For many of us, when we hear Christian leaders talk about financial giving, our minds go to an image like this—Jonas Nightengale, played by Steve Martin in the 1992 movie Leap of Faith. Martin’s character was a fraudulent faith healer who used his revival meetings to bilk people out of their money. Unfortunately, the caricature is sometimes all too true, based on real life Christian leaders who seem more interested in amassing personal wealth at the expense of their people rather than partnering with God to build His kingdom. Remember Jim Baker, the TV Evangelist and host of the “Praise the Lord Club”? In 1989, Bakker was convicted and imprisoned for a $150M accounting fraud. Scandals like that cause many of us to think that talk of financial giving is something that church leaders want FROM you. But it’s not. Generosity is something God wants FOR you. As we learn to excel in the grace of giving, what does God want for us?
To grasp the grace of Jesus. Our generosity is a response of gratitude to the generosity and grace of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians to a life of generosity, he said this in 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Our generosity is a response to the grace of Jesus. When we give financially, we’re reminded of the grace given us through what Jesus did for us.
To protect us from greed. One of Jesus’ warnings about greed is found in Luke 16:33 – “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” For some of us, when we hear the word greed, we think of some old man crouched behind a mahogany desk in a dimly lit room with gold coins running through his fingers (think Mr. Burns from The Simpsons). But that’s not the only way greed manifests itself. Tim Keller said this about greed in his book Counterfeit Gods, “For Jesus, greed is not only love of money, but excessive anxiety about it.” When we look to money for our security, it becomes our functional savior. Generosity God’s way of protecting our heart from greed.
To connect our heart with others. Where your money goes, your heart follows (see Luke 12:34). As we give of the resources God has entrusted us, our heart connects more deeply with the recipients of that generosity. Here’s a beautiful story about a family at Northshore whose heart was connected more deeply with another family through a gift of generosity.
Giving and financial generosity is not about what church leaders want FROM you. It’s all about what God wants FOR you. So let’s step into the spiritual life Jesus offers us as we learn to excel in the grace and joy of giving.