Sometimes the most compelling reason to be generous is not that somebody else needs to receive, but that you need to give.
You’ve heard it said before that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (a radical idea when Jesus introduced it to the world). Today, we’re going to look at one of the reasons why.
Giving is always important: It’s one of the foundational principles in God’s Master Plan for your finances, and scripture emphasizes the importance of giving in numerous places. We’ve also written a lot about giving on this site. Often, we see giving from the perspective of meeting a need; that is, we feel compelled to give in order to provide for the needs of people or organizations that could put our resources to good use. But there’s another compelling reason to give: It often does more for us than it does for the people who receive our gifts.
Credit to your account
There’s an interesting illustration of this principle in Philippians 4:14-19, where Paul is encouraging the Philippian church to continue in their habit of generosity. Let’s take a look at what this passage says:
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia,not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Paul begins by thanking the Philippians, who had come to his aid on numerous occasions when he was in financial need. Then he encourages them to continue their habit of giving. But it’s not because he needs more money — this time, he has plenty. Instead, he wants them to give because of the good that it will do them. Verse 17 says “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.”
Giving and spiritual growth
This is the idea that I want to focus on today: Paul is demonstrating that need is not always the most important factor in giving. Because the gifts that we give don’t just disappear into eternity — God remembers them, and credits them to our account. The passage says that gifts “are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Giving is important not only because it meets a need, but also because it’s a form of worship.
Giving also makes a spiritual impact on the giver. Every time that you give, it changes you a little bit. It makes you freer, more compassionate and more open. It repositions your heart from always looking out for your own self to looking out for the world around you. And it counts on your “permanent record” — although none of us can attain salvation simply by giving, God does credit us with righteousness when we give. God Himself is a giver, so when we give we walk more closely in line with Him and His destiny for us.
Sowing and reaping
There’s a great promise in all this, too: God’s promise to meet all of our needs. This passage ends with the promise that we’ve examined before — “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” You can’t out-give God. Rather, the more you give, the more you position yourself to receive from His glorious riches. This isn’t a version of “prosperity gospel” or some spiritual get-rich-quick scheme. Rather, it’s a simple application of the law of sowing and reaping.
Sometimes we give because we are moved in compassion to meet a great need. But we should also be giving, even when we are not presented with a great need, because giving brings us closer to God and opens us up to receive more from Him. In the end, the giver is always more blessed after he gives than he was before he began.
Photo by snowpea&bokchoi. Used under Creative Commons License.