As we navigate the Christian life and seek to follow the teaching of Scripture, we often are faced with what seems to be paradoxical teachings. For example, the Bible teaches that the first shall be last, suffering leads to glory, the poor in spirit receive the ultimate riches of the kingdom, etc. These apparent paradoxes beautifully draw our attention to the counter-cultural nature of the Christian life. Living like a Christian stands out against the way the world lives. It is counter-cultural.
One of the clearest (and yet often undervalued) counter-cultural teachings is the paradoxical lesson that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We are taught to rejoice and be happy over what is given to us. How many times and opportunities are we asked about what we received as gifts, or what we ourselves bought? We are trained to pursue the accumulation of wealth and possessions. But according to the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
I am not sure if you have ever thought much about why this principle is true in the Christian life. But I think there are at least three reasons why Christians must train themselves to be givers.
First, being a giver promotes humility and love.
We all have experienced that sinking feeling when we had to pay a massive bill, or pay the IRS their yearly due. The reason we get that feeling is because it is hard to give someone else your money, because you worked for it. You naturally don’t want to give your money to someone if you don’t think they deserve it. I suppose it is easy to give someone something if you think they deserve it.
But that is the point. Training yourself to be a giver no matter what is an important part of developing a mature loving attitude. Conditioning our action to be willing to give conditions are heart and soul to be able to give.
I know some people will not tip their servers unless they get excellent service. But let me ask you this—is that a giving attitude if you only give to those who are deserving in your estimation?
When we train ourselves to consider others more important than ourselves, even if they are not as deserving, it becomes easier to give. And when we are constantly training ourselves to give, then that attitude in turn helps promote love and humility, two of the most important Christian characteristics.
Second, being a giver models our new heart in Christ.
In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul contrasts the unbeliever and the believer. He chides those who act like unbelievers and says, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.” Then he begins in verse 25 to give practical application of what it looks like to live with a new heart.
Paul specifically talks about giving as being linked to the new man when he writes, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Eph 4:28). The new man works not to accumulate or hoard. The new man works so that he has the opportunity to bless others who are in need.
Third, being a giver paradoxically benefits us.
Sometimes it can almost be painful to give (especially if it is not adequately appreciated)! But the Bible promises that we will not go unrewarded for having a giving attitude, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).
According to Luke 6, not only will there be a return on the investment in giving, but it will lead to an overflow of blessing! One cannot outgive God. Although this is counterintuitive according to earthly logic, this is a black and white biblical principle. God is sovereign and in control of all things. He promises that those who give will be rewarded far above what they give. Ironically, it is not the giving or hoarding that guarantees wealth. As Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”
The importance of being a giver really hit home for me one day in 2014. I was in a small group where the pastor was fielding some questions on practical Christianity. In response to a question on practical importance, the pastor said that one of the most important things for a Christian is to learn to be a giver. As He fleshed out that idea, he noted, “The impact of your life is measured in direct relation to how much you give.”
In other words, in the Christian life, those who make the biggest impact for Christ are the ones who are willing to give up the most. God did not design us to live self-centered lives. We are designed and intended to be givers. This is exactly the attitude that Paul had, isn’t it? “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” (2 Cor 12:15).
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