Return to 4th Quarter 2017 articles.
This article is not a solicitation for money. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of that. It is a discussion about what Christianity teaches that Christians should do. It is not about what is done for Christians. It is about the change in mind-set that Christianity offers to those who will accept it. It is about becoming ingrained with a desire to give — not to receive.
Acts 20:35 is an interesting verse where Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That statement by Jesus is not in the gospels, and yet it is the essence of the Christian life. The statement is not just about money, but about how Christianity helps us to get the best of family, work, recreation, sex, and peace of mind. We are blessed by giving. Paul makes this even clearer in his discussion on Mars Hill in Athens, recorded in Acts 17:23 – 28: “You are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. … ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ ” God does not need our money.
Christianity is unique in its teaching about how Christians should build their lives and deal with the world around them. There are two kinds of people in the world. One type is the person who wants to receive. Those whose goal in living is to build a materialistic paradise for themselves will follow a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Our society emphasizes “being number one” as a goal in everything. Our magazine titles tell the story of modern America. When I was a child the main magazine that people read was Life magazine. Life was pretty much about everything, everywhere. As time has gone by, our magazines have become more restricted. U.S. News and World Report was smaller than Life because it focused on us, not life in general. Eventually, People became our magazine of choice. People is smaller than Life and removes emphasis on things not related to us as individuals. The next magazine that comes to mind is Us, which is smaller than People. Now we see magazines like Self. Narcissism (self-love) has become a dominant attitude in our world today.
Where does the desire to receive and the attitude of “looking out for number one” lead? Have you ever wondered how someone could abuse a baby? We have recently had a 20-month-old move into our house with his mother and father. He is as cute as a baby boy can be. When people see him, it is hard not to smile. What people do not see is that he can be exasperating and sometimes destructive. The second day he was here he was swinging on a kitchen cabinet door and broke it in half. The baby has been a big financial load for a retired teacher living on a pension. Some things I would like to do, I cannot do because of the financial crunch that the baby has brought. As a Christian, I welcome this opportunity to serve another human being. Have I been frustrated with the situation at times? Of course, but as a Christian, the idea of hitting the child when he is loud or abusive or wasteful is not on my radar. I have been in a hospital ward when a baby was brought in badly beaten by his father. Being forced to give when your goal in life is self-gratification can cause some of us to lose control.
Being only a receiver robs us of the best of everything. Our jobs cannot be only for the money we make, or we will be miserable in our work. Getting married, having a family, and even our recreation is unfulfilling if it does not provide us the opportunity to give and share with others. The singer Peggy Lee had a song titled “Is That All There Is?” In the song, she talked about going to the circus, and when it was over asking herself, “Is that all there is to a circus?” I have been to Disney World several times. One time my wife and I went without kids or grandkids. It was pleasant, but not that special. Right after my wife died, I took all the grandkids to Disney World and found the park to bring joy and fun beyond description.
Even sex is only totally fulfilling and satisfying when your first focus is the pleasure of your partner. If you give, even in physical pleasure, it makes receiving so much better. First Corinthians 7:2 – 4 describes the joy that man and wife can have when they are concerned about the needs of their spouse.
So how do we grow to be people who have a giving attitude? How does being a Christian enhance our ability to give? Why should Christianity give us a better ability to give? I would suggest five reasons:
1. THE BIBLE CONSISTENTLY DESCRIBES GOD AS THE GIVER OF LIFE AND THIS WORLD.
Psalm 8:3 – 6 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.” Psalm 19:1 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” A more intimate view is expressed by Paul in Acts 17:27, 28 as he describes God “that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ ”
My training in science makes me aware of how precarious our situation on this planet is. You have to be pretty callous not to overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving at what God has given us, and continues to give us. That example should make us anxious to give back in every way that we can.
2. THE EXAMPLE OF LOVE AND GIVING THAT WE SEE IN GOD SENDING HIS SON TO EARTH SHOULD ALSO MOTIVATE US TO WANT TO GIVE TO OTHERS.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God has given us salvation freely and from his grace. How can we not want to extend that to others around us?
3. THE BIBLE'S INSTRUCTION ABOUT GIVING PRECLUDES DOING IT FOR SHOW.
Jesus gave a clear picture of the wrong motivation for giving in Matthew 6:2. “When you give to the needy, do not announce it … to be honored by others.” He goes on to say that if your motive for giving is the praise of men, you already have your reward. Showy gifts are not what the Christian system calls for us to do. Jesus taught “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3).
4. JESUS DEMONSTRATED GIVING AS A WAY OF LIFE FOR HIS FOLLOWERS.
In John 13:4 – 15 he washes the feet of his disciples and uses this as a teaching moment which all Christians are to follow: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” … “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Can you imagine most religious leaders throughout time doing such a thing? Our reading of the Koran does not resonate with this attitude. The religious conflicts going on in the world today could be resolved if all sides would put serving and giving to others, no matter what their ethnic background, at the top of their list.
5. THE “NEW COMMANDMENT” OF CHRISTIANITY UNDERLIES OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD OTHERS.
Jesus Christ said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, see also 1 John 2:8 and 3:23). Why do you give service and goods to your children? Because you love them. What Jesus said would separate Christians from the rest of the world was that they would love each other and give to those that are in need. Their love of Christ would propel them to give to all who were in need. “As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10).
In 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 9 Paul writes to us as well as the congregation in Corinth. He talks about the congregations in Macedonia who lived their lives as Christians radiating an attitude of giving. In verses 2 and 3 he indicates that they gave, even though they were in poverty, to help those who were in need. He says to us that as you “excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. … For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” Religious figures in most faiths are known for their elaborate temples and power in world affairs. Christians are known for their persecution and for their willingness to give and serve. That was true in the first century, and it is becoming truer today. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian understands this, but a massive amount of the disaster relief work, medical service, educational service, and care for the orphans and the elderly is done by people doing so because of their identity as Christians. It is one of the greatest arguments for the validity of the Christian system.
© Gino Santa Maria. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
Photo: Roland Earnst
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NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
© Oleg Golovnev. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
© Gino Santa Maria. Image from BigStockPhoto.com
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© Mbruxelle. Image from BigStockPhoto.com