Giving On Our Own

For Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Sunday night small group – April 29, 2012

I came to Thailand Jan. 1, 2012, as a volunteer. I was fortunate enough to have raised the money my daughters and I needed to live for six months before leaving the United States. I knew I could not have a job during this time, so I was glad to have the peace of financial stability during our stay.

When I worked full-time, I was faithful in tithing. I always gave 10 percent – if not more – of my weekly salary to the church, or wherever God led me to give. When I arrived in Thailand, however, I had no church or job, so I never thought about giving back to God what belonged to Him in the first place – until our second week of discipleship training.

Our school leader began speaking about tithing one day, and almost instantly, I felt God convicting my heart about the support we had raised to make the trip to Thailand. We raised almost the exact amount we needed, with a few dollars to spare for emergencies.

“But God,” I argued, “that money was given to us for mission work!”

“I’m well aware of that,” He said to me.

“But God,” I argued, “if I give 10 percent of it, we will be short on funds for the six months we are to be here.”

“Do you trust me?” God asked.

It’s tough arguing with God. He always wins.

I obeyed and counted out 10 percent of what we had raised and prayed about what God wanted me to do with it. He led me to a place of need, and it was there I dropped off a nice donation.

It felt good! What I thought was going to be one of the toughest things I had ever had to do turned out to be the most rewarding. I had so much peace that day, and in less than two weeks, God replenished those funds and even exceeded them.

Now, every time we receive a sponsorship gift, I am faithful to give back what God was so generous to send to us. If it is $2, I give a portion of it wherever God tells me to leave it. Sometimes, the amount is so little I think, “What good can this possibly do?” But, still, I am faithful. And God is faithful to us in return.

God tells us in the Bible He doesn’t look at how much we give, but how we give it.

We all know the story of the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4: “Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping the offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, ‘The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all! (The Message).’”

God smiles upon those who give out of their hearts.

As Paul writes to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8, he talks about the overflowing generosity of the Macedonians, who supported Paul’s mission even as they suffered through severe poverty.

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own … (2 Cor. 8:2-3 NIV).”

I hope that last line stands out more than any other in the verse. They gave entirely on their own.

God loves when we act according to the love in our hearts – when we love one another entirely on our own.

He tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor … but do not have love, I gain nothing (NIV).”

God made examples of the Pharisees for not giving out of love. The Pharisees were faithful to give one-tenth of all they had, according to the law, but failed to give of their hearts. God saw right through them.

“Woe to  you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God (Luke 11:42 NIV).”

I like The Message version a little better: “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love.”

God has been showing us – warning us – how important it is to give of our hearts since the beginning. He spoke directly to Cain about giving from his heart.

“Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. God spoke to Cain: ‘Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it (Gen. 4:2-7 The Message).’”

Cain knew he was cheating God, and he pouted when he got caught. I have a couple-three kids who have done the exact same thing. They know right from wrong, as did Cain.

God gives each of us the discernment to know what is right and wrong, what is good and evil – and He gives us the free will to choose between the two. When we choose good – entirely on our own – it greatly pleases God.

That’s why Paul was so pleased with the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians. He used their poverty and great generosity as an example, hoping the church of Corinth would do the same, according not to how much they gave, but how they gave.

Giving isn’t always about money, either. Giving is about serving one another in love. God loves when we provide a meal for a sick friend, visit a neighbor, or just pray for one another, as long as we do it out of love.

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have (2 Cor. 8:12 NIV).”

Heavenly Father, make in me a pure heart, a giving heart, one that loves everyone unconditionally. Give me eyes to see everyone as you see them, in love. Thank you for loving me as I am. In your son’s name I pray. Amen.

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