Giving Graciously From the Heart
It is that giving time of the year. Are you giving in the right way according to scripture? Do you give graciously from your heart?
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(Background scripture – Zechariah 7:8-14)
“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. – Deuteronomy 15:7-8 NKJV
Giving is important
It is that giving time of the year; how we choose to give says a lot about our heart. You can choose to give graciously, grudgingly, or out of necessity – there is actually only one right way. Again, I say, how you give speaks volumes about your heart (soul).
We say, during this time of year especially, “sharing is caring”. When you are sharing something, you are giving away something in essence (be it temporary or permanently). When giving is brought up, especially in the church, money seems to be the first thing that comes to mind. I have never really understood why this is the case, and I feel I must share something with you about this.
(Acts 3:1-6) There was a lame man who would lay at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem that would ask alms of those passing by. One day both of the disciples, Peter and John, were heading to the temple. When the lame man saw both Peter and John he look at them, expecting them to give him something. Peter told the lame man, “Silver and gold, I do not have.” Not everybody has money to give away, right? Don’t feel like you are obligated to give away what you don’t have! What Peter did have that day was the name of Jesus Christ and he shared that name with the lame man when he told him to rise and walk – I believe all believers have or should have His name in their mouth!
So, what do we give? What can we give? How do we give? (2 Corinthians 9:7) When we give, we should give according to what we purpose in our heart – we should be cheerful (at peace) in our giving. We should not give grudgingly, reluctantly, or even out of necessity (feeling obligated). We go wrong when we give out of the wrong place in our heart. We are charged to love everybody, by Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we do choose to give, we should be gracious to others just as our heavenly Father is gracious to us.
I have found this to be very hard for many believers to understand when it comes to giving. The confusion is over the idea of loving (caring for) “everybody”. How can we love those that do not love us? How can we care for somebody that does not care for us? We must remember, as the apostle Paul said, we give according to what we purpose in our heart. Sometimes, we are not in a happy place to give of ourselves, therefore we should not give if our giving is going to be done grudgingly, reluctantly, and out of the wrong place in our heart. That is certainly a prayer we have to pray on, to get our hearts right when the next opportunity presents itself to us to give.
The command to care, not brand new
The idea of caring, sharing, and giving is not something that is brand new to us. In fact, when we take a look at the Mosaic Law, we see that the idea of caring for others was included in the law. In our key verse, from Deuteronomy 15:7-8, we see that the children of Israel are told not to harden their hearts or shut their hands to the poor; they were to provide whatever it was the poor needed. The idea is that, if they would help the least in their land that all people would be cared for.
We argue about this same thing in our nation today, and it is an absolutely ridiculous argument – especially when it comes to the faith. I understand the politics, but supposedly many people in Washington DC are God fearing people. Scripture is absolutely clear on how we should treat the less fortunate and those in need. Frankly, we believers seem to pick and choose the scripture that we like and ignore everything else.
We as Christians should not think that the idea of caring for the less fortunate does not somehow include us because we do not live under the law but under grace. Grace, in fact, is the concept of loving one another as Christ has loved us – caring for others is certainly a Christian ideal. We should share graciously, care graciously, and love each other graciously! I also want to note Deuteronomy 15:10, in that the Lord promises to bless the works of all of those that open their hand and not harden their heart to the poor – this, while promised in the law, is also very true for Christians as well (I will show you later).
Let’s look at Israel’s response to this command – again, this is very telling about the heart of those people in that day. To see their actions, we must jump all the way to the book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 7:10-11, after being told not to oppress the widow, the fatherless, alien (foreigner), and poor, we see Israel’s response – the wrong response by the way. The people chose to shrug their shoulders and stopped (closed) their ears to the law and to this command. (We are doing that same thing nowadays.) In other words, they absolutely refused to care for those that were less fortunate! What does that say about those people heart? How do you imagine the Lord would respond?
God’s response was one of anger. In Zechariah 7:14 we see that the Lord scattered the people among the nations and chose to make their land desolate; they were taken into captivity and no longer found worthy to live in that land. Why was the Lord so angry at them?
To understand God’s anger, we must understand the Lord’s character. The Lord, as I preached last week, is a gracious God. God brought the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promise Land. In return, the Lord commanded the children of Israel to show the same kind of love (grace) to those that were less fortunate in their land. The least they could have done was shared this kind of love to those that were less fortunate, right? Love those (the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, the poor) as He love them, right?
Giving the wrong way
God graciously gave us, those that believed after Christ, His only begotten Son, salvation, because He loved us. We have also been giving a commandment (John 13:34, John 15:12) which tells us to love others as He has loved us. Therefore, we should return the graciousness that the Lord, our God, showed us to those around us – especially those that are less fortunate than we are. Less fortunate, again, doesn’t always mean money – there are many people who are poor in other ways – especially spiritually. We should love the stranger, love the fatherless, love the widow, and love the poor (including those poor in spirit).
We forget Jesus’ teachings when it comes to giving. In Matthew 6:2, Jesus said do not sound the trumpet like the hypocrites do. You see, the hypocrites would make a bunch of noise when they did something because they were seeking the praises and glory of men. There are many people who are this way; something is wrong with people who are obsessed with doing things just to gain the praise and applause of men. Do not make noise about what you do, but be humble in your doings and also be gracious in your works.
Jesus also said, in Matthew 6:3, do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Do not be boasting and bragging about your doings (works). Unfortunately, again, we see that happens more often than not; people bragging about how they have helped somebody out. What is the purpose of your helping somebody out if all you are going to do is boast and brag about what you have done? This is wrong, absolutely. This is the wrong way of giving or doing anything.
Whatever you give, whatever you do to help, you should be happy to do it without ever receiving a pat on the back. You should be happy to give and never be glorified by man. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:4, you will have your reward and that reward will come openly by the heavenly Father! This sounds a lot like what we read earlier in Deuteronomy, doesn’t it? I told you, the Lord will bless you in your works when you do (care and love) for others – He will bless you in your works!
Give according to what you purpose in your heart, and you are at peace in doing. If nobody never thanks you for what you have done, it is certainly going to suck, but don’t you feel bad because God will thank you. Also, I want to add this: you don’t have to wait to one time of the year, according to the calendar, to choose to help others. God has given us all a talent, a gift, which we should use liberally (as much as possible). We can care (love) at anytime of the year, not just one time of the year.