If it’s Biblical, it must be true. As believers, we base our lives on this concept. But just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t always mean that it applies now, in our current situation, in the way we think it does. Reread the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Even Satan quotes Scripture. He just twists it, quoting passages out of context, misapplying it, and ignoring other passages.
This is particularly deceitful because there is truth in what we’re hearing. After all, the best lies are mostly true. A nugget of deception is hidden among words that we recognize as coming from God. And so we are misled.
One verse I frequently see misapplied is 2 Corinthians 9:6—
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Too many times, unscrupulous pastors use this verse to raise funds for their ministry (or, more likely, so they can live in luxury). And it’s true that God rewards those who give.
However, it is important to read the verses that follow:
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. … Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:8,10-11)
Yes, God blesses us. We westerners tend to count our blessings materially. But what blessings does Paul mention here?
Lots of good works that we can do. Righteousness. Thanksgiving to God.
And further on, in verses 13-14: “others will praise God” and “in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you.” In other words, our giving will lend glory to God and we’ll be prayed for.
Does giving money result in receiving money? Sometimes. Paul does say that ,“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” and “every way” probably includes finances. But again, note the purpose for that inflow of money—so we can be generous.
If we prove faithful stewards of the money God has entrusted to us—using it for His purposes—then He might trust us with additional funds, expecting us to continue to be faithful.
Another verse I often hear quoted out of context is James 4:2—“You do not have because you do not ask God.” We’re encouraged to “name it and claim it”—doesn’t God promise to answer our prayers? But how often is the following verse included? “ When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
God doesn’t bless us just so we can live a comfortable lifestyle. He blesses us so we can bless others in His name. When we hold on to all that he’s given us, we clog his pipeline of blessing. What do we do when our pipes get clogged? First we stop running water down that drain. Then we call in the plumber, who forcefully clears the blockage.
Perhaps the entire idea of giving boils down to motivation. Why do we give? Is it because we want to receive? Or is it out of love? Remember 1 Corinthians 13:3—“If I give all I possess to the poor … but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Surveys have shown that, compared to poor people, wealthy people generally have a harder time giving. In my personal experience, I’ve found it to be the opposite—giving money challenges me more now that our income has shrunk and become so unpredictable. While we used to give out of our overflow, now our donations make a huge impact on our budget. At the same time, I have gained compassion for those in financially difficult situations—much more dire than ours. As a result, my motivation for giving is changing.
We used to give primarily out of obedience. God said to do it, so we do. And sometimes, when money is especially tight, obedience is still what gets me to write that check. However, God’s been busy teaching and training us. More and more, we find ourselves motivated to give because we want to bless others and because we want those intangible benefits. The ability to do good works. Righteousness. Thanksgiving and praise to God.
Especially thanksgiving and praise to God.