The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 12: Joy in Giving (2 of 3)
I believe, however, that one hindrance to giving is the perception that God’s blessings are poured out only in financial form; we give $100 to the church, we expect to receive a check in the mail or an injection into our bank account for 30, 60, or a hundred times the amount given, and when that doesn’t happen, we crack the door open and allow discouragement to slither in and make its home in our heart. God is not limited in how (or when) He doles out His good measure. The promise is that He will dole it out. God does want to prosper us, He does want to give us good gifts because He is a loving and faithful Father (see Jeremiah 29:11 and Luke 11:11-13), but God is not limited by our limitations, expectations, pride, selfishness, or idolatry. As God spoke through Isaiah: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8 NIV). Putting our giving into the proper perspective, and opening our hearts to receiving the blessings, even if it’s just a smile on someone’s face or a heartfelt “Thank you,” purifies our intentions.
I attended a Men’s Summit at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, and during this particular retreat, the testimony of one speaker shifted my perspective regarding expectations as a result of tithing and giving. Todd McIntyre, Gateway’s Men’s Pastor, related his experience of giving until it hurt, in the expectation that God would bless him financially because he had faithfully continued to give away his money, even when it didn’t make sense. Todd’s refrain to God was “Okay, I did what You said, now it’s Your turn.” So he gave. And waited. Gave. And waited some more. For two years Todd received seemingly nothing. He whined and complained, and God finally spoke: “Your whining does not motivate me. I’m not your Mama. I’m your Daddy. If you want to live, you have to have faith.” God continued: “Your motives are wrong. You gave for the wrong reason. Your foundation is on sand; you need to put it on Rock.” Pastor Todd’s lesson was not only in faith and right motives, but in perseverance and surrender. “When I finally gave up,” Todd said, “my life started turning around.”
In the book of Acts, chapter 20, the apostle Paul concluded his farewell address to the presbyters of the church at Ephesus with words that have almost become a cliché: “. . . keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35b NIV). The reference is to the deuterocanonical Book of Ben Sirach: “Let not your hand be open to receive and clenched when it is time to give” (Sirach 4:31 NAB). The blessing is in the giving itself, the joy that enters your heart when your hand is released.
Mary’s giving heart always amazes me; my wife truly gives to bless others, and she lives out her Spiritual gift of giving as naturally as Hannah lives out her gift of goofiness. Mary serves to serve, to meet a need, to satisfy a want. One evening she chatted on the phone with one of her friends, and during the conversation the woman admitted going through a rough patch financially as her husband labored hard to build up his business. She’d been going through the hoops of applying for financial assistance to bridge the gap, but had run into obstacle after obstacle during the application process. Later that week Mary asked me what I planned to tithe the upcoming Sunday. “$96,” I said. “Why?”
“I want to buy a grocery store gift card and give it to their family,” she declared. I agreed, and that Saturday we met Mary’s friend at a local craft fair where she sat under a canopy selling rustic picture frames, hat hangers, and flags her husband had fashioned from scraps of old wood, used horseshoes, and corrugated steel. She’d been there all day, through rain, wind, and sparse crowds, and had sold just enough to pay the vendor fee and clear a little bit more to take home.
When we arrived, one last heavy downpour had already rumbled through the area, and the early evening sun shone brightly in the crisp cyan sky. As we helped break down her canopy and pack away her wares, Mary called her aside and presented the gift card. Her friend looked at her, tears welling up in her eyes. “No,” she said. But my wife insisted.
“Look at me,” Mary told her. “Listen to me. Every week my husband and I tithe and we’ve been blessed for it.” She pressed the card into her friend’s hand. “This is our tithe for this week. You are our church, and this is what church is about, it’s about taking care of each other.” Her friend took the card and both women cried. And Mary’s joy–and mine!–was complete.
Both the Old and the New Testaments contain many stories about people enthusiastically giving, and the subsequent results of this encouragement, service, and material sacrifice. In 1 Chronicles 29, King David announced to the Hebrews that not only had he stored up the materials to construct the Temple, he had also donated his personal fortune of gold and silver “because of the delight I take in the house of my God” (1 Chronicles 29:3 NAB). He then asked the people, “who else is willing to contribute generously this day to the Lord?” (v 5). The Hebrews “came forward willingly and contributed . . .” (v 6). And what they contributed blew away David’s personal sacrifice in spades. Because of David’s enthusiasm and his heart for God, “the people rejoiced over these free-will offerings, which had been contributed to the Lord wholeheartedly. King David also rejoiced greatly” (v 9). As a result of these blessings, God in turn blessed the Hebrews, through Solomon, with a “princely house” where God dwelled among His people.
Later, after Joash became king, he commanded that the tax “for the tent of the testimony” (2 Chronicles 24:6 NAB) be collected to repair the Temple his own grandmother had damaged. “All the princes and the people rejoiced,” (v 10) and contributed so much to the cause that the money chest had to be emptied several times, and “they restored the house of God according to its original form, and reinforced it” (v 13). The people gave with joy, and as a result they were again blessed with a Temple befitting the King of the universe.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes