“If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” Typically, this expression means: If you have a great body, don’t hide it under modest attire. Show yourself off for the world to see. If you have a brilliant mind, don’t be humble and unassuming. Expose the genius within. If you have money, spend it so that people know you’re loaded. My favorite is, “If you are going to make a scene, be seen.”
It seems that many Christians assume that this expression is valid in the spiritual realm. It’s common for Christians to brag about how much they give, how much they pray, how much they serve, and how spiritual they are.
So what does it mean to give to the church? We hear complaints from Christians and church members who say, “Churches today only care about money.” “There is too much abuse and misuse of church funds. Why should I give?” “How do I know the money will go to a good cause?”
First and foremost giving means we are giving to God alone. Not to the church and not to the pastor. In fact, the Bible teaches us to give for our own good and for our own blessing, from a cheerful heart. The Bible also says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Everything we own and everything we have comes from God. So, when we give, we simply offer him a small portion of all the abundance he has already given to us. Giving is an expression of our thankfulness and praise to God. It comes from a heart of worship that recognizes that everything we give already belongs to the Lord. God instructed Old Testament believers to give a tithe, or a tenth, because this ten percent represented the first or most important portion of all they had. The New Testament does not suggest a certain percentage for giving, but simply says for each to give “in keeping with his income.”
We are blessed when we give. Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). God wants us to give because he knows how blessed we will be as we give generously to him and to others. Giving is an act commanded by God; it brings more blessing to the giver than to the recipient.
In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks of ways that enable us to give in the right way.
Give without fanfare (6:1–4). Jesus urges you and I to give with pure motives that please God. Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” The word, “beware,” always warns of danger ahead. Jesus warns you to beware of seeking to impress people. He doesn’t say that you can’t be impressive. Jesus focuses on the topic of financial giving. He says in 6:2, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Jesus also says “when” you give. The word, “when,” is a key word throughout this entire passage. Jesus does not say, “if,” but, “when.” Jesus says in verses 3 and 4, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Don’t give with your right hand while you wave your left hand in the air. Instead, just drop your check in the offering or send it in the mail, without drawing attention to yourself. Fold the check. Keep the envelope sealed. Give in a spirit of humility and simplicity, as an act of worship. Try giving anonymously sometimes, even if it means that you do not receive a tax deduction. “So that our giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
There is a story of Billy Graham, when he was first in the ministry and he and his wife Ruth were struggling to keep afloat. Billy and Ruth went to church and Billy had a 5-dollar bill and a 10-dollar bill in his pocket. The 5 was for the offering and the 10 was for them to live on for the week. During the service, Billy grabbed the wrong bill by mistake and placed the 10 in the plate. The story goes on to say that when he got home and told Ruth of his mistake, she said to him, “God only gave you credit for the 5 anyway.” God sees our intent not our actions. The Bible teaches that Christian giving ought to be cheerful giving. As Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” This is a truly amazing assertion. Paul assures us here that the Lord takes a special delight in those who are joyful, energetic, and merry givers.
Is there joy in your heart as you give? Can you truly be characterized as a “cheerful giver”?