Giving

Giving Tuesday: The Biblical Principle Behind a Secular Holiday

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As a child, Christmas Day was the one time of year I would gladly wake up early. My brother and I would slide down the banister (against my mother’s persistent commands not to) and race toward the Christmas tree. While we waited for my parents to wake up, we marveled at all the gifts, and we'd nudge the boxes to see if we could guess what was inside. I just knew Addy, the American Girl Doll I wanted, was waiting for me.

If I’m honest, Christmas was exciting because we knew we would get a lot of toys. And if we’re all honest, this is probably where our hearts naturally lean. We’re prone to focus more on what we can get rather than what we can give. But when the Bible talks about giving, it almost always places a strong emphasis on the heart of the giver and the blessing it is to give.

Even the world recognizes this truth, in some respects. Giving Tuesday is known as a global day of giving that seeks to “connect diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving."

It’s wisely situated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and right in the mix of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It was started, in part, as a response to the consumeristic nature that marks the holiday season.  Though Giving Tuesday wasn't started as an explicitly Christian movement, it gets at the heart of Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

THE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE BEHIND GIVING TUESDAY

If that principle is true, then both giving and receiving are good things. But if you had to choose one, Scripture says it’s better to give.

Do we really believe this, though? Our natural inclination is to hold on to what God has given us. We may wrongly assume that because God has given us wisdom, wealth, or influence, those are ours to use for our comfort on this side of glory.

While our natural inclination may be to withhold, God has given us our time, talents, and treasures to be a blessing to others. When God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would be as vast as the stars in the sky, he ends his promise by saying “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through [him]” (Gen. 12:3).

God was not just blessing Abraham so that he would accrue wealth, status, and influence (although he did have those). God was blessing Abraham so that he would be a blessing to the world. God’s blessing Abraham was not an end in itself. It was the means by which God would bless others.

Giving Tuesday is beautiful in its attempt to fight against our natural inclination to get more during the holiday (and every) season. Instead of asking how we might get our children, spouse, or friends the latest and greatest gifts, maybe we should ask how we can give to those that can give nothing back to us? Perhaps we should be asking how we can serve, love, and care for those on the margins of our society? Giving Tuesday campaigns provide spaces to answer these questions and to turn our questions into actions in the context of community.

GIVING IN COMMUNITY

In the west, we often view giving as an individual act. In December, my husband and I write our end-of-the-year donations to the nonprofits we support, and we usually pray for their work during this time. This is good, appropriate, and necessary, but Giving Tuesday has challenged me in the communal effort and impact of giving.

Giving Tuesday emphasizes whole communities that are working together toward causes that impact their cities through their “community campaign." In Charlotte, NC, the SHARE Charlotte community campaign raised $7 million for 235 Charlotte nonprofits in 2017. There’s something beautiful about collaborative community efforts that seek to push back the effects of sin in small ways.

We see similar efforts in God’s Word. In 2 Cor. 8-9, Paul exhorts the churches in Corinth to continue to give their resources to the persecuted saints in Jerusalem. This petition was not an uncommon practice for Paul (see 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–9:15; Rom. 15:25). Throughout his letters, we learn that Paul raised money among Gentile churches for Jewish believers. Paul's efforts were evidence of God’s grace to his people since they historically did not get along.

In the case of Paul’s letters, these were groups of people (local churches) that were giving together for the good of God’s people in other locations and the advancement of his Kingdom.

Furthermore, these examples show us there is more than one way to give. Some may provide financially, like the Corinthians church’s offering to the believers in Jerusalem. Others, like Paul, may give of their time by volunteering with an organization. And some may provide talents they have to offer.

Whether you are giving your time, talents, or treasures, what might it look like for our generosity to exceed writing individual checks at the end of the year to include tangibly working alongside others to help the weak?

WHERE GIVING TUESDAY FALLS SHORT

In the SHARE Charlotte Giving Tuesday campaign video, a woman said they wanted to give people an easy way to do good. Giving Tuesday is a good and noble cause, but it falls short where many good works that are done apart from Christ fall short.

God does not just care about what we do, he also cares about why we do it. It’s not enough to give our time, talents, and treasures. The motive behind our giving matters.

The motivation of the Christian’s giving should be different. We are generous stewards because Christ has been generous to us. The God of the universe, who was rich in every regard, generously made himself poor so that we might become rich. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9).

GIVING IS WHO WE ARE

If there ever was good work, this is it—Jesus Christ laying down your life for his people (John 15:13). So, when we give, it is not just out of a motivation to do good. When we are generous to others, it’s because the most magnificent and undeserved gift has been given to us—salvation in Jesus Christ. It is from this salvation that our generosity flows.

Because of what Christ has done for us, Christians give beyond Giving Tuesday. Giving is not just what we do; giving is who we are.

We give because of what, in Christ, has been given to us. We give because we know that it is better to give than to receive. We give because, he who did not spare his own Son will, in him, graciously give us all things (Rom 8:32).


SharDavia “Shar” Walker lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Paul. She serves on staff with Campus Outreach, an interdenominational college ministry, and enjoys sharing her faith and discipling college women to be Christian leaders. Shar is a writer and a speaker and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Christian Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Best Generosity Story Ever

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I don’t think that this will be a huge shock to you, but human beings aren’t naturally generous. If sin causes us to live for ourselves, and it does, then one result of this obsessive self-focus is the effect it has on the way we think about and use our money. For most of us, the thing that drives the vast majority of our joys and sorrows when it comes to money is what it’s doing or not doing for us.

When we think of money, we tend to think first of ourselves: what do I need, what do I want, what dream can this money finance, what would I like to do that I have never done before, etc. I am not suggesting that we are never generous but that, for most of us, when it comes to money, generosity is a snapshot in a long video of self-interest.

A STORY OF GENEROSITY

But the biblical story is a generosity story. No words capture the essence of this story better than these: “For God so loved the world, that he gave . . .” (John 3:16). Having money in the proper place in your heart and life is not just about good budgeting and freedom from debt; the biblical standard is much higher. You know you have money in the right place in your heart when the culture of acquisition has been replaced in your heart with a culture of generosity, where joy in giving overwhelms joy in getting. Could it be that the primary purpose for money in your life is not that you would live but that, as God has lavishly done in your life, you would give? Could it be that we need something fundamentally deeper than a commitment to a good budget and reasonable spending? Could it be that what we really need is a brand-new understanding of the purpose for money, one driven by the gospel story?

Let’s unpack the generosity story, which runs throughout the main body of Scripture. It really is true that the narrative in the Bible is a story of God’s giving, giving, and giving again. If you read your Bible through the lens of generosity, you will be blown away by how lavishly generous your Lord is.

THE GENEROSITY OF CREATION

How can you even summarize the incredible gift of the physical creation? Whether it is the beauty of a sunset; the design of animals of every color, shape and size; the beauty of a single flower, we have been blessed way beyond our ability to recount.

In creating the world, God created a means by which we would be aware of him and learn things about him. One of the most precious things about the gift of creation is that it was purposefully designed to reveal the most important thing ever—the existence and character of God. Creation is the generosity of God on physical display for all to see.

THE GENEROSITY OF THE COVENANT

Hear these amazing words that God spoke to Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2–3). This covenant confounds the normal way we think of things. It confronts us with the fact that God makes covenant with us, with all of those glorious promises, not because of what is in us but because of what is in him.

Thus it is with generosity. Generosity is the result not of the good in the one receiving but in the good-heartedness of the one giving. His response to wayward, idolatrous human beings is to lavish the blessings of his presence and promises on them, blessings and promises that not one of them would ever have the ability to earn. God’s covenant blessings and promises are his generosity on display.

THE GENEROSITY OF FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY

It’s the loving generosity of God that would cause him to raise up Moses and harness the forces of creation to be faithful to the promises that he made to Abraham and his descendants. Whereas our generosity is fickle and often failing, but not the Lord’s. His generosity is faithful and perseverative, so he never ever forgets, fails, or turns his back on anything he has promised. With a generous and faithful heart, the Lord unleashed his almighty power in a display like the world had never seen before and rescued his children from captivity, defeating the feared army of Pharaoh on the way. Because God makes generous promises, he is generous in the use of his power to fulfill those promises.

THE GENEROSITY OF THE CROSS AND FORGIVING GRACE

This really is the ultimate definition of generosity. There is nothing that could compete with Christ’s willingness to suffer injustice, torture, and death for us. What could be more generous than for a perfect man to be willing to bear the penalty of people who ignore his presence, steal his glory, and rebel against his divine authority? But Jesus wasn’t just willing; he found joy in doing so. So it is with generosity, which is never begrudging, never forced, and motivated more by joy than by duty.

THE GENEROSITY OF ETERNITY

Not only does God generously bless us with spiritual riches in the here and now, but he invites us to an eternity that is rich beyond our imagination. In generous love, he opens to us the doors of the new heavens and the new earth, where sin, suffering, and sorrow will be no more, and we will live in peace and harmony with him and one another forever without end.

It really is true that the great redemptive narrative is itself the world’s best and most important generosity story. This means that your hope in life and death rests on the fact that your Lord is a bountifully generous King, who sent his Son to set up a kingdom marked by its generosity of love, grace, forgiveness, daily mercy, and the faithful supply of all we need. So when he invites and calls us to seek his kingdom rather than work to store up physical earthly treasures, he is calling us not just to value spiritual things more than we value earthly things, but to be part of his generosity mission on earth. So much of the way sincere Christians look at money, finances, and budgeting seems to miss this gospel theology of generosity.

THE GOSPEL OF GENEROSITY

Without this gospel theology of generosity, discussions of money become about how to steward what God has given you, how to keep out of debt, how to fulfill your contracted financial obligations, how to have financial stability, how to anticipate your financial needs upon retirement, and how to ensure that you give God a tithe. None of these things is wrong, and all of them are helpful in some way, but the whole plan is devoid of the larger considerations of the call to be God’s ambassadors on earth. The normal plan is functionally devoid of gospel perspective and vision, and because it is, it focuses money and finances on personal need rather than on God’s grand gospel agenda.

Could it be that when it comes to finances, we have the whole thing upside down? When we think of money, we tend to think of it as God’s primary means of providing for us and, oh, yes, he has called us to give. Could it be that Scripture teaches that God’s primary purpose for money is that we would be tools of his generosity mission on earth, and, oh, yes, he also uses it to daily provide for us? Matthew 6:19–34 sets up a clear contrast between storing earthly treasures while obsessing about personal needs and seeking God’s kingdom. Jesus teaches that financial sanity begins with believing that you really do have a heavenly Father who will supply what you need. The radical message of Jesus is that that burden is his and not ours.


Content taken from Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Paul David Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization. He has been married for many years to Luella and they have four grown children. For more information and resources visit paultrippministries.org.

Pinched by Generosity

Generosity and the Good Life

As Americans, we are born and bred on a version of the “good life.” Wal-Mart proclaims, “Save money, live better,” suggesting the more money we have, the better our lives will be. We pine to get that startup venture we’ve been financing off the ground, get paid the big bucks to do what we love, find that “perfect” home in which to raise a family, or save a huge nest egg so we feel safe and secure—financially, at least. We are told if we just seize the day (“carpe diem”), work hard, be smart with our finances, and clutch to the “land of opportunity,” we can be whoever and own whatever our hearts desire. Is this truly the good life?

Do we not more frequently hear the stories of feeling stressed out, over worked, in debt, or simply discontent? How often do we hear of material struggles due to finances? You may ask, “Is there something wrong with me wanting to invest in a small business? Should I not save for future purchases or retirement? Is it wrong of me to take ahold of the good opportunities that come my way?” Not necessarily. Perhaps you are not asking the right questions. It’s like the teenager asking about sex, “How far is too far?” Instead, you should ask, “What is the implication of being in Christ while living in a city of great comfort and wealth?” “What does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus in a city continually providing opportunities to consume?” Or maybe you should ask, “What does it mean to be generous in the midst of my piles of bills and debt, or limited income?”

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Paul commends the church of Macedonia for its generous collection and calls the Corinthians to share in God’s grace through their generosity towards the Christians in Jerusalem. Much like we see in our great city of Austin (or any thriving, contemporary city), Corinth was an urban center of the region. It thrived off of a strong, flourishing economy and the peoples’ enjoyment of its pleasures. Corinth was modern, booming, and trendy. Opportunity and the hope for the good life filled the air and people inhaled the gratifications of this prosperous city. As such, Paul challenged the Corinthians’ default view of wealth, status, and their definition of the good life. In this passage, Paul plunges into the theological underpinnings of generosity.

Sowing Bountifully, Reaping Bountifully

Paul shares a familiar old farming principle “…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (v. 6). Paul is not preaching a prosperity gospel to the Corinthians. Some use this passage as a proof text and, unfortunately, ignore Paul’s further words; they simply believe if I give, I will get. “Well, God I gave you 5% more last month. Where is my raise, the job you were supposed to provide . . . what about helping me pay this tax bill I just received from the IRS?” This belief demeans the core of Paul’s exhortation of the Corinthians. It appeals to a selfish, materialistic theology rather than to a theology of sacrificial, selfless generosity. When interacting with God in this manner, we move the focus from God to ourselves. We become more concerned with what we have received (or haven’t received) versus what we have been given. We miss the tremendous generosity and provisions that have already been graciously handed down to us. Paul does not provide the Corinthians a shrewd investment strategy for them to accumulate wealth nor is he teaching the key to negotiating and getting what you want from God. Rather, Paul reveals that through their willing generosity, they are participating in God’s generosity and provision, bringing glory to God—the source of all grace.

Farmers aren’t stingy with the seeds they sow because they know their harvest will continue to produce seed for further planting. For a farmer, sowing a lot of seed is not considered a loss, but rather gain. Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (vv. 11-12). God could provide everyone’s needs without us, but he chooses to allow us to participate in his generosity. He provides for our needs, and then he “enriches” us for the sake of generosity. And if we remain generous, he will continue to enrich us so that there will be much fruit from our giving. This is what Paul means when he says, “Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully!”

Generosity, It’s a Heart Issue

What the Corinthians are to do as believers is clear in Paul’s mind, but he does not explicitly command them. Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart” (v. 7). Paul goes out of his way to avoid giving the impression that he is trying to force them to give. He knows that if they comply with his appeal, they will do so out of obedience and love towards Christ rather than obedience to him. The implication is that we give willingly, thoughtfully, and joyfully.

C.S. Lewis makes this keen observation,

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.”

When did you last say “no” to something because of your commitment to generosity? Do you sit down, pray, and discuss your giving and if you are being pinched by your generosity?

We should routinely seek the Holy Spirit in our giving. Families need to do this together. Parents, you should include your children. Let them see true generosity. Let them in on how your family is being pinched by its commitment to God to be generous. Ask God to pinch your idea of comfort and security, and pray for your church, your city, world missions, and church planters. Also, consider sharing this with your Fight Club or City Group. Ask them to challenge the heart motives behind your giving. Share your fears and complacencies about giving. Let the Holy Spirit break down the money barrier.

Often times we do not enjoy discussing money because we all lean towards spending more on ourselves rather than others and God. Let the gospel in to work on your heart. Generosity is not just a money matter, it’s a gospel matter! The gospel should transform your heart and its views of spending, saving, and giving. It’s not simply about the amount you give, but it is about the condition of your heart from which you give. Are you giving out of joy or pressure? Do you not give so that you remain comfortable/secure or are you willing to be pinched by your generosity? It’s a heart issue . . . one that only the gospel can restore.

God Loves a Cheerful Giving

Paul continues, “. . . not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” When you give with a begrudging heart or merely out of pressure or necessity, you sow sparingly, unwillingly, and cheerlessly. Your gifts no longer come from a cheerful, hopeful heart for God and his mission, but rather a self-centered, self-worshipping heart that looks to yourself and your rights. “I’m a hard worker. I’m ‘wise’ with money. I save. And I give what I’m supposed to give. Am I not owed a little to buy the things I want. After all, I did work for it!”

Partner—GCD—450x300Paul says, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (v. 10). “Now, wait a second, I went and bought the seed myself, and it was my hands that kneaded the dough.” We forget what we have is not owed to us, but rather was the righteous provision and generosity of God.

Miroslav Volf in Free of Charge gives the illustration of an interaction between a little boy and his father: “Daaad! Where’s my milk?” screams the little boy. He’s bothered that the glass of milk is not in his hand the moment he requested it. No need for “please” or “thank you” because that is why dads and moms exist, to serve him, at least in his little mind. The boy has yet to learn that much of what his mom and dad do for him is out of their generosity. They don’t owe it to him. I’m sure many parents can relate to this. Like the little boy, his dad too often makes the same mistake. He forgets that his money, job, every provision, even the demanding little boy are not somehow owed to him. They are God’s generosity and provision. Like the dad, we easily forget that all of it is God’s gift.

Perhaps you find yourself on the other side thinking, “Things are financially tight right now, so I can’t be generous. God, when you bless me with financial security I’ll start being generous.” In either scenario, you give your leftovers—assuming there are leftovers. Giving cheerfully of your first fruits acknowledges that God has bestowed his perfect generosity upon you and is your sole source of provision. David Garland, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians, says,

“Reluctance to sow generously, then, reflects a refusal to trust that God is all sufficient and all gracious. It also assumes that we can only give when we are prospering and have something extra that we will not need for ourselves. Paul says that at all times God provides us with all that we need so there is never any time when we cannot be generous.”

Paul’s point is “God loves a cheerful giver because he, himself, is the Cheerful Giver!”

God, the Cheerful Giver

How do we not give from our last fruits, but cheerfully, willingly, faithfully with hopeful anticipation? Paul says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (v. 8). He says, “God loves cheerful givers, and God makes it possible for you to be a cheerful giver!” Why? Because God is the Cheerful Giver! Now, this doesn’t mean wait until you are ecstatic to give. It means we can repent of finding too much comfort in our financial security and materialism rather than the comfort of God’s perfect generosity. It means we can turn in cheerful repentance to God because he’s given us the greatest gift ever—Jesus Christ!

God did not have to redeem, restore, and bring us into his eternal generosity, “but he so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” because he is the Cheerful Giver! God the Father brings us into his perfect generosity through Jesus! Paul had just finished saying in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” How often do you consider yourself rich? How often do you wake up to the reality of your wealth and provision in Christ? Or how often do you wake desiring more and feeling discontent? People who, in faith, are pinched by their generosity, it’s not because they are merely obligated, it’s because their faith is in Jesus who was pinched, squeezed, and crushed so that we would be lavished by his generous grace! What’s more when we are pinched by the generosity of God’s grace it shines the glory of God in Christ (2 Cor. 9:13)! “[By the evidence of this service], they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.” A false prosperity gospel teaches, “You need to give in order to get,” but God, the Cheerful Giver, says, “I’ve already given you provision for your every need—spiritually, physically, financially, simply because it’s my nature and I love you! This may even include giving you less financially in order to give you more spiritually, to truly enrich you so that you may abound in good works!”

Paul says, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (v. 15). Paul doesn’t offer thanks to the Corinthians for being supportive to Paul’s exhortation and opening their wallets to one another. Rather, he appropriately directs it to God in Christ, the giver of all perfect gifts, who was pinched, squeezed, and crushed so that we could enter, share, and participate in his generosity! You want to live as you are in Christ, and be a part of God’s work and mission, be generous! You want God to use you and multiple you in good works, cheerfully and freely give. You really want the good life? Let your comfort be pinched by God’s generosity. Saying “no” because of your commitment to generosity is Christ saying “no” so that that his generosity spreads to the world.

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will free you from the bondage of materialism and wealth accumulation into selfless giving, (not because of your ability but) because of God’s infinite selfless generosity . . . that you feel the pinch of God’s call to be a generous people. We give because God first gave! That’s living a good life.

Austin Becton and his wife, Caitlin, live in Austin, Texas where he serves as treasurer of City Life Church and board member of GCDiscipleship.com. An accounting consultant by trade, he partners with churches, non-profits, and small to mid-size companies. He is currently pursuing an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. Twitter: @AustinBecton