What can generous giving do for you? That may seem like a strange question. We typically think of giving in terms of how it benefits others not ourselves. While the immediate impact of giving may to benefit another person, organization, or entity, surely this cannot be the only impact. Giving is certainly not designed to serve the self, but it can grow the soul.
A couple of caveats here: First, I’m not trying to make a case that we should give because it has a personal benefit. We should give because it is right and good and obedient to our Heavenly Father (Matt. 6:1-4). However, seeing the personal benefits of giving can often encourage our hearts so that we give cheerfully and freely. Second, I want to be careful not to insinuate that if you give money, you will get money back. “Giving to get back” is the empty promise of the prosperity “gospel” which warps both giving and the gospel beyond recognition. Rather, I want to convince you that the primary benefits of giving are not material but spiritual.
Giving loosens our grip on wealth and its grip on us. Money, wealth, and material things are easily made into idols by the human heart. Greed is seductive and sinister, often carrying us so far down the path of idolatry and selfishness that we can’t even see where we got off the rails. A love for money is a blinding darkness that has plunged many people into “ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). This is one of the reasons that Scripture is filled with warnings about riches, wealth, and greed. So, the very act of giving teaches us that wealth is a means to serve God rather than a replacement for Him. Giving breaks down the idolatry of things and forces us to loosen our grip on wealth. As we loosen our grip on wealth, it loosens its grip on us. We might say it this way: open hands can’t hoard.
Giving reveals to us that God is our treasure not the things of this earth. As we loosen our grip on money and the power of greed is broken, we begin to see God for the treasure that He is. The fog of “stuff” begins to burn away in the light of His mercy and grace, and God is revealed as the treasure of eternity. Seeing God as our treasure means that we no longer need to strive for earthly treasures because we realize that in Christ we already possess the heavenly treasure (Eph. 2:4-7). With this perspective, we can pursue work and wages with an eye to sharing, caring, and giving rather than as a means to safety, security, and stashing here on earth (Gal. 6:6-10; Eph. 4:28; 2 Cor. 8-9). Giving makes our wealth (really God’s wealth!) serve God rather than us serving it (Matt. 6:19-20, 24). Consider the correlation between generosity and gratefulness. The more generous we are with our earthly stuff, the more grateful we become for the glory to come in Christ. In this way, giving helps me to see the immeasurable worth of Christ.
Giving reinforces a stewardship mindset. The Scripture is clear that everything is God’s: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Ps. 24:1) We are merely entrusted as stewards to use what God gives for His glory. In this way, giving is truly the result of a stewardship mindset. But giving really works in a spiral. We give because we are stewards. But as we give, such a mindset is further reinforced which makes us both grateful to God for His provision and gracious in future giving. This idea that giving is both the result of and reinforcement to stewardship is somewhat like physical intimacy in marriage. Physical intimacy in marriage is the result of closeness to your spouse, but it simultaneously reinforces that closeness as well. It is both fulfilling and formative for your relationship. Giving similarly fulfills the expectation of stewardship and simultaneously transforms the heart of the steward.
I didn’t try to convince you today that you should give or how much you should give. Instead, I wanted to highlight the fact that God uses the practice of giving to transform you. This is one of the great mysteries of obedience, service, and giving. While those things are directed at others, God uses them to change us. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)