A few weeks ago we started a series of blogs about things that may be misunderstood or not taught well. The tithe was the first subject, and while we say casually that we give the tithe, we are actually returning to God what is His. When we talk about giving, it is either an offering or a gift, and both of these are given above and beyond the tithe. Gifts are the focus of this article.

     Giving is a great thing. Unlike the tithe it doesn’t come from a sense of duty. Unlike offerings, there isn’t some expectation or response attached to it, if it’s done with the right attitude. Giving is a sign of love and compassion. And one of the greatest things about giving is that it isn’t restricted to material things. You can give time, attention, and even hugs in addition to money or food. Whatever you are giving, though, please hear this one principle that applies across the board: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2 Cor 9:6).

      Its not what you give; it’s how you give. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is addressing an issue with that church that I have found is common in my own experience. The Corinthian church had made the decision to give a gift of support to the church in Jerusalem. In fact they were initially extremely excited about the prospect. After the birth of the idea though, the church had trouble following through. They seemed to lose interest as the excitement wore off. Paul had already boasted about what they were doing and was unwilling to let them all be embarrassed. His solution was to send a few leaders to aid them in finishing out what they had planned.

     One thing that Paul was quick to make known was that he wasn’t forcing anyone to give. He encouraged them that they should not give out of mandate or compulsion but out of the generosity that is within them. “God loves a cheerful giver.” Notice this verse isn’t talking about the tithe, but about the overflow of abundance in our lives. Whatever we decide to give to others should always be done with joy. The attitude surrounding the giving is just as important as the gift. When joy and generosity are attached to something given, something happens that we can’t see. That joy and generosity is passed to the receiver. Seeds are sown that God uses to transform lives. Inversely, if we give out of compulsion or with a sour attitude, then that is what we sow and we do more damage to the heart than we do good in the physical.

     When gifts are given, not only will the person receiving the gift be changed, but the giver will be blessed. Don’t read this as a promise that giving money means you will get money back. What it means is that when we give, God supernaturally pours out His blessing on the giver. It could be money, but it could also be more joy, more peace, more love, or any number of other intangible gifts that God gives us. Our role is to keep our motivations right and give from joy and love not from greed or manipulation.

     When giving is done with Godly motivation and seeds of joy and generosity are sown, then our purpose is fulfilled as God is given glory. The receiver of the gift gives thanks. The giver overflows with blessing. Both point their gratitude to our Father. This is praise and worship at it’s root: the overflow of the heart as God moves in His people!

     So why do we not give more often? If nothing negative or bad can come from giving, where is all the generosity? Like the Corinthians, we tend to love a good idea and will jump at the chance to be a part of something that can change lives. Yet our lives get in the way. We make plans but fail to execute. Once the emotional high wears away we find a stack of excuses covering our commitment to follow through. I urge you to remember what the writer of Hebrews told us about Jesus: “Because of the joy awaiting him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” Our greatest example is to look beyond the circumstance, beyond the material world, and see the joy that is on the other side of giving and bless those God has called us to bless. The result is God’s blessing for all.