The Discipline of Giving
I have chosen to call this Spiritual Discipline the ‘Discipline of Giving’ but I could have called it the ‘Discipline of Investing’ or the ‘Discipline of Stewardship.’ All that we have is given to us by God. Yes, we may have worked hard to earn our salary and to buy our possessions, but it is God who has given us the health, strength and opportunity to do so. “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17) It is perfectly reasonable therefore for God to expect us to use that which he has given wisely and well, to steward God’s gifts in a way pleasing to him, to invest them in the cause of the Kingdom.
We must understand that what we have is gift, what we have is given for a time, and that we will give an account to God for how we use these gifts. (Rom 14:12)
Giving ‘our’ Time
As soon as we think of giving or stewardship, we tend to think of money and financial giving. This is important (as we shall see) but the first thing we must ensure we are spending well is our time. It is one of the great ironies of life in our modern world that we live with so many gadgets, devices and conveniences each promising to make life easier, to buy us more time and yet we’ve never felt so stressed and hurried. We also live in a world with vast industries trying to encourage and entice us to waste our time on trivialities which will mean nothing in eternity. I remember reading a book as a teenager which said “we are entertaining ourselves to death!” If that was true then, it’s all the more true now. Entertainment has its place, but no one lies on their deathbed and says ‘I just wish I had spent a bit more time watching TV.”
C.T Studd famously wrote “Only one life ’twill soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
None of us know how much time we have left to spend, so it is of the utmost importance that we invest it in things that truly matter.
Giving ‘our’ Money
Kent Hughes says that for many Christians there is “a growing delusion that this world is everything, that someday they will be content, that ‘providing for one’s family’ means being able to give them more and better, that relationships will be enriched by wealth, that wealth will make them better people.”
“What can we do to escape the power of materialism?” He asks. “Step out of the competitive world? Abandon Wall Street? Avoid the professions? Join a commune? Some think so, despite Christ’s firm admonition against isolation. Actually, however, there is a better way, taught repeatedly in God’s Word. In fact, Scripture presents it as a Grace – the grace of giving.”
God’s people have always been expected to give to God’s work in the world. In our context, this means giving to the Church, we may also want to give to God’s work (and his workers) in other Churches, agencies, countries and cultures. The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:18 thanks the Christians in Philippi for the financial gift they have given for his work. He says of those gifts “they are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” We should see the money we give to support God’s work as an offering to him. And it should be a sacrifice. We should be able to say with David that we will not offer to the Lord something that costs us nothing (1 Chronicles 21:24)
“If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”CS Lewis
But we must also say that the Discipline of financial giving need not be restricted to the work of the Church or even to Christian charities. As we give to provide for those in need, motivated by the way God provided for us in our need, we honour Him. Our giving should reflect the most important command, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, and the second which is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:39)
Lastly, let us make sure we give our very selves to that which matters, that we spend ourselves in the service of our Lord, that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God because as we consider his mercy, as we consider all has given us in Christ Jesus, the Son he loves, giving ourselves in glad and grateful response is nothing more that our true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)