Why should I give?

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.

David Flowers

First published by Stewardship in February 2019


What is Biblical Stewardship?

Although “stewardship” sounds like a bible word, it isn’t. But it is a bible concept. The concept is twofold: (1) there’s stewardship of what’s been given particularly to you and (2) there’s stewardship of everything else. Stewardship is the way we look after things – not the way we own things. We are stewards, or trustees, or custodians – of something that belongs to someone else but which has been put into our charge. Stewards are not owners, they are guardians.

This is recognised in the ethical investment world where they talk about, “safeguarding the future” – in other words, we don’t own the future, we are looking after it for others. It’s a different way of thinking about how you invest.

Biblical stewardship recognises that God owns it all (“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1): including (but not restricted to) our bank balances and mortgages, houses and cars, earnings, pensions and pets, the birds, the beasts and even black holes. But what gives rise to the concept of stewardship is that God places many of these things into our care. Right at the beginning He says to mankind, “take charge” (Genesis 1:28). Biblical stewardship means to look after the world in which we are placed (“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal”. Proverbs 12:10). The goal is to develop and sustain the world.

Then there is the particular sense in which we are called to be stewards of what has been entrusted to us, personally. We are given resources for a noble cause. Biblical stewardship does not decry money and possessions but it does recognise that they have a purpose. This means that before we can work out how to be good stewards we have to discover our purpose, our God-given goals in life.

You may have several God-given goals, some overlapping, some which last a lifetime and some which last only for a few years. Goals such as: significant generosity; raising a family; working part-time or earning less so that you can give time elsewhere; building a business to provide employment or launch a great product; to write a book; compose an opera; paint a portrait; play for England; clear your mortgage; support the vision of your church; have fun.

God gives us resources appropriate to the goals He ordains. So biblical stewardship means looking after those resources well: spending less than you earn; avoiding the use of debt; saving for the future; giving generously. Good stewards think about and use money (and resources such as time, gifts, energy, skills, possessions) in an intentional way – which means they reach toward their life purposes with greater efficiency and fewer stumbles along the way.

So you could define successful biblical stewardship as, “the continued achievement of God-given goals, using God-given resources, in the most efficient way”. (Ron Blue)

Paul provides an example of this sort of biblical stewardship in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

There is the resource given by God – money. Then there is the purpose, also given by God – in this case to send emergency relief to the church in Jerusalem. Then there is the care – in regular thoughtful saving.

Biblical stewardship is: recognising that we have been made custodians; discovering our God-given purposes; and then taking charge, taking care, so that those purposes may be fulfilled.

This article was first published by Stewardship in July 2018.