The Heart of a Giver

It’s tricky business teaching about generosity these days. Preachers of the prosperity gospel are packing their pews and selling lots of books. Theirs is a “give in order to get” message, based on a misinterpretation of verses like Luke 6:38:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Give in order to get” may be appealing, but that is not the message taught by the verse above or anywhere else in the Bible.

What Does the Bible Say About Generosity?

Here’s what can be confusing: There are many Bible verses that do say there are blessings that flow from giving generously. For example, in Malachi 3:10, we find the only place in Scripture where God said to test him, and it’s all about generosity:

‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’

In Proverbs 11:24, we read:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

2 Corinthians 9:6 contains these words from the apostle Paul:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

It’s How We Were Meant to Live

We all receive something beneficial from our giving because to live generously is to live in concert with our design. I’m sure that’s why researchers have found that generous people are happier than those who aren’t so generous. It’s like eating healthy or being honest. Life just works better when we live as we were meant to live.

Many years ago I heard someone teach that the best form of generosity doesn’t come from a heart attitude of “in order to…” — it comes from a heart filled with a “because of…” sense of gratitude. In other words, ideally, we don’t give in order to get something from God; we give because of all that God has already done for us.

That seems to be where king David was coming from when he said to God,

Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. (1 Chronicles 29:14)

Paul made a crucial point when he asked,

Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? (Romans 11:35)

In other words, God is the giver.  He gave us life; he gave us his Son; he gave us all that we have.

Give in order to get? No. We give out of a humble, grateful, joyful response to everything that God has given to us.

What are your thoughts on the motives for generosity?

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5 Responses to The Heart of a Giver

  1. Moses September 14, 2016 at 1:06 AM #

    Thank u Matt .

  2. Moses September 13, 2016 at 1:27 PM #

    some people teach that,” tithing” is not a New Testament thing. They support their statement with several scriptures thus leaving me confused a bout what i have always believed and practiced.
    So what is your Understanding on Tithing as a christian.


    • Matt Bell September 13, 2016 at 10:10 PM #

      Moses, the way I see it is that tithing is the historical biblical starting point for generosity. It’s where God started his Old Testament followers. In the New Testament, each time Jesus was asked about an Old Testament law, he raised the standard from letter-of-the-law adherence to a spirit-of-the-law perspective, which is a higher standard. No longer is it a matter of checking a box; now it’s a matter of checking our heart.

      So, what’s my understanding of tithing? I see it as a helpful, challenging guideline — a starting point, not the intended stopping point.

  3. Kat September 6, 2016 at 7:57 PM #

    I don’t think I can ever get over feeling that ‘give in order to get’ is wrong. However, these verses seem to indicate that we have a dual responsibility – to give out of a heart of love and gratitude to God, and ALSO to trust that God values and rewards this type of obedience. There are commands that he doesn’t really attach promises too, so I assume that when he repeatedly attaches a promise he expects me to take him at his word. I agree we should give in order to please and honour, not to get. But it seems we should also expect good from our generous Father, and that some of that may be linked directly to our giving.

    • Matt Bell September 7, 2016 at 7:52 AM #

      Kat – I, too, think we can expect good things from God. He calls us his children, loves us, and gives us all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Where it gets twisted is when people see giving as the route to getting what they want. God’s timing is not always our timing. And he knows what we need more than we do. Over time, I’ve seen what I first thought were unanswered prayers as merciful answers.