The end of the year is often a time when people donate time and money to various charities and other non-profits. Some include giving as part of their Christmas celebration. Every year we receive several catalogs allowing us to donate livestock, school and medical supplies, and Bible study materials to poor families, giving them a leg up in becoming self-sustaining.
All this giving is a good thing. God tells us to give throughout the Bible, and we should do so. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and we should give with love and generosity. In return, we find joy in the mere act of making someone else’s life better. If you’ve ever watched your kids open their presents on Christmas morning, you realize the truth of Jesus’ statement, “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
We may give for many reasons. Some give simply because the Bible tells them to. Some give out of kindness, a desire to make other people happy. And some give because they believe God will repay their generosity many times over: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Usually, this latter group is thinking in terms of tangible benefits—a fatter paycheck, fancier car, or nicer house. They’re treating God as an interest-paying bank account. Yes, we do receive a blessing, but God is far more concerned with our character than our net worth:
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).
But if we’re just giving out of obedience, kindness, or, we’re missing out. Giving isn’t just for us or other people. It’s a form of worship: “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).
It’s one way to tell Jesus that we love Him, and are thankful for what He has given us.
The Philippians financially supported Paul’s ministry. Regarding their gifts to him, he writes, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18b). As he says in the previous verse, “ Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account (Philippians 4:17).” In other words, while he appreciates their care and concern for himself, he’s more interested in the fact that they’re giving is a gift, a sacrifice, to God.
Throughout the Bible, giving is portrayed as a way to worship God. Noah made sacrifices as soon as he landed on dry land, worshiping God for bringing him and his family through the flood (Genesis 8:20). Abraham gave a tenth of his wealth to Melchizedek as a thank you to God for saving his family and fortune (Genesis 14:18-20). Throughout the Old Testament, worship is accompanied with offerings.
We no longer make sacrifices, as Jesus is our ultimate sacrifice. But offerings remain as one way we worship God.
Giving away our resources is a way of telling God that we trust Him. Our human nature demands that we hold tightly to our money as a source of security. What if we need it? But as believers, our dependence is on God’s provision, not the balance in our bank account. Giving keeps us from making money into an idol. Giving reminds us that God is God and we are not.
This Christmas, think of the attitude you have when you’re writing that donation check, or dropping some bills into the Salvation Army kettle. What is your motivation? Are you doing it to benefit yourself? To benefit others? Are you also telling God that you think He’s amazing, and you want to give because you love Him?
Let our gifts to God be an act of worship, just as the Wise Men gave gifts to the young child Jesus. We may not have any gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but I have it on good authority that God also takes MasterCard.