the goodness of God.
Jesus, knowing how much value we put on our hard-earned cash, talked at length about money. Reading through his sermons, sometimes I want to invite Jesus to lay off preaching about money. But he knew that how we steward our resources reveals a lot about our hearts and who our God is. And, being the jealous God that he is, he won’t stand for anything to be put above him.
Matthew 5-7 records a really great sermon that Jesus delivered to his followers, most commonly known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” I encourage you to take some time and read through the whole thing when you get a moment. There’s a ton of good, challenging, and convicting truth in there. Jesus gets really personal and pinpoints those areas of our lives that we can make into idols.
Chapter 6 begins with a discussion on giving. A subject that I have often thought of as “optional” or an “add-on,” Jesus labels as vital. It’s a necessary part of the believer’s life. Here’s what he said:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)
What always strikes me about this verse is that Jesus said “when” you give, not “if” you give. Keep in mind that Jesus wasn’t preaching to the wealthy at this point—these were just regular people. Sure, there may have been a wealthy person or two in the crowd, but that was not the norm. He wasn’t hosting an elaborate dinner for the Jewish elite. He was talking to fishermen and farmers and stay-at-home moms. Regardless of our financial situation, it’s expected that we respond to the goodness of God by caring for the needy around us.
Jesus makes it clear that what I want to do—parade my giving around so that I get praise—is not what pleases God. That my desire for perks as a result of my giving reveals the pride and selfishness in my heart. Instead, our giving should be done without drawing attention and we shouldn’t expect anything in return. Jesus makes it clear that God’s rewards will far outweigh anything that I might receive on earth.
What is your standard for giving in 2021?
Here I would also include volunteering or donating non-cash items. Giving doesn’t necessarily mean money. What can you give to the needy in your community? What steps of faith do you feel God is calling you to take in 2021 when it comes to your giving?
Jesus set the standard: giving should be a regular practice and done without drawing attention. And we get to choose how we practically live that out. May we be courageous enough to respond to his goodness and his word. Let’s repent for the ways in which we’ve made giving about us and choose to give a different way in 2021!
What is God saying to you about your giving (money, time, etc.)?