This is going to appear perverse – a bit like mum saying “it’s for your own good” as she tips cod-liver oil down your throat – but one of the main reasons for being generous is that “giving is good for you”. It may be good for the recipient too, but, believe it or not, you benefit most from being generous. You really do. Here is the main reason why – giving breaks the power of money.
Jesus Christ is famous for wise sayings, here’s one: “You can’t serve two masters: you’ll be devoted to one and not the other.” (Matthew 6:24). When you choose to follow Jesus you choose a new master. But the old master doesn’t give up control over our lives just like that. Our eyes are often turned as he continues to display his tempting wares. Not least in the realm of money.
The old master uses money to exercise control over us. We were kept behind bars of false security, fake masks, greed and fear and although the new master has unlocked the cell door we are sometimes hesitant about opening it, walking out and leaving the bars behind.
Giving is the view beyond the bars. Giving is about freedom. Giving opens the cell door and sets us free. Giving breaks the power of money.
In a famous speech to graduating students, David Foster Wallace, the post-modern novelist who died in 2008 said, “If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough.” That’s the sort of power the old master can exercise over you – perpetual dissatisfaction, envy, striving for more.
Most of us have worshiped money and things: we have given them our attention, we have orientated our lives around them, we have taken our identity from them. But we’ve also found that money is a deeply unsatisfying idol.
Let me explain how giving both reveals the problem and solves it. Although money is spiritually neutral – what we do with it is a crystal-clear indicator of the freedom of our spirit, the health of our soul and which master has power in our life. This is how giving reveals the problem:
- We learn about tithing (for example, giving a tenth of our income to our church) from those who go before us;
- So we look at our spending plan and realise that something will have to give – if we are to give (for those with surplus it will mean digging into our security blanket or into the amount we save. To those who are just-about-managing it means letting go of something – maybe the cable subscription or meals out or the second car or the catered holiday or the phone upgrade).
- The pain we feel at that realisation correlates exactly to the level that the old master still has influence over us.
- If you sense yourself drawing back from giving, it’s an indicator that something from the old has a hold on you. An idol is unmasked.
- You’re being tempted to edge back into the cell, to get behind those bars. And, imprisoned in your desire, your surrender to Jesus is exposed as partial – as He might also have said, “having a foot in each canoe is a miserable place to be.”
If the problem is the idol of money, what is the solution? Giving. Giving breaks the power of money in my life. We still have money troubles, we still have to learn about how to deal with bills and debt and savings. But when I give generously and with joy, the cell door swings open and I can walk in a new freedom where the idols of money and things no longer have power in my life.
Why should I give? Because giving sets me free. Because giving is good for me. Because giving breaks the power of money.
First published by Stewardship in February 2019