last night at the home group i am part of we studied 2 corinthians 8 & 9 and discussed the topic of giving. [as a disclaimer up front before i continue, the musings that follow here are not exclusively my own but rather the product of discussion in fellowship] as followers of Christ we are called to give, not commanded, but called. when we accept the gift of salvation, and believe in our heart that Christ is our savior and the son of God, our heart naturally transforms, making us instinctively want to give as He gave so graciously to us. Christ gave the greatest sacrifice, His life for the sins of all mankind...so how could anything we struggle with giving to others even compare?
often times, as we all discussed [and i know i personally struggle with this] it is hard to determine how much is 'enough' to give...i mean if we look to the story of the widow giving her very last coins [mark 12:41-44] it seems that we are called to give up everything we have...but if our heart is bitter in the giving, how does this glorify God? as we discussed this we came to agree that determining how much is 'enough' to give, is really case specific, and something that you will know through prayer and seeking the Spirit's guidance. as modern westerners i think we are so often fixated on definitions, formulas, and clear-cut answers..."3 steps to successful giving"...slaves to comparisons and rankings...but our God is a relational God, and He is much more interested in the quality [not quantity] of giving, invested in the heart behind the giving.
the leader of our study read from his Bible commentary that "giving is the language of love" that struck me as the most authentic understanding of what giving truly is meant to be. the motivation behind giving is a hope to glorify God and a desire to share His love with one another. and if we prayerfully approach giving with this in mind, it will become clear how much is 'enough' to give and when to give this 'enough'.
at the end of the night we answered the question "why do we give?" and that may sound like a simple question, but it actually inspired a good discussion. with all our possessions, money, time, and talents [for "richness" is not merely based on dollars and physical ownership alone], we ought to be open handed to God, ready to give those things up if called to do so. that image of being open handed convicted and humbled me, for i realized how often i cling to certain things in my life, my time especially, out of a lack of faith, a lack of trust, and a fear of the unknown. but, giving frees us from becoming chained, enslaved, to other gods: the god of success, the god of pride, the god of selfishness, the god of contentment, the god of comfort, the god of security...and it is not that our God does not want us to have success, contentment, or comfort...because He does...but He has the full perspective on our life, and to cling, tunnel-visioned, to such things creates barriers between us and God, will sidetrack us from living a more fulfilling and freeing life that brings glory to the one who gave it all for us.
reading a bit over what i've written, my thoughts seem a bit convoluted and the rhetoric not easy to follow, but it was a great evening of fellowship and wrestling with what the Word means and how to truly live it out in our daily existence.
ultimately what i took away from those two chapters in 2 corinthians and the discussion that followed is that if we give ourselves to God first it will become clear what we are to give, how much we are to give, and when to give it...and this enables us to joyfully come open handed with all we have [in time, money, possessions] to God, freed [at least in that moment] from enslavement to lesser things, communicating the intended definition of giving: the language of love.