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What Does It Mean To Give?“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NIV)Yes, God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to earth to die at the hands of mere men so we could have eternal salvation. Did God give us leftovers, second-best, or a mere duplicate? No! He gave His best–at great sacrifice. His Son bore the sin of the world and the sin made God hide his face from His Son. Think of the pain of this sacrifice to Jesus the Son and God the Father.
Today, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are giving their all for their faith in God. Yes, they make great sacrifices to give God their best. They give up their lives, possessions, home, family, worldly security, worldly comfort, etc., in order to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometimes giving means giving up our most prized possessions in order to build up treasure in heaven. Giving means to sacrifice–not just putting some money in an offering plate on Sunday and feeling good about being so “generous.” For those of us in the United States, it may mean not eating out, not having a new car, not having a better house, or not going on vacation every year. If we Americans make any of those “sacrifices” for God, we sometimes have a tendency to think we are being overly generous. But before we pat ourselves on the back, let us take a look at what our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas are giving up for their faith in Christ.
Burma. Tens of thousands of Christians have been chased from their homes by the army. Most end up in miserable refugee camps.1 A violent military regime is trying to drive Christians out of the country.2Those are quite sobering statistics, aren’t they? We Americans surely don’t give as much in comparison, do we?
Cambodia. Christians face cruel treatment from their non-believing families and from government officials.1 Christians face extortion from government officials–many are caught in the crossfire of political instability.3 Children walk across former “killing fields” on their way to school. At first it looks like rocky ground, until you look closely and see the tiny pieces of clothing and bones from mass graves scattered everywhere.2
China. The government’s “Strike Hard” campaign is targeting Christians for brutal attacks. Electric stun batons are used on Christian prisoners. These devices emit high-voltage shocks that cause first and second degree burns and even convulsions.3 There is only one Bible for every four Christians. Even pastors are still waiting to receive a Bible.4 If you are caught worshiping Jesus, you could be “fined” a devastating ransom. If your pastor is caught preaching, he could be forced to pay an amount equal to six months’ salary. And that’s just the first warning. If you’re caught in church again, you may be sentenced to three years of back-breaking work in a “hard labor” camp. But the worst part of punishment is that your Bible is confiscated.2
Indonesia. Church buildings are being burned to the ground.1&2 Christians face death threats and violence. Many have been killed.1
Laos. Christians are being forced to sign “confessions” renouncing their faith.1&2 There is growing anti-Christian sentiment in this mostly Buddhist nation. Arrests and crude attempts at brainwashing are common.3
The Philippines. Muslim and communist rebels target Christians for kidnaping, murder, and other terrorist actions.1 Muslim extremists in the southern islands have attacked Christians, assassinating pastors, kidnaping believers, and terrorizing entire villages.3
Various Southeast Asian Countries. Thumb cuffs are used to keep prisoners immobile. They cause severe pain, wrench shoulders out of joint, and can result in permanent nerve damage.3
Sudan. Church buildings are torched or bulldozed. Pastors are martyred. Christian women and children are among those raped and enslaved. Many Christians are starving to death.5
Thailand. Refugees flood in from all corners of Southeast Asia, sometimes pursued by soldiers. Food is used as a weapon to tempt believers to deny Christ.3
Vietnam. The communist government has sent Christians into hard labor. Prisoners do back-breaking physical work from dawn until after dark in the tropical heat. They get two cups of rice to eat a day–no meat, no vegetables. They get about half a gallon of water for drinking and washing.1 Unprecedented growth of the Church has provoked a violent government clamp down on Christians.3 A Bible is unattainable and priceless.2
Throughout the World. As many as 400 Christians around the world are killed for their faith every day.3
How Much To Give?All Christians should give to God a portion of what He has given them. Christians are to give according to each one’s ability and income (
Acts 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:2). We are to give to the needy ( Luke 3:11; Acts 2:45; Acts 4:32; Acts 10:4; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:26-27; Ephesians 4:28). In fact, Jesus promises rewards when we give to those who cannot repay us ( Luke 14:12-14). Why are we supposed to give to those in need? Because giving to the needy is giving to God ( Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:34-40). And giving has its rewards ( Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35).
How much should we give? While the new testament teaches us to give according to our ability and income, this leaves much to individual interpretation. Abram (Abraham) gave a tenth to Melchizedek (
Genesis 14:16-20; Hebrews 7:1-5) before the law of the Jews was established. Jewish law required tithing (giving a tenth of one’s gross income) ( Leviticus 27:30-34). The Christian should not give less, but more than did God’s people in any former dispensation (age). Why should a Christian give more? Christians live under a better covenant and enjoy better promises than did the Jews in the old testament ( Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 11:40). We should give our best–off the top (gross, not net, income). Why? Because God gives us everything we have.
Matthew 19:16-30, the rich young man asked Jesus how he could receive eternal life. Jesus told him to obey the commandments. The young man replied that he had kept all of the commandments. Jesus then told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor to have treasure in heaven and then to follow Him. Unwilling to give up his possessions for Jesus, the rich young man walked away. We should note that neither Jesus nor his followers chased after that young man to offer a “better deal.” Likewise, if we truly wish to follow Jesus, we must be willing to give up all for Him. Sadly, so many claim Jesus as Lord and Savior but don’t give of their money and abilities in accordance with what Give gives them.
Jesus tells us how much we are to be willing to give. The rich placed their gifts into the temple treasury, but what they gave was no burden to them or their lifestyles. Then the poor widow gave, even though it burdened her to do so. She had put in two small copper coins. It didn’t seem like much to the other people, but it was all she had to live on! (
Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4)
How do you give to God? Does what you give show that you are thankful for what He has given to you? Is it so much to ask that we give up some of our small “luxuries” in order to send Bibles to some of our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ who hunger for the Word of God and have no way to obtain it? Do we truly want to supply the means for them to learn about God’s gift of salvation?
How To Give?How are we to give? We are to give generously and cheerfully:“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”God knows our hearts. If we give out of duty or from pressure from church leaders or others, very little treasure is laid up in heaven for us. If we give cheerfully, out of love for our Lord and for others, the reward in heaven will be bountiful. We should never give just so that others can praise us. If we give so that others will see our “righteousness,” then we will receive no reward (
(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) Matthew 6:1). We are instructed to give in secret and to give to the needy:“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”The Pharisees gave out of duty, but the widow gave out of her true love for God. (Matthew 6:2-4 NIV)
What To Give And To Whom?During the Christmas season in the United States, many get into “the giving mood,” but relatively few of us think of those in other parts of the world who haven’t heard of Jesus or about those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. The best gift we can give to our children–indeed, the greatest gift we can give to anyone–is knowledge of the saving grace through Jesus Christ.
Jesus instructed us to make disciples of all nations. We must work toward fulfilling the great commission given by Jesus (
Matthew 28:18-20). This is our job as Christians. We will be judged by God if we just close our eyes and ears to the needs of others and just sit on our comfortable pews in our expensive buildings of worship ( Proverbs 21:13). Too often, we are satisfied to ensconce ourselves in a “comfortable” worship setting and shut out the cries of the rest of the world. But this is not giving to God. To keep the Gospel to ourselves while the rest of the world literally goes to hell is the height of selfishness in its ugliest form. And for Christians to keep the money given in their local congregation just for the benefit of that congregation is not giving at all–it’s keeping.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ need your help. I leave you with these thoughts from the scriptures:“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17 NIV)
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
(James 2:14-17 NIV)
How Can You Give?One should be a careful steward with the money he gives in the service of the Lord. Before giving financial or other resources to any organization, one should research the beliefs of the organization and the doctrines which are taught to those who receive their assistance. Give as you believe Jesus would.
1 From The Bible League, August 1998.
2 From The Bible League, September 1998.
3 From The Bible League, no date given on literature.
4 From The Bible League, June 1998.
5 From Open Doors With Brother Andrew, September 1998.
Copyright © 1998-2000 Timothy A. Southall. All rights reserved.