By David Stahl

As I walk with the Lord and the longer I go with Him the more I see a paradoxical (a statement that seems to contradict itself or seems false, but may be true in fact) truth.  Nowhere is this paradox seen then in our giving.  On one hand there is the selfish, self-centered, and greedy giving where the giver expects to receive “giving to get” and then there is the other hand where the giver gives so that others may receive.  You can always tell which type of giver you are dealing with when they quote their favorite Scripture to support their giving and it also often speaks of the spiritual maturity (if you can discern) of the Christian you are talking with. In Luke Jesus’ words can serve as an example of a greedy giver.  Here Dr. Luke shares some words that selfish Christians most often use to express their motives and desires, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:37-38) Now what Jesus was saying is an eternal truth, but when we use His words to justify our (that is a plural pronoun which includes me) selfish, carnal nature and ways for getting something for giving or not getting something that we deserve (judgment and condemned) then we have missed the truth of the Scriptures. The selfish giver  manipulates Jesus’ words (missing the true meaning) to express, “I do not want to be judged (even though I am guilty and I know it), I do not want to be condemned (even though I am guilty and I know it, but I do not want to be held accountable), I always want to be forgiven if I make a mistake (and I know it), and I always give to God so He will give me back more than what I gave.” One of the greatest signs of spiritual maturity in our lives no matter the depth of our education (even our Christian education) or ability to minister the word of God is when we can receive judgment and correction from others and then incorporate their verdict into our lives. I will be honest I do not like it when someone says, “Dave have you considered this, or that, or you know what you said maybe is not be right.  And if they really want to get me going all they have to do is mention my character.  Did you know God is more concerned about our character than about how long we can speak in tongues, how much money we give to the church, or more than all the things we do for Him in service?  Remember the greatest objective of the spiritual leader is not service, but obedience to the Master.     

In John we discover another type of giving from the story of the Samarian lady’s encounter with Jesus at the well.  Funny, how we are always changed for the better when we truly have an encounter with Jesus.  Here we read, “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:9-14)  Here the giving (by Jesus the giver) is not for the benefit of the giver as in Luke 6:38 above, but for the benefit of someone else.  This is a more correct model of giving where we give so that others may receive.  We give so that others may be able to come closer to God and come to the “living waters” where the waters will be “springing up into everlasting life” for us.  Here a more mature Christian would quote verses like these because they are concerned not about themselves, but about others receiving.  What a wonderful place in God when we can come to the place where we would rather see our brothers and sisters get blessed ahead of us.  This was one of the many problems the Church at Corinth had during communion. Paul told them, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.  21For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” (1 Corinthians 11:20-22) In other words Paul was saying they did not wait or prefer (allowing someone to go ahead) each other they were concerned about themselves first receiving the blessing.  He was saying they were not eating the Lord’s supper they were eating their own supper while other were hungry. What scathing words from Paul. Our motives and intention in giving must always be done not thinking of ourselves and the reward or benefit we shall receive, but on the impact of the person who will be receiving.  Giving must never be done blindly or quickly, but with a Godly purpose in mind. When I think of this point I always think of the day in the City of Bosque in the Islamic Republic of the Mauritania. While sitting in the back seat of the U.S. Embassy’s Suburban I caused a young boy to be beaten almost to death by giving him $5 and asking him to share it with his friends; well his friends saw the money and thrashed him soundly and anyone else who recovered the $5.  The money was passed hand-to-hand and with the money came the beating.  What a riot we had to leave quickly before the folks in the town attacked us.  As we were driving away in safety our translator said it will be months, maybe years, before we could return to Bosque.  I really messed things up.  My heart was in the right place, but my giving was not done with wisdom and when this happens the purpose is lost.  Often in giving it is important not to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.

A third type of giving is where we give not of our resources (money, time, talents), but of our self.  This is the greatest of the three types of giving mentioned thus far.  God is always after us giving all of ourselves so that we have nothing left to give; where we give beyond our resources, abilities, and this is always seen especially when we give to someone who cannot give back to us.  It is easy to give to someone who someday can repay us, but how about someone who can never repay us? How can we do this? When we allow God to empty us.  I hear many Christians say (even hear some pray) God come and fill me.  There is even a Vineyard Song that says, “come and fill me now,” well that is not the way God operates.  God does not just come and fill us because we want Him to oh no, God comes at His sweet time and fills us when we first allow Him to empty us.  The condition to be filled by God is first to allow God to empty us of the world and our self.  The more we allow God to empty us of these things, the more we can be filled with His nature and Spirit, no more no less.  This is a willful process in our lives God is looking for.  God will never be able to make us the type of giver He is looking for unless He first can get us to empty ourselves of our greedy selfishness and the love for worldly ways and ideas.   God’s expression of giving is then seen in our obedience and dedication not only to God, but to man.  We think when we give of our resources or self to man that is the end of the giving, but not so my friend every time we give even a drink of water to a friend  or especially our enemies God notices.  When I think of giving beyond one’s ability and giving to the end of their self I always think of my dear “Sweet Heart” Karen. When I retired in 2000 we were still living in Germany and to be able to stay in the American military system either Karen or I had to get a Federal job, if not we could not use the U.S. Post Office, we could not shop at the Military Post Exchange, we could not shop for food at the commissary (without paying high German taxes), and worst of all for our household Connie and Joshua could not go to the American High School they were attending for years unless we paid $1,200 per month per child.  Well, spending $2,400 a month was totally out of the question.  I was working at the High School as a Substitute Teacher (not a Federal job), with a German speaking company called KMP teaching business English and management, traveling in ministry, and pastoring the church, so it was up to Karen to get the Federal job.  Now Karen had not worked outside the home for over 20 years, this was not going to be an easy thing for her to do nor would this be an easy thing on our family dynamics.  Well, Karen inquired around the base and found out the only Federal job she was qualified for was working at the dining facility (chow hall) on base as a food service worker.  What a prestigious job scrubbing floors, cleaned mountains of pots and pan, cleaned the serving line, cut potatoes, scraped food off of trays into big garbage cans, and anything that needed to be done.  One day she was a big important officer’s wife and the next day she was the nice kind lady that took your food tray and said, “have a great day.”  I could go on and on, but you would not be able to understand what it cost my wife, how she allowed God to empty her and how her sacrifice ensured education for our kids and a way of life we were accustomed.  You would never be able to understand what I am saying unless, like Karen, you too endured the whispers, jeers, and snide comments of her one time friends. You will never know what I am talking about unless you too have been emptied by God to the end of yourself so that others can benefit, even enjoy your sacrifice.  How could I not love her?               

Lastly when God invest things in us especially Spiritual things we are not to spend them on ourselves.  God does not give to us dead ended, oh no my friend.  When God gives us things He expects us to give a portion of whatever He gave us away.  If God gives us $100, He expects, it is His intention in the giving to us that we give some of that $100 away.  God NEVER gives to us so that we can spend it all on our selves.  If you do this my friend you are a greedy and selfish person.  God always gives enough to us so that we can give something away.  No matter the amount God gives to us He expects a portion of what He gave us to be given away.  The portion that is given away is what God is after in our lives.  He gives us $100 and He is looking for our obedience to Him in what to give. God may say give $10 away or He might say give $100 away, the amount does not matter (it was given to us by God), but what does matters is are we going to be obedient to God and give what He asked so He can invest more money?  Most Christians who lack spiritual and earthly things is because God cannot trust them to give them away. The condition to receive from God is to be able to give away what God has already given you.  Funny how we are willing to give God our lives and heart, but when God asks for our wallet we feign deafness.  Charles Haun always said, “once God gets a hold of our wallets He has all of us” how true.  “For God so loved the world He gave” this is why giving is at the heart of the Gospel.  If God cannot make you a giver then He cannot use you my friend you will disqualify yourself for service.