By David Faust
It’s one of Jesus’ most famous quotes, but many don’t realize he is the one who first said it. It’s one of the Lord’s beatitudes, but it doesn’t appear along with the rest of Jesus’ blessings in Matthew 5. The words came from Jesus’ lips, but they aren’t recorded in the four Gospels; they appear in the book of Acts.
At the end of his farewell speech to the elders in Ephesus, the apostle Paul said, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, this beautiful beatitude becomes little more than a pious platitude. It’s one thing to say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” but do our actions demonstrate that we believe it’s true?
Why Do We Give?
Jesus had a lot to say about giving, and he focused on our motives. Don’t give, Jesus said, “to be honored by others” (Matthew 6:2). We don’t give to impress others but to express our love. Our generosity doesn’t earn points with God.
We give in response to grace—because God first gave to us.
We give because earthly treasures don’t last forever.
We give because selfishness poisons the soul.
We give because the Holy Spirit moves us to “excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
We give because we are stewards trusted by God to oversee his property. Our belongings don’t really belong to us; they belong to God and we take care of them on his behalf.
We give so we can be partners in the gospel with Christian brothers and sisters who are doing God’s work all around the world.
We give because it’s a practical way to demonstrate compassion for those in need. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17).
What Do We Receive?
Jesus’ words are often ironic and paradoxical. Deny yourself, and you will find yourself. Lose your life for Christ, and you will save it. “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).
We don’t give in order to get; but when we give, we get.
Givers receive many blessings. Sharing in God’s work produces a unique sense of satisfaction. Delighting others brings the giver incomparable delight, just as parents experience great joy by giving gifts to their children. Givers are blessed by breaking free from the grip of greed and the smothering smog of self-centeredness.
Jesus’ followers are blessed because we don’t just give our money away; we give it up! Through our tithes and offerings, we lift up our gifts to the Creator who blessed us in the first place. We offer them up as a sacrifice of praise to the one who gave his all for us on the cross. We give up our money willingly because we can’t hang onto it forever anyway.
We use earthly wealth for heavenly good. We don’t clutch it for ourselves; we unleash it for the kingdom. And in the process we experience immeasurable blessings from the gracious hand of God.
1. What blessings have you experienced by giving?
2. What steps could you take to excel in your giving?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for February 16, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Exodus 30, 31
Exodus 32, 33