‘Tis the Season

This time of year, giving is on everyone’s mind.  We’ve developed a culture around Christmas that focuses on buying and giving gifts.  This isn’t all bad; according to Gary Chapman, the giving of gifts is one of the five major love languages.  Many of us express our love to others by giving them gifts.

Since we’re made in God’s image, it should come as no surprise that God also speaks the love language of giving.  In fact, the greatest gift of all time was an expression of God’s love to us:

  • “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)
  • “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

There are some gifts we give at Christmas out of obligation – maybe it’s an office Christmas party or an obligatory family or small group gift exchange.  But there are other gifts we just can’t wait for the recipient to open up.  We give these gifts because we love the recipient and we want to express that love through the gift.  We can’t wait to see the look on their face as they unwrap the gift.

Giving to God

Giving to God is much like this.  We can give to God out of obligation or a sense of duty; maybe we’re guilted into it by a church budget deficit or a need related to a building campaign.  Or, we can give in order to look good to others when the offering plate comes around, after the pattern of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

But this is not the way that God designed giving.  God designed giving to be an expression of overflowing love for him.  When the Tabernacle was being built, the people gave so generously that Moses had to order them to stop (Exodus 36:3-7)!  David and Israel’s leaders gave extravagantly for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 29); Scripture tells us that they gave “freely and wholeheartedly” (verse 9).

Paul encourages us to this type of giving: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)  When love for God is the motivation, giving naturally flows out of that love – not out of obligation but out of a desire to delight the One we love.

As a result, encouraging giving as a part of overall stewardship in the congregation is more than anything else a matter of growing people’s love for God. As that love grows, so does the desire to honor him with our wealth.