Giving: the principle versus the act

by Miss Mo

This is a topic that has been haunting me for about a week now, I’ve discussed it with five or six different people within the span of a week and now, I have finally decided to be an obedient child of God and put pen to paper (figuratively of course). I truly hope this will bring deliverance to many of us that find it difficult to say no.

A friend of mine once told me that poverty is so endemic because the poor keep giving to the poor rather than consolidating themselves till they get a start and can afford to give. She also mentioned that they should take a cue from rich people who are often cost-conscious.  

For the purposes of this article, giving will serve as a blanket definition for offering help in cash or kind to people. Let me set three different scenarios for you:

Scenario 1: It’s the end of the month, you are already indebted to some individuals from the previous month, you are anxiously waiting for your salary and pay day finally arrives. A phone call wakes you up, the number is unfamiliar and you can’t really decipher who’s on the other end of the call. You exchange pleasantries and the caller reveals their identity – it’s your friend, who goes ahead to inform you of their challenge and request your financial support. You make a half-hearted commitment to help (give them the loan) just to get them off the phone. As you hang up, you think, “This is someone I haven’t spoken to in months. What’s the guarantee I will get my money back?” You brush it off and think to yourself “If I don’t give them now, they’ll say I’m being wicked. Well, it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” and remind yourself “God, I have given o and givers are not supposed to lack.”

Scenario 2 : Your organisation does a lot of printing and you set up a printer friend with your office to get printing jobs. He gets the job and does it satisfactorily. To further test his skills, your boss gives him another job and an advance and the fellow disappears. He reappears a year later only to tell you a sad story – that he was robbed and shot, had been transferred from hospital to hospital and had to move back to the village. Finally he decided to come back to Lagos to rebuild his contacts and start work again. Naturally, your heart goes out to him, you assist him in rebuilding a business relationship with your organisation and once in a while help him out with some cash donations. He tells you things are picking up for him and asks you for a loan to do some more business. You decide to give him the money, but distinctly hear a voice tell you not to give him the money; you brush it off and think “with all this man has been through, wouldn’t it be wicked if I don’t assist him?” You give him a loan and till date you haven’t seen him or heard from him.

Scenario 3 : A very wealthy well – known man on his way home ran into his neighbour’s daughter shouting for help and goes to her aid. She narrates that her mother is ill and that they need to go to the hospital. The man takes them to the hospital and then they ask him for a loan so they can pay for treatment.  The wealthy man obliges, pays the bill as a loan and leaves. A few weeks later, the wealthy man goes to his neighbour house to ask for the repayment of his nine thousand naira loan which he used to pay the hospital bill.

What do you think of the wealthy man?   What came to my mind about the wealthy man initially was “What is his problem? Can he not let go of just nine thousand naira?” But then on second thought, I realised it was not about the money but rather a matter of principle.

By definition, a principle is a rule of personal conduct, or a basic rule or law of assumption. Now, the principle of a loan is that you pay back at some point.  Another principle is the principle of giving according to the word of God. For giving to be giving, these must be present:

1. Purposeful giving – Have a desire or a drive to help not just because we want them to think of us positively. Matthew 6:1-34  – Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  We should give as we have been given, God doesn’t expect us to give what we don’t have. As the scripture above indicates, we are not giving to please man but we are giving to please God who sees not only our actions as humans do but also sees our hearts and intentions too. Hence sometimes it’s okay to say no to requests for giving.

2. Giving from our first fruits – Proverbs 3: 9. Joyce Meyer in one of her services shared a story of how she bought a beautiful dress that wasn’t her size and she was waiting to shrink into it and God laid it in her heart to give the dress out. She said she had never worn the dress and she struggled to give the dress out, but she finally got to a point where she could give it out cheerfully. Giving out things we cannot use anymore is not really giving if you think about it, it’s just getting rid of things you don’t want. When you give away things you still love under the rules of the principle or God’s direction, then that’s really giving.

3. Cheerfulness –   2 Cor 9: 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

4. A desire to do God’s will – Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Again, God doesn’t expect us to share what we don’t have. So check with God if He wants you to make specific sacrifices, if not, it’s okay to say no.

We all quote the giving scriptures and claim them but before we give but do we consult God? Yes, it’s good to give but are we doing it because we want to show the love of Christ or because we don’t want people to say we are wicked or selfish?

In the 1st scenario which was something that happened to me, I did it, not because it came from my heart cheerfully but because I didn’t want the person to think I was mean. Was I following the direction of God? Something I didn’t mention in that story was the fact that this friend mentioned that she quarrelled with her father over this. Did I even bother to counsel her and tell her to go and explain the situation to her father? I just acted and didn’t really give.

The second story happened to a close friend of mine, she said she heard the voice twice yet she still loaned him the money. She just acted, she didn’t really give.

The reality is we often mix up the principle of giving and the principle of borrowing. If we decide to lend people money, we should make the terms clear. If we are not sure they will return the money then we should check if we can give according to the principle. It is not all the time we should give because giving should not be under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion). None the less, we are also not to withhold that which we are meant to give (Proverbs 11:24-25 – One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.).

How do we know when to give and when to withhold? Well, when you are giving because you believe we are truly helping, it does not feel forced and if you know you’re acting under God’s specific instructions (like the Joyce Meyer story shared) then you are on the right track.

Bottom line: Always take it before God, no matter how small you think an issue is.  Isa 30: 20 – 21 tells us that even in tough situations that He will guide every step of the way into His will for us. If and when we ask God to lead us and open our spiritual eyes, true giving becomes a joy rather than a chore.

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