“I’m a giver.” How often have we heard those words followed by a pause that expects praise? How wonderful that you are a giver. Well, maybe. I’m here to speak on behalf of receivers.
The giver is the controller. The one who gives always has a handle on the situation. The one who says: “This is what I give, and this is how I give it.” More than that, the giver is the one to whom the receiver feels indebted. The giver can feel good about himself, because not only is he in a position to give, but he also has the moral high ground.
All too often it is the giver who determines the needs of the receiver as well. There are times when a gift can be an act of aggression—here is a gift for which you must be grateful. If someone gives you a gift and you don’t want it or like it, you seem ungracious. Yet as a receiver you did not ask for the situation, and now are expected to pretend that it is wonderful even when you feel that it is not.
Of course, not all givers feel all these things, but it is constant temptation and not all that rare. How many gifts are offered without any unspoken conditions at all? Often they are conditional gifts, with memory strings attached—”Remember when I gave you that wonderful present? Surely you would not oppose me now?”
But here is another truth about some who think of themselves as givers. Many of them cannot stand to be receivers. Because to receive means to be vulnerable, or needy, or indebted. It is to accept less power in the exchange and often in the relationship.
But how beautiful it can be to humbly receive! The receiver is not ashamed to feel that he is beholden or needs to express thanks. The ability to ask for and accept help is a deeply human gesture, a recognition of the truth that no person can manage alone. The giver may appear to be self-sufficient, but we are all parts of an interconnected web, and to receive is to acknowledge this eternal truth about all of us. To receive with entitlement or ingratitude is ugly; to lose initiative or effort in the expectation of getting something is a betrayal of human spirit. But to watch someone receive with heartfelt thanks is a gorgeous thing to see.
The one who gives when there is need is to be blessed, of course. Vast charitable and societal institutions would collapse if not for the generosity of those who give time and money and passion. I have been fortunate to know many people in my own community who give with a remarkable purity of motive. The most effective among such givers are those who are not only givers. They know what it is to accept from others, to need others, to feel modestly thankful.
In some ways, as the old saying has it, it is better to give than to receive. In other ways, although we often forget this, the one who can ask and can accept with both pride and genuine gratitude is to be admired. Blessings to the open-hearted givers and the humble-hearted receivers, one and all.
The most unbelieved beatitude in the Bible is: “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). The giver happier than the getter? Surely some mistake? That goes against all our intuitions and instincts. So let me help you to believe it and act upon it by giving you ten reasons why it is more blessed to give than to receive.
1. Giving obeys God’s command
The Old Testament has way more commands about financial giving – who, when, and how much – than the New Testament. Maybe the New Testament writers just assumed that as God had given far more to us in the New Testament – giving Himself to death – that our giving should follow fairly logically and easily. But, just in case we might miss the link, there are clear New Testament commands also (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2). As all of God’s commands are given to enhance our lives, obeying this command will increase our happiness.
2. Giving submits to God’s Lordship
Every act of obedience recognizes that there is a higher authority in our lives, that there is a Lord over us who is entitled to honor and respect. Due to our temperament, personality, or circumstances, we may find some commands relatively easy to obey. Our submission is really tested in the areas where our own nature and situation make obedience more difficult. For most of us, money is one of those areas. Our wallet is often the last citadel to fall to God’s rule, and even when it does fall, it gets rebuilt and re-secured again all too quickly. If only we could remember that Divine Lordship is not a threat; rather it’s the place of greatest safety.
3. Giving exhibits God’s heart
God is THE giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). As His image-bearers we are called to copy His giving, to be mini-pictures of His infinitely large heart. The larger our hearts (and the wider our hands), the larger the picture we paint of God’s character. What do people think of God when they think of the way you use your money?
4. Giving illustrates God’s salvation
At the heart of the Gospel is sacrificial self-giving (John 3:16). That’s why when the Apostle Paul wanted to encourage the Corinthians to give more, he pointed them to the person and work of Christ. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 2:9). Yes, you abound in faith, love, etc., but “see that you abound in this grace also.” When we give sacrificially, painfully, for the benefit of others, we are faintly and on a small-scale preaching the Gospel message.
5. Giving trusts God’s provision
The biggest deterrent to giving is fear, the fear that if I give away too much I won’t have enough for this or that. When we give sacrificially, above and beyond what is comfortable and easy, we are expressing our faith and trust in God to provide for us and our family. This is not an argument for folly, but for faith. Many Christians have discovered the joy of casting their crumbs of bread upon the waters and multiple loaves returning after many days (Ecclesiastes 11:1). It’s such a joy to see God fulfill His promise of provision when we obey Him.
6. Giving widens God’s smile
The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 2:7). It delights Him to see His people gladly opening their hearts and hands to provide for the needs of His Church and indeed of all His creatures. Through Paul, God repeatedly commends and praises those who gave of their funds and of themselves to Gospel work (2 Corinthians 8:1). There’s nothing that makes a Christian happier than knowing that she’s made God happy, and happy giving means a happy God.
7. Giving advances God’s kingdom
Many of us have contributed to Apple in one way or another. We have helped to grow the company from a garage operation to the worldwide empire it is today. And I’m happy about that, as it’s a company that has brought many blessings to the world. But think of what blessing results when we fund the mission of Christ’s church. We are paying salaries of ministers and missionaries. We are funding resources for outreach, evangelism, and discipleship. But above all we are investing in the spiritual and eternal welfare of people from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue. Our dollars are changing homes, relationships, countries, and even the eternal destiny of many souls.
8. Giving promotes God’s sanctification
Giving not only promotes God’s work through us, but also God’s work in us, our sanctification. Giving money, especially when it pains us, requires much self-denial and self-crucifixion. However, as every act of giving weakens and even breaks our sinful and selfish nature, the more God’s grace spreads in our hearts. Yes, money leaves our pockets, but sin also leaves our heart. And that’s a great deal. Priceless actually.
9. Giving testifies to God’s power
Although we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand does, it’s pretty obvious that Christians give a lot to their churches and Christian charities. Even secular observers have noticed with amazement how generous Christians often are with their money. They may not say it but they surely must think it: “This must be the real deal for people to give away so much of their own money. They must really believe this stuff. The God they worship and serve must be incredibly powerful to make people so generous.”
10. Giving praises God’s character
Giving in a right spirit is an act of worship. It is rendering Him a tribute of praise. It is saying. “You gave me everything and here is a small expression of my gratitude and praise for all your good gifts. It’s only a token, a sample of what I really feel, but you know the heart that lies behind it. As David sang: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” (Psalms 116:12).
Giving better that getting?
Do you now see how giving makes us more blessed than getting? We can get so much happiness when we see how God is glorified in our giving and when we see Him bless others through our giving.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He blogs at headhearthand and you can follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray.
Originally published February 01, 2013.