ACTS 20:35b (part three)
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he
said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
April 13, 2003

We believers need to know the rules that regulate giving. It is too vital a part of Christian living to leave to happenstance or to our whims and conclusions.
We have examined six Bible principles on giving. First, Jesus assumed His followers would be the world’s most generous givers. Second, handling money is a trusteeship; we do not own, we manage. Third, giving beautifies life. Fourth, giving begins with the tithe, offering the first ten percent of our income. Fifth, reduce debt. Sixth, giving money lets God entrust more important matters to us.
A seventh Bible principle is, giving extends our influence. The Macedonians never left home, but their giving fed “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (RM 15:26 NAS). As a rock cast in water makes waves which seem to go on endlessly, a gift cast on the waters of life causes results that seem to continue forever.
Joy is found in giving, for it lets us help others, and not be focused solely on ourselves. An unhappy rich man, seeking relief for his misery, visited a rabbi, who took him to a window and asked, “What do you see?” “Men, women, and children,” the rich man replied. The rabbi took him to a mirror and asked, “What do you see now?” When the rich man said, “Myself,” the rabbi said, “A window and mirror both contain glass, but when a little silver is added, you cease to see others, and see only yourself, resulting in selfishness that cannot bring gladness.”
This matter of blessing and influencing others should be important to believers. We ought to feel a never ending burden of stewardship, a need to live several lifetimes in one. In my first pastorate I would write letters to church members and prospects and take them late at night to the post office so I could feel I was working twenty-fours a day, even in my sleep. Giving allows us opportunity to expand our influence, to work even as we play, to evangelize even when we sleep, to relieve some of the “I am debtor” (RM 1:14) load we carry in life.

Riches given away never die. They are never lost, the only wealth we always retain. Early in the twentieth century Texas Baptists were blessed by a wealthy man who gave several million dollars for church, college, and seminary buildings. After losing all his wealth in the Depression, he was walking one day near one of the many buildings he had generously built. Asked if he ever wished he had kept some of the money he gave away, he replied, “Never. What I kept I lost. Only what I gave away can I still see and enjoy results of.” When we give, the blessing imparted to others and reverberated to our self goes on and on and on.
An eighth Bible principle is, giving proves material things are our possessions, not our possessors. A rich young ruler (MK 10:17ff) fell at Jesus’ feet and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, knowing the man’s possessions had a death grip on his heart, replied, “Go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” These words saddened the ruler. “His face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” The young man’s wealth possessed him.
Money can obsess us, can easily become the all-consuming fact of our lives. Two quarters, held close enough to our eyes, can block out views of a landscape, meadows, mountains, others, everything. It doesn’t take huge amounts of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position in a heart, will obscure our vision, and take over our very being, becoming all that matters.
Ted and Dot Lewis, a couple I served as pastor, took early retirement to do volunteer mission work around the world. As they began to divest themselves of their possessions, they went through anxious days, but once the house, car, furniture, and other possessions had all been dispensed with, Dot said she experienced the most freeing moment of her life. A huge life-long burden suddenly vanished.
It’s not what we give away that grieves us. Burdens and sleepless nights are caused by what we have. No one in this congregation stayed awake last night worrying about the offering they would bring to church today, but several lost sleep due to a house or car which is producing payments beyond our ability to pay, or due to items purchased on a credit card which is tightening like a noose around our neck. According to pollster George Barna, one-third of born again adults say it is impossible for them to get ahead in life because of the financial debt they have incurred. Accumulated stuff is smothering the joy out of many lives.
Are material things our possessions or possessors? Our attitude toward giving answers the question. Giving is God’s way of setting us free from the shackles of stuff. God certainly does not need our gifts. He is sufficient. There is need in those to whom we give, but God could directly intervene and help them without requiring us to give. He obviously sees that the greatest need is in us, in the ones who ought to be giving. Giving keeps us free from being owned. If I can let it go, it does not possess me. Do not deceive ourselves. What we clutch possesses us.
A ninth Bible principle is, genuine giving entails sacrifice. Araunah offered to give land free of charge for David to build the temple on, but the king refused, saying he would buy it for a price, for he refused to give God that “which cost me nothing” (2 SM 24:24 NAS). To know for sure he was giving out of true love for God, he had to feel pain in the gift. The pain in a gift measures the love in the gift.

The Lord loves a cheerful giver, but the process that ends in gladness begins with sacrifice, a word we have used so often that we forget it means pain. Our money goes joyfully in the plate, but some measure of pain must be previously intertwined with it. A portion of the giver’s own self must have died on a cross.
The cross of Jesus is meant to kindle not only admiration, but also imitation. We are playing it safe to gaze at the cross and say we are willing to die for Jesus. Few of us will be called on to do this in one grand event, but we are expected, for Jesus, to die a little more to self each day, to take up our cross daily for Christ.
“Most of us are sacrificial by speculation. We like to project our thoughts to concoct a situation where we would be called upon to be the hero. Unfortunately, we are not willing to die a little bit every day to self and selfish promptings” (Landrum Leavell). Regularly giving tithes and offerings allows us to do this.
What we put in the plate must symbolize the giving of one’s whole self. Giving a part pictures giving all. We put cash gifts in the plate only because we cannot find plates big enough to put our whole selves in.
Reflecting on the generosity of the Macedonians, Paul said, “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 C 8:5). Their giving was made genuine by their willingness to give themselves first and then their possessions. Since money and material things appeal to self, we gauge how much of our selves we have truly yielded to God by how much sacrifice we undergo in the giving away of our possessions.
Detached, uncaring giving counts little with God. May it never be said of us what was said of a wealthy yet aloof benefactor, “With all his giving, he never gives himself.” Years ago the church I was serving had an unforgettable December of giving. That month we had a couple of special guests come in on a love offering basis, we emphasized our annual Lottie Moon foreign missions offering, plus we had our regular budget needs. At December’s end our treasurer told me our people gave more to the church that month than in any other month in history. Elated, and wanting to congratulate and encourage my dear people, I asked how many had made a conscious sacrifice, had given up something in particular in order to give that record offering. Only two people raised their hands. I could not help but wonder, then why were we not giving at least that amount every month.
A way to determine the level of sacrifice in our gifts is to analyze how much we hold back for self. Generosity is measured not by what we give, but by what we keep. The widow’s two mites was a huge offering because she kept nothing back (MK 12:44). Jesus saw her gift because He was watching people give their offerings. He still watches what we put in the offering plate, and what we keep.