I strolled along the sidewalk, five or six paces behind my 3-year-old son, who was cruising toward the mailbox on his little bicycle. As we started opening the mail, I saw an appeal from Compassion International related to an earthquake in Ecuador, where our sponsored child, Josue, lives.
The earthquake devastated 23 churches in the Compassion network and caused more than $2 million in damages.
That evening, as we began our prayers, I explained to my son what an earthquake is, and that our sponsored child possibly lost his church. Given that churches are how aid and support are often distributed to the community, Josue may have lost many layers of provision in his life.
After thinking about the situation, my son said, “Well, they can ask God for a new church. Will God build him a new one?”
I paused, unsure exactly how to answer, and then it hit me.
“Yes, son, God will build them a new church. Do you know how?”
“No, how will God do that?”
“Well, God has given us money, along with many other families in America. God’s plan to help Josue is you and me.”
You Are God’s Plan for the Needy
God’s plan to help the hurting people of the world is to equip other people—us—to help them. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote centuries ago, “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”
My son’s excited response brought me back from my musing:
“Daddy, I have my [pretend] cash register. It has lots of dollar bills. I can open it up, get them all out, and we can send them all to Josue.”
My son’s excited response perfectly captures the mindset God desires for us. But often, we end up on the other end of the spectrum.
Have you ever given out of guilt, or because you feel like you have to “tithe” to be a good Christian? Have you ever given because you heard an emotional appeal and felt awkwardly obligated to chip in?
We’ve all heard that God’s desire is for a “cheerful giver,” but growing up I was often stumped by how actually to become one. As an un-cheerful giver, I just didn’t give that much.
But over the past two years, I’ve met many radically generous families, and observed their joy. It doesn’t come by accident—it comes through a proper view of God, man and redemption.
What the Bible Says About Giving
Nearly every generous family I met pointed to the Bible’s teaching. I was surprised to learn that the Bible says more about money than it does about heaven and hell combined. Nearly half of Jesus’ parables related to money, and there are over 2,300 verses pertaining to money. Clearly, it’s an important topic. So, what does the Bible say?
In short, three things:
1. All of our wealth originates from and belongs to God (Deuteronomy 8:18, 1 Chronicles 29:11-14, Colossians 1:16).
2. In light of this, our wealth should be used for God’s purposes (Luke 12: 42-43, Matthew 25: 31-46).
3. God’s purpose is to restore the world to wholeness. This occurs spiritually through salvation in Jesus Christ, and physically through our service and giving to serve the poor, needy, and weak (Luke 4:18-19, 2 Corinthians 5:18, Matthew 28: 19-20, Jeremiah 22: 13-16, Proverbs 19:17).
Implicit in these three statements is the idea that our wealth is not our own. As my son learned, God has given it to us to accomplish something on earth.
Giving With the Gospel, not Guilt
It was a turning point in my financial life when I realized that my generosity should spring from the Gospel, not from guilt. I don’t give because I’m supposed to tithe, or because I want to avoid feeling bad, or because it’s kind of a thing Christians are supposed to do.
I give because God gave first. Since He enables us to get wealth in the first place, and because we are the recipients of His great grace in our lives, our natural and joyful response is to engage in radical generosity on behalf of the Christian church and the poor.
Pastor Tim Keller puts it this way:
To the degree you understand the Gospel of grace, you will live a radically generous life! If you truly have a spiritual inheritance, you are going to be promiscuously generous with your earthly inheritance.
The next morning, I sent a check for Josue and the people of Ecuador. And, for one of the first times in my giving life, I smiled with joy after sending the funds. My dollars, in some mysterious way, experienced redemption for a higher purpose. There they were, sitting in a bank account in the United States, accomplishing nothing. And now, they have become bricks, bread and the hope of Christ made known in a desperate situation.
Praise God for allowing us to be a part of accomplishing His purposes in the Earth.