God gives. No truth is more readily apparent in Scripture than the generosity, grace and gifts of God. He delights in giving.
As those being conformed to the image of Christ, we should equally delight in giving. And it isn’t just giving in general that is expected; rather it is selfless and sacrificial giving that overflows from a heart responding to the generosity of the gospel.
Here are a few principles to consider:
Consider 2 Corinthians 8-9. If you want to grasp giving, read those chapters and read them again. Not just the “God loves the cheerful giver” section, but the whole thing. The Macedonians gave generously, “beyond their means,” and begged earnestly for “the favor” of doing so. This is radical giving, not just throwing some pocket change in the plate as it passes by.
There is a reward for giving, but it is dependent upon a heart free from a lust for the temporal rewards of this earth (Matt.6:1-4).
Gospel giving is cheerful and voluntary because it trusts that every deposit into the kingdom will earn eternal interest.
If you can’t give cheerfully, give anyway (don’t compound your internal sin with external sin), but as you do, confess your struggle, seek clarity on the disconnect between your heart and the gospel, pray for joy, and walk in repentance.
This is probably the most underappreciated and underapplied principle for Christian giving today. It inconveniences us, and the flesh is quick to offer excuses and justification, but the gospel calls us to deep and radical sacrifice.
In 1 John 3:16-17, the apostle exhorts the Church to care for brothers in need as an overflow and implication of gospel love, the type of love that lays down one’s life for another. Do we actually give to the point that we feel it and the feeling stings? Does the call to take up our cross (Matt. 16:24-26) not also carry the charge to lay down our checkbooks?
A heart freed by the gospel does not wait for opportunities to give. It intentionally seeks them out. Gospel giving looks for chances to bless others and listens to the needs of those near and far.
Gospel generosity gives to those who beg (Matt. 5:42), risking the gift might not be used properly (which is not to say that it is not righteous and wise to occasionally withhold support for some greater purpose). Those walking in the light of the gospel engage in good deeds and meet pressing needs anytime and anywhere they arise.
Though we should give as need arises, we should also be consistent and disciplined in giving. Giving is linked with prayer and fasting (Matt. 6:1-18), and both should contain some element of discipline and regularity.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, the apostle Paul explicitly commends a disciplined and orderly form of giving in addition to whatever spontaneous offerings and gifts we might be compelled to give.
I don’t think that Jesus necessarily intends for us to sign Christmas cards “John Doe,” but there is a general theme of secret giving for the sake of eternal reward. The flesh craves the praise of man, and thus we need to beware the hypocrisy and tendency to give in an effort to purchase the acclaim, attention and affection of others (Matt. 6:2-4).
Grace is the basis for gratitude. As those who have received grace, we should gratefully extend it to others.