THE GIFT OF GIVING
by Leslie Flynn
A man on a hike came to a steep incline. When he said that it
was too high to climb, his companion snatched the protestor's
wallet from his pocket and tossed it atop the rise. In a flash
the man scrambled up the incline to retrieve his wallet.
A man was about to be baptized in a river. Suddenly he ran back out of the water explaining that he had forgotten to give his wallet to his wife. The preacher called, "Come on back with the wallet. I've got too many unbaptized pocketbooks in my congregation now."
Money is a touchy subject. Someone said that the most sensitive nerve in humans is the one that leads to the pocketbook. The Bible has much to say about money and stewardship. One of the gifts listed by the Apostle Paul is the gift of giving. "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity". (Rom. 12:8).
EVERYBODY IS TO GIVE
Throughout this book the point is repeatedly made that absence
of a gift does not excuse failure to obey a command in the area
of that gift. For example, a person who does not have the gift of
evangelism is not exempt from the command to witness. Similarly,
a person who does not have the gift of giving is not released
from giving. He cannot say, "Great-never again must I put
anything on the offering plate, nor give to my church or
missionaries." On the contrary, all - with or without the
gift of giving - are to give. In fact, the minimal amount each
believer should give is taught in the Bible: the tithe (10
Some object to tithing. They claim it is legalistic and was annulled by the cross. Such objectors fall into two categories: those with bad motives and those with good motives. Those with wrong motives oppose tithing because they wish to escape the duty of giving 10 percent of their income. Free from the law of tithing, they give little or nothing. Their desire to escape the legalism of tithing is just a cover-up for covetousness.
Those who object to tithe teaching from good motive fear that
such instruction may lull people into thinking that when they
have given a tenth they have done all God requires in the area of
financial stewardship. They are concerned lest emphasis on
tithing lead people to selfishly regard the 90 percent remaining
as their own. This dries up the springs of generous giving and
undercuts the glorious doctrine of stewardship and views
everything we have as God's, not just 10 percent.
To allay such fears, it should be pointed out that the tithe is a beginning point for giving. If a person under law was required to give 10 percent, should not those under grace give gladly and gratefully above and beyond the legal tithe?
The claim that tithing is legalistic has its problems, for
Abraham and Jacob spoke of the tithe centuries before Moses' Law
was given. Because the tithe is mentioned from Genesis to
Malachi, would not Paul's readers have a pretty good idea of what
minimum to give when he wrote, "Upon the first day of the
week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath
prospered him"? (1 Cor.16:2).
Certainly no one failing to give a tithe to the Lord's work could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be exercising the gift of giving. In fact, he is really robbing God (Mal. 3:8-10). But, on the other hand, the gift of giving involves far more than just tithing.
WHAT IS THE GIFT OF GIVING?
Paul says that the gift of giving involves giving "with simplicity" (Rom. 12:8). Simplicity, an interesting word, has been translated many ways. Literally, it means without folds - as a piece of cloth unfolded - and is rendered simplicity, singleness of mind, mental honesty, without pretense. When one gives from such openness of heart, one donates freely, with delight. Moreover, he gives generously, with liberality. Simplicity in Romans 12:8 has been translated in all of the above ways by one version or another.
The person with the gift of giving will give with singleness of mind. No ulterior motive will ruffle the cloth of his mind to make a fold or two in it. He will not give to salve a conscience uneasy because of the way he acquired his money. Nor will he give to gain something in return. Sending a gift, we might sign "love", but never "I am giving this so that you will admire me." Nor do we give for public show, as did the Pharisees who blew trumpets so people would be alerted to watch them bestow their gifts. The person who will not donate unless his name is inscribed on the stained-glass window or engraved on the cornerstone doesn't understand Christ's command not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). The gift of giving permits no alloy of self-seeking in the coin of our gift.
The gift of giving involves giving freely, with delight, and
with love. The January issue of a magazine carried an amusing
cartoon. A dirty-looking beggar, extending his hat for a handout,
carries a placard which reads, "To give after Christmas -
that is true compassion." Real giving is not limited to
times and seasons or to a whim of the moment. It reaches from a
Paul told the Corinthians to give "not grudgingly, or of necessity" (2 Cor. 9:7). The person with the gift of giving will not say, "Oh, if I go to that service they'll take an offering", or, "Here comes the plate; I'll have to put something in, much as it hurts me." The gift of giving does not create a funeral atmosphere at offering time. Rather, one gives cheerfully, "for God loveth a cheerful giver." The Greek word cheerful gives us our English hilarious. The gift of giving cheerfully back to Him who has given so much for and to us.
The gift of giving results in liberality. One night during a Billy Graham crusade in Madison Square Garden, a well-known underworld character walked in with four bodyguards, who sat two on each side of him. At offering time these men looked to their leader to see what to do. He said, "This is on me, men." Then he pulled from his wallet a roll of $ 100 bills. (Two members of the Billy Graham team sitting in the row behind reported, "The wad was thick enough to choke a cow.") The underworld character went through these $ 100 bills till he came to a $ 1 bill, which he put in the plate.
If this incident were not so lamentable, it would be
laughable. The gift was deficient on two major counts. It didn't
come from a regenerate heart, and it was not liberal by any
stretch of the imagination. The gesture of bare tipping must not
be confused with true generosity. Much so-called giving insults
God because of its smallness in proportion to capacity to give.
Two Christian lepers in the Orient took a third leper into their hut at a government leprosarium because no official housing was then available. Already the two were existing on a trifle more than starvation rations. When asked how they could possibly feed a third, they replied that though they received rice for two, somehow they would make it do for three. Was no this true liberality?
Another facet of the gift of giving is that God's work will be helped. We must not give carelessly and indiscriminately, scattering to every person or group which begs. Rather, by investigation, we will see to it that legitimate needs are met. Donations will not flow in response to emotional or sentimental appeals, nor be granted foolishly, but will be based on careful inquiry.
Summing up, the gift of giving is the God-given ability, perhaps to earn, certainly to give money for the progress of God's work with such care and cheer that the recipients are fortified. God has given some men large possessions because He can trust them to use their assets in divine service. These believers are special stewards. One California pastor remarked that men with money often approach him about financing some ministry at considerable cost to themselves. They derive genuine joy from seeing God work through their gifts. This pastor commented that it's hard to mention a cause without these people wanting to give to it.
This same willing spirit prevailed when poverty continued to
rear its head in the early church. Property owners sold lands or
houses, then donated the proceeds to alleviate need. Barnabas was
not only a personification of the gift of encouragement but also
the possessor of the gift of giving; he is singled out for
special mention as one who sold land and brought the money to the
apostles (Acts 4:34-37).
Some men give liberally of their profits, once personal expenses have been met, giving far beyond any tenth.
Most American Christians have heard of R.G. LeTourneau,
designer and manufacturer of heavy earth-moving equipment. His
machinery transformed 5.000 acres of marshland into New York's
Idlewild (now Kennedy) Airport, tore open the wilderness for the
Alaskan Highway, made airstrips for the landing of the first
Allied fighter planes on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and
cleared the debris from bombed-out European cities after World
In the early years of his business, LeTourneau went into partnership with God. By this he did not lower grace to the level of a bargain. Rather he said, "Because I believe that God wants businessmen as well as preachers to be His servants, I believe that a factory can be dedicated to His service as well as a church." In 1935 he irrevocably assigned over 90 percent of the company's profits to the LeTourneau Foundation, described as a "not-for-profit corporation whose income and capital can be used only for the cause of Christ". (Moving Heaven and Earth, Donald Ackland, Iversen-Ford Associates, New York).
From the minute LeTourneau made God his business partner, things started to go. In the first fifteen years, the foundation gave over $ 2.5 million to other organizations engaged in Christian work, and kept over $ 2.25 million in its own program of evangelistic ministries. Countless Christian schools and organizations in America have been the recipients of his gift of giving. Scarcely a mission field exists in all five continents where some devoted worker has not been aided through money from this foundation. Altogether, millions of dollars have been given to further the Lord's work.
Power magazine related the story of Albert Archibald who in 1929, with the Depression just around the corner, borrowed money to purchase nearly 2,000 acres of seemingly poor land in western Canada. Through foresight and hard work, he developed the land till today it stands among the most valuable farmlands in the Canadian "wheat basket"- Saskatchewan. With the same vision he adopted the amazing personal goal of acquiring and giving away - to Christian organizations - the sum of $ 1 million.
Through the years he distributed thousands of dollars to a
tract organization, thousands more to the Christian and
Missionary Alliance, and sizable donations to other missionary
societies. One type of work has particularly appealed to
Archibald: the Bible training schools and colleges of western
Canada. Chief recipients have been: Briercrest Bible Institute,
Caronport, Saskatchewan; Prairie Bible Institute, Three Hills,
Alberta; and Canadian Bible College, Regina, Saskatchewan. To
this latter school he has given nearly half a million at crucial
periods, making possible its steady growth.
At the time of the Power article (September 1971) Archibald, 80, a widower living alone in a modest home, had already given nearly $ 900,000 to Christian organizations. Certainly he has the gift of giving.
On U.S. 30 outside Lima, Ohio, stands a building 200 feet
long. In stainless steel lettering on solid stone, passersby can
read, CHRIST IS THE ANSWER. Stanley Tam, founder of States
Smelting and Refining Corporation and of a second company, United
States Plastic, in early life had an insatiable thirst for making
money. Through his conversion and growth in the Christian life,
this thirst was transformed into the desire to give money to the
As his business began to prosper, he wanted to make God his Senior Partner. Legal papers were drawn up to turn over 51 percent of his business to the Lord. Later he upped the amount to 60 percent, then in 1955 to 100 percent. The stock in his corporation is not owned by Tam or by any member of his family, but is controlled by Stanita Foundation, a nonprofit corporation whose sole purpose is to dispense funds for Christian work around the world. If Tam wanted to regain control of the two firms, he would have to buy back stock from that corporation.
The foundation gets all sorts of requests for financial aid. The three trustees carefully seek God's guidance and dispense funds to projects they have personally sought out and about which they have asked the Lord's guidance. Tam points out that God is not a blind man with a tin cup. Every believer, whether he has a mite or a million, must seek divine direction in his giving. Stanita Foundation, which some years has received over $ 250,000 supports more than twenty foreign missionaries, and has a special interest in Christian education of nationals overseas.
The gift of giving is not confined to the rich. Paul spoke of
the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia who gave
in the midst of great trial and out of deep poverty to help the
poor in Judea (2 Cor. 8:1-2). The Philippian church, which
evidenced the gift of giving by its repeated and solicitous
financial help to the Apostle Paul, probably had members of
modest or small means. How frequently today people with minimal
income want to give to every worthy cause the church undertakes!
They show zeal in giving sacrificially.
I sometimes think my parents had the gift of giving. Tithers all their Christian lives, even during depression and unemployment, they gave over and above. As a boy at Christmastime, I well remember my mother walking blocks to deliver money and food to poor families. Also at Christmas they gave personal gifts to many missionaries.
In the summer of 1972, a few weeks before both my father and
mother passed away within six weeks of each other, both
eighty-nine years of age, they asked me, while on a visit to
their home, to do an errand. Unable to attend church since the
previous March, they wanted me to deliver their offering
envelopes to their local church. On the way I counted an envelope
for every one of the twenty-three Sundays they had missed church.
Both were hospitalized six weeks later, and on my return I found
six more envelopes all made out for the church.
Folks in charge of a local mission office told me how my father, less than a week before he was hospitalized, blind in one eye and a cataract in the other, stumbled across the main street of a city of 300,000 during rush 5 p.m. traffic to bring his monthly gift. They helped him back across the busy street, wondering how he could make it home.
Just before an ambulance drove up to take my mother to the
hospital, barely able to walk and with speech somewhat slurred by
a stroke, she told me of a black bank book in a certain drawer,
whispering, "That's the Lord's money. Everything in it
belongs to Him!"
Giving is a grace that can be cultivated. Perhaps as you advance from victory to victory in the realm of stewardship, you will discover a Spirit-bestowed ability and delight in using temporal possessions for God's glory and man's good.
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