‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ~ Acts 20:35
‘Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap’ ~ Luke 6:38
Besides life, God gave man charge of the earth. He said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food: and it was so’ (Genesis 1:29-30). Since God is a God of continuity, the principle that would since govern the lives of mankind is that of giving, because He Himself gave us. Mankind, the image of God, ought to be a reflection of God, and follow His example. Since the land keeps producing vegetation, so man ought to keep giving as we continue to receive from God. The receiver thus becomes the giver, and the giver the receiver in a perfect cycle, as God intends. However, in this fallen world and because of our fallen nature, many tend to withhold and some even take away from others. Thus, understanding the principles of giving from God’s perspective will solve most of our personal and societal problems.
The principle of giving starts with giving directly to God. ‘In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering’ (4:v3-4). Abel knew God enabled his flock to reproduce, and so gave God the best from his flock. In keeping with the cycle, God not only multiplied the gift, but also the giver. He looked on Abel with favour, meaning that Abel remained blessed even as his flock continued to multiply. Thus, the cycle of giving and receiving was brought into perfect harmony. What sets apart Abel’s offering from Cain’s was the posture of the heart. Cain gave some, while Abel gave the firstlings and fat portions. Cain probably saw giving to God as a burden or even a loss, because if he truly knew God as the supplier of all things, then he would not have had a problem giving God the best as a token of thanks. So, those who purport to be Christians should therefore give willing offerings from their produce or earnings (little or much), and present them to God as a token of recognition and thanks, ‘for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth’ (Deuteronomy 8:18).
When the Patriarch Abraham defeated five powerful Kings and took their plunder, ‘he gave him (Melchizedek the High Priest) a tenth of everything’ (Genesis 14:20). As we see, the concept of tithing is from old and was not introduced by preachers of the ‘prosperity’ Gospel. In ignorance, many who say are Christians refrain from tithing because they think that they are ‘making the Pastor rich’. But God asks, ‘Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ (Malachi 3:8). God responds, ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house’ (v10). God even challenges, ‘Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruit of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field’ (v10-11). Tithing is therefore for our own benefit, and should be given to God’s house (Church) as specified by God. Unfortunately, many Christians miss out heavenly blessings because they refuse to bring a tenth of their earnings to God’s house, for one excuse or another.
‘He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God’ (Proverbs 14:31). One does not need to read far into the Bible to make the realization that the poor hold a special place in God’s heart. This is because God Himself, ‘though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might be rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is therefore impossible for one to be a true Believer and turn a blind eye to the poor, not just the spiritually poor, but also the materially poor. Yet, some so-called ‘Christians’ are stingy. God places much emphasis on the poor, oppressed, fatherless, foreigners, widows, and orphans. In fact, we do not have to look far to find them. Jesus says, ‘The poor you will always have with you’ (Matthew 26:11). That is why He commands, ‘Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God’ (Leviticus 19:10). Elsewhere, God stresses, ‘If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend to him whatever he needs’ (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).
Giving to the poor is giving to God because as Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brethren of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40). James even notes, ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep well and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?’ (James 2:14-16). Hence, a Believer should be at the frontline in providing the needs of the poor in their family, to fellow Believers, and to the wider world because, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (1:v27). In showing the seriousness of the matter, Paul writes, ‘If any does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate (blood and spiritual) family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel’ (1 Timothy 5:8). But many have denied the faith by not wanting to associate with the poor, looking down on them, calling them cursed, indirectly allowing only the rich into their ‘Churches’, making unjust laws that oppress the poor all the more, and even shamelessly stealing from them.
Jesus spoke at length about prioritizing the poor over the rich. So, when God blesses one with wealth, it is not merely for their enjoyment but more so to advance His Kingdom by helping the poor (spiritually and physically). He says, ‘I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings’ (Luke 16:9). In other words, when we use worldly wealth for God’s causes, He in turn gives us eternal riches- again introducing the give to receive concept. Jesus further expounds that those who use worldly wealth merely for themselves are simply serving money. They are practising idolatry and serving Satan himself because, ‘No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money/Mammon’ (v13). After saying this, Jesus gives a testament of the Rich Man and Lazarus to drive home His point. So, ‘If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered’ (Proverbs 21:13).
Spiritual blessings also operate with the give and receive principle. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3). In turn, think what Christ has given you, and give the same to others. In the same way Jesus loves us, He admonishes us, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). In the same way Jesus has forgiven us, so are we to forgive one another. ‘But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins’ (Matthew 6:15). In the same way, Jesus has given us mercy, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy’ (5:v7). In the same way Jesus did not judge us as our sins deserve, so ‘judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned’ (Luke 6:37). In the same way, Jesus comforts us so ‘that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, with the comfort which we ourselves have received from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).
At the end of the day, the core principle of Christianity is receiving from God in order to give to others. While receiving from God is the starting point of our faith, giving perfects our faith. Jesus says, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7:12). He adds, ‘For with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you’ (Luke 6:38). So, since we are constantly receiving from God, giving is not debateable. In fact, ‘What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). Receiving from God can only be done if we open our hearts to Him, because it is only through Jesus that we can receive and consequently give in a meaningful and not a hypocritical way. In fact, true giving is not so that we may receive, but a natural demonstration of God’s love overflowing from us. And so, the starting point remains, ‘Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repententh him of the evil’ (Joel 2:13).
‘One man gives freely, yet gains even more: another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty’ ~ Proverbs 11:24
‘But just as you excel in everything- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us– see that you excel in this grace of giving’ ~ 2 Corinthians 8:7
‘Then he (Jesus) will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’ ~ Matthew 25:41-43
‘Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6-7