The Heart of a Giver

It’s tricky business teaching about generosity these days.  Preachers of the prosperity gospel are packing their pews and selling lots of books.  Theirs is a “give in order to get” message, based on a misinterpretation of verses like Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

“Give in order to get” may be appealing, but that is not the message taught by the verse above or anywhere else in the Bible.

What Does the Bible Say About Generosity?

Here’s what can be confusing: There are many Bible verses that do say we will be rewarded for giving generously.  For example, in Malachi 3:10, we find the only place in Scripture where God said to test him, and it’s all about generosity: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”

In Proverbs 11:24, we read: “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”

2 Corinthians 9:6 contains these words from the apostle Paul: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

It’s How We Were Meant to Live

We all receive something beneficial from our giving because to live generously is to live in concert with our design.  I’m sure that’s why researchers have found that generosity increases people’s happiness.  It’s like eating healthy or being honest.  Life just works better when we live as we were meant to live.

Many years ago I heard someone teach that the best forms of generosity don’t come from a heart attitude of “in order to…” — they flow from a heart filled with a “because of…” sense of gratitude.  That seems to be where king David was coming from when he said to God, “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

Paul made a crucial point when he asked, “Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35)  In other words, God is the giver.  He gave us life; he gave us his Son; he gave us all that we have.

Give in order to get?  No.  We give out of a humble, grateful, joyful response to everything that God has given to us.

What are your thoughts on the motives for generosity?

With my first post of every month, I explore what the Bible teaches about money.  Here’s why.

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3 Responses to The Heart of a Giver

  1. nancy dahl February 7, 2011 at 8:29 AM #

    It makes it hard to give when you see waste and extravagance on the receivers part. However, the gift is to God. The accountable parties will answer to God for their stewardship.

  2. Jeffrey Davis February 1, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

    Matt –

    I wish to commend you for you perspective on the Heart of a Giver. You hit the Biblical principle right on the head.

    Another favorite verse reinforcing your thoughts is, “God loves a cheerful giver.” I wonder if anyone has ever asked if that means that God does not love those who are not cheerful?!? When we imitate God in his giving, this brings a smile upon his face. Your message says the same.

    Thanks for the spot-on words!


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