Love has first priority in the Bible. It is the most important and most comprehensive fruit of the Spirit. It is the first commandment, and it is the second commandment. All the other teachings of the Bible fit into it. God is the source of all love, and He expresses His love to the world by giving.
Giving is preached much more than it is practiced. Perhaps this is because the preaching is prompted by the desire to receive rather than the desire to give. Many churches and radio and television programs teach giving by encouraging people to give to their ministry. The emphasis is, “You are to give so that I can receive.” It is a veneer to hide covetousness.
Another reason giving is taught more than practiced is that we are not taught how to give lovingly by example. If godliness were widespread, it would not be necessary to teach giving. People would give themselves and their money, rather than giving their money instead of themselves. They would also give their money to the right places, in the right amounts, instead of giving where people tell them to.
We should give ourselves first to the Lord, then to others. 2 Corinthians 8 has two examples of this.
nd now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The people giving in the first example were intolerably poor, and in the second the person was wealthy beyond all measure. Giving should not be based on how much we have, but on how much we love. With this as a prerequisite, we can look at the places and the people to whom we should give.
God is our example for giving food and clothing to widows, orphans, and aliens:
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
True and pure religion takes care of orphans and widows. Over the centuries, Christians have done a moderate job of taking care of orphans. We have not done as well with widows, and we have not done well at all in keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world.
We are also to give to the starving and naked: “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 warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
We are to give to the poor near by and far away. Paul spent parts of five chapters (1 Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Galatians 2, and Romans 15) raising money from Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia for the poor people in Judea.
We should supply the needs of God’s people and everyone else: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
We should give to those who teach the Word to us:
“In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Galatians 6:6).
The Philippians are a good example for us in this. Paul says they were the only church who supported him when he set out from Macedoniaand while he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16).
(To be continued on Wednesday…)
*Excerpted from Being Christian. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.