Giving—What Is the Right Motive? – Part 2

Giving—What Is the Right Motive? – Part 2

by Ron Davis

What may help is to understand giving as a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines are practised because of what is in our hearts. If we love God, we will pray, read the Bible, gather with other believers, and … we will give. We also practise spiritual disciplines so that our love for God will grow, so that our hearts will be changed, and so that we’ll mature as believers. Wesley Willmer, in a discussion regarding the possibility of changing our souls for the better, speaks of how spiritual disciplines help us receive more of God’s life and power; they move us into a deeper spiritual relationship with Him.1 Richard Foster says that spiritual disciplines “… put us where [God] can work within us and transform us. …They are God’s means of grace.”2 It is what Paul speaks of when he talks about Christ being formed in us in Galatians 4:19—spiritual formation. Giving contributes to that spiritual formation. We give because, as a spiritual discipline, it has the power to form us and, with God’s help, to transform us. Giving is directly connected to our relationship with God. How we use our finances and possessions can move us toward God or drive us away from Him.

The right motive for giving comes from the heart. “It is … quite true that what one does with one’s money reveals where one’s heart is, and whether or not that heart has been transformed when a person claims to be a Christian. … the wealthy but godly patriarchs are all depicted as having shared generously with the needy. There was a connection between their spirituality and their generosity.”3 Generosity will reflect a changed heart and will also help facilitate the ongoing process of transformation.

The number one competitor for our heart is money, wealth and possessions—and it will be that way for the rest of our lives! Jesus knew this when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). It’s not that we deliberately set out to trust money; it’s the deceitfulness of money that does that to us. Probably one of the most tangible ways of expressing our trust in God in the realm of our finances is through practising the biblical principle of tithing.

Tithing, in its simplest form, is about honouring God. “Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops” (Proverbs 3:9). With this understanding of honouring the Lord, the principle of tithing can trace its roots all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where God stipulated there was one tree that was reserved exclusively for Him.

One of the best discussions I have come across with regard to the tithe is by Robert Morris, the author of The Blessed Life.4 Not only does he see the principle of tithing in the Garden of Eden, but also in the narrative of God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and His rejection of Cain’s offering. Abel brought the first and the best; Cain did not. Their practice directly affected their relationship with God. Reflecting on Jacob’s wrestling with God (Genesis 28:22), Morris asserts, “Jacob’s vow to tithe came straight from his grateful heart.”5 Even in the pre-law times, generosity was an outward expression of the transformed inner person. One of the most interesting parts of the tithe discussion by Morris is his reference to Hebrews 7:8, where he suggests the biblical writer is making the point that Abraham paid his tithe directly to Jesus. This lends a very personal dimension to our generosity, particularly our paying of tithes.

In essence, the tithe is paid out of a close relationship with God. The practice reflects honour to God, trust in God, and dependence on God. Let us remember, however, that the tithe is only a beginning place for generosity. It is a great place to start, but a terrible place to stop. There can be a strong temptation to make it a religious observance rather than an expression of the heart. This may be why we often hear the argument against the practice of tithing that asserts, “Tithing was the law; we are now under grace.” As Morris points out,6 the higher standard of righteousness expected under grace exceeds anything the Law would require (Matthew 5:17-20). When giving comes from the heart as an expression of gratitude and is rooted in relationship, it will never settle for just ten per cent.

Generosity comes from a transformed heart, one that has moved from worship of mammon to devotion to God. To be generous is to allow the character of God to be developed in us and revealed through us. “For God so loved … he gave…” (John 3:16). In giving, we are both emulating and demonstrating the divine character of God. It is Christ living in us and through us. It is building relationship with God. Spiritual maturity and generosity go hand in hand.

The reason that the offering plate is passed around at church and nowhere else is that, as the church community, we care about the relationship that each of us has with God. Providing opportunity to give is soul care. Every invitation to express generosity is a call to emulate the character of God, to draw closer to God, and to mature in our relationship with God.

Give

Read the first part of the chapter here. This article is an excerpt of a chapter that appeared in Generosity Changes Everything – Even Us (Mississauga, ON: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, January 2014). © 2014 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Ron Davis is the executive director of PAOC’s Pension Fund. To order this book, click here or call 905-542-7400 ext. 3223. Photo © istockphoto.com.

1. Wesley K. Willmer, God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul
(Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), 31.
2. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 1978. p.7
3. Ben Witherington III, Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 145.
4. Robert Morris, The Blessed Life: The Simple Secret of Achieving Guaranteed Financial Results
(Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2004), 29ff.
5. Ibid., 58.
6. Ibid., 54.

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