Understanding Christian Love and Giving

I think one of the most misunderstood subjects in Christianity is giving. Some Christians think giving is a choice while others think it is something mandatory. Let us first of all get one major misunderstanding out of the way. Giving by no means adds or removes anything from your salvation. Grace is not based on works but purely on the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your salvation has absolutely nothing to do with your giving but your blessing and reward does, on earth and also in heaven.

Giving as a Christian has many forms. They are mainly categorized under these five: wealth, time, energy/effort, skills/talent or resources/material goods. While it is true that God never forces or puts anyone under compulsion to give for His work, He seems to automatically have expectations as soon as a person becomes a Christian and matures in his or her faith. I often wondered why that is. Let us consider a simple example. A father whose spouse just gave birth expects the child to grow as years pass by. The child should increase in height and certain abilities such as crawling, walking, talking should surface up as time passes by. Now if this is not happening, then something is definitely not right. A visit to a doctor or medical expert may be necessary. In a similar way, our Father in heaven expects growth and maturity in our spiritual lives and He also becomes concerned if His children are not growing. There are still some questions left unanswered. Surely Jesus Christ has not redeemed us to go back to all the traditions and rituals that used to be followed and was like bondage since these were mandatory and one would be punished if not followed properly. So what’s the big deal? If we have full freedom in Christ, then why are we still preaching tithes and offerings and giving and making a big deal out of it. Does God even care if I give or not? Will giving make any difference really? Believe me! I often wonder about such questions. Let us look at a very common scripture before I go any further:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This verse is so often used in preaching and sharing about the love of God that I think most meat is overlooked. Someone might quickly respond, “Why I clearly understand it? It’s pretty straight forward, is it not?” I would also quickly respond by saying that it is a reasonable question that requires a justifiable answer. The first thing about this verse that quickly pops out is God’s love for mankind and the second thing most noticeable is God giving his only son to justify that love. In others words, giving is God’s demonstration of His love. But let us not make giving in this example in any way inferior. The statement is clear God did not only give but He gave His only and the best. Best in the sense that if you had only one of something and that something is irreplaceable, then giving might as well be the last thing you do. For example a mother who has only one child is asked to give her only child to a relative who is barren would be the most difficult thing to do. Although the mother might know that she can always have another child but you see it’s not the same child. It is another child different from the first. Now considering the fact that God had only one son and giving Him away for a rebellious people who want nothing to do with Him is not only a tough decision but humanly impossible. Remember God did not only give away His son but rather gave Him to be sacrificed for the redemption of mankind. Understanding this is so very important since most of the time when folks talk about the sacrifice of Jesus, it is so shallowed or watered down. It’s as if we have heard it so many times that the value in the statement has crippled down to mean something religious rather than the purely defined evidence of God’s love for all humanity. Often times we hear people say, “Well what has God done for me?” or “God why me?” or “God is responsible for all evil or bad things happening in my life.” Let me share a piece of my mind: “Well then, why stop there. Might as well blame every war, disaster, suffering, disease etc. on God alone? Would not that be a most desired easier route? Let me ask you this: Was it God who forced people to war against each other or was it their hunger for power, wealth, riches and fame?”

Men has disrupted God’s created ecosystem that is His creation causing chaos and when it comes to accountability, they take a step back and say God is responsible. It’s God’s mistake. Let us not blame God for our doing. Thou I will blame God for this one thing that His love for us being so intense caused Him to create a people who could choose either to love or hate Him, to do either good or bad, to flourish or to destroy. Yes we should blame Him for His goodness towards every soul that sins. He made a way out for them. We should blame Him for the very fact you are alive and most if not all well. You could be in a hospital bed breathing your last but surely that is not the case.

God’s love for His creation and His giving to save them cannot be separated. Love is demonstrated or shown by the act of giving. I often hear folks say that well is it not enough that I just love God without giving. What’s the big deal about giving to show love for God? I believe a human analogy would be great in demonstrating an answer to this question. Let’s say you just got married. Now one of the things you obviously will do is spend a significant amount of time with your spouse. Another very important thing would be to remember the special days such as anniversary, birthday, valentine’s day etc. Obviously you will be spending money if not decent then significant amount on these special days. Why? Because you love your spouse, you show it by buying a gift. Is it necessary to buy a gift to show your love? Do this, stop spending time with your wife and forget all special days but keep telling him or her that you love him or her so much. I wonder how that would work out. Obviously if a human analogy itself breaks down on saying you love someone without giving, how much greater will it be with God who gives all good things to his children unconditionally. Does not such a God deserve not only the first tenth but the best part and the most precious of our possessions? Would not it be the right thing to do? There need be no telling or pressuring or forcing. It would only be the norm. Does not this make more sense than saying I love God but giving is not necessary to show that love? I wonder how a wife would react to a husband who forgot their anniversary. Would she be satisfied with an excuse like I’m sorry, I forgot. Come on folks, let’s be realistic. It obvious the wife will be angry probably sad and if worse depressed that the husband forgot the most important day for both of them. Love without giving is fake love. Real love or true love is illustrated in action and not only in words.

Now there is another side of God’s love and giving I would like to talk on. When we say God’s character or nature is love, it may be true in one aspect. It’s like saying that the God of the Bible is a loving God or benevolent God or compassionate God. But I don’t believe that is what the Bible means when it says that God is love. Real quick let’s look at a common scripture:

1 John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.       

Here we see something very different. It says that God is love, not that his nature or character is love but that God is love Himself. In other words love is what God is! It is not something He learned or gained or built overtime or something he has become or is trying to become. Let me use a simple analogy: When I say I have a lemon tree in my backyard, I identify the lemon with the tree not the tree to the lemon. What I mean is the tree was a lemon tree even before it grew up and started producing lemons. I still called it a lemon tree because when I bought it at Home Depot, the tag identified it as a young lemon tree. I did not need to see the lemons on the young tree before I could say it’s a lemon tree. I did not need to wait till I saw a lemon pop up on the tree to call it a lemon tree. I did not say that well I see a lemon grow on it so it’s a lemon tree. Instead I say well the tree is a lemon tree so the only fruit it will or ever can produce is lemon. That’s what it is and that’s the only fruit it can produce. 

Now consider God is love, not love in low or high volume but as highest and purest form love itself can ever be. He is love in its highest state defined. God’s very being is love itself. In other words, to truly understand what love is, you need to first of all understand who God is. Once you get an idea of who the God of the Bible is, understanding love would become an easier subject. Real or true love can only be known by knowing or coming into acquaintance with the God of the Bible. There is no other way. When we talk about God being love, we are not dealing with human love but divine love. The thing about divine love is that in essence it does not necessarily need to carry emotions or feelings or depend on some chemical balance in your body or mood. It’s a verb. It deals with the action it prompts. This action works to benefit not just the party associated with God but also the ones disassociated with God. The second part is in reference to the people who want nothing at all to do with Him and if God is put in the picture, they will use the problem of pain and suffering to put God down as if that satisfies as answer to this problem. God who is love itself cannot do wrong or evil to anyone since that will be contrary to who He is. It’s like expecting a lemon tree in eagerness to produce some juicy oranges. Of course this is indeed insanity. It is a self-destructive statement which has no good reason or logic. When a person says that why would a good and loving God cause evil, pain, suffering and sickness in this world that would be considered a self-contradictory statement. If God is love, then for Him to commit all these awful things would be totally opposite to who He is. A vegetable cannot be called fresh and stale at the same time and in the same sense and place. But that’s exactly what people are saying in reference to God. It’s funny that they don’t see the folly in these kinds of statements especially considering that some of the most intelligent people talk like that.

OK so we have seen that God is love and that is what prompts Him to give. Now just as God is love, God is also a giver. Not as carrying an attribute of giving caused by love but Giver is who He is defined as at the very core of His being. Now don’t misunderstand me. What I am trying to say is that we do not call God a giver because He gave but because His is a Giver in His very personality so the only action He is able to commit is give. Not give only something but give the first, best, perfect and everlasting riches to all His children. We may not see the full picture completely because our human intellect is not able to fully understand God’s ways but time is coming when we will understand things as God meant them to be understood. Let me once again use a human analogy. When a Father tells a child that smoking is bad for he or she, the child does not start right away figuring out and questioning: Why is it not good? Other people smoke; what is so wrong with me smoking? But what he or she do is trust the judgement of his or her father because he speaks as someone who cares about his or her well-being. God is the giver of life and all its blessings. Everything good we see in this world is an aspect of Him. We identify ourselves and even others with values, morals and objective truths which pertain to our creator. For example when someone lies for self-benefit, any person anywhere in the world knows in their conscience, it is the wrong thing to do. They may not all agree or admit to it which is a choice of the human will. But this does not make the moral objective of telling the truth absurd. It is still same for all.

God is love and God is a giver. These two essence of God goes hand in hand together. God cannot be love without being a giver because the very action that love prompts is giving. We are clearly instructed by Paul to imitate Him as he imitates Jesus Christ. The reason why Paul tells us to imitate him is because human are sensual beings. We learn better from things that can be physically seen, heard and felt. When we make the decision to follow Jesus, our will to act on His words are not only hard but close to impossible. This is a fact. Let us not simply say Jesus will give you strength, don’t worry, all is fine, just continue to pray. All is not fine. Ask a person who is struggling in His finance, barely able to make the house payment and pay bills. Now the reason I have used a financial example is because that’s what most people struggle with. Quickly look at:

Romans 5:5 (NKJV) Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

In this verse we discover that the same love that God is has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us. In other words, God Himself who is love has put His love inside of us making us capable to loving just as He does. God’s love in us causes us to become a giver just as God is. Not like any giver who just gives from his excess but a giver who is capable of even giving out of lack and His trust in the provision of His Master never fails. Reminds me of a statement in the Book of Corinthians where Paul explains, “Love Never Fails.” It’s true. In other words, a Christian is not called a giver because he gives. But because by his very identity he is classified as a giver that’s why He gives. Ever stopped to think why Christians are rated at the top of givers? Other non-Christians simply expect Christians to give not because they know a few lines in the Bible. They see and know and accept the fact that whether any other religious or social group helps or not, they automatically accept the Christians to be givers. Not that a Christian gave that’s why I call him a giver but because a Christian is a giver so the simple conclusion would be they will give.

Let me discuss real quick one last point about imitating Jesus Christ. When we start off our Christian life, we have a lot of difficulty to follow the ways of God. It is true and if it was not for you then truly you are gifted. In the beginning, we imitate Jesus Christ although the ways of our flesh is totally contrary to it. But as we progress along our Christian lives, we start seeing a transition. Those things of God which were difficult in the beginning start becoming easier. The Holy Spirit in you, God’s love in you is doing the change from the inside out. Why and how did it happen? It happened because you allowed your will to be submitted to the will of God even through the pain and struggle and this is the very thing which allowed the work of the Holy Spirit to progress in your life slowing turning you into the new creature that God always desired you to be. Remember God does not force people to love Him. Forced love is rape and God is not a rapist. This is exactly the way the famous defender of our faith C. S. Lewis said it.

In conclusion, I would summarize my sermon like this: God is love. That love is what prompts Him to be a giver. That love is now in you after accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and savior. Since that love is in you, you have the full capability to become a giver just as God is. Imitating Jesus Christ is the beginning of this process. If you would only allow, God will make you the person He desired you to be. You should strive to fulfill your calling and purpose in Him. It’s only a matter of making His will your will. It can be a painful process even including griefs and struggles. But hold on, remember He is with you even till the end of this age. In this process love prompting to give, serve and sacrifice becomes a normal everyday activity, not a burden or alien nature to a Christian. It’s considered part of who you are. It’s at the core of your very identity. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way implying that you become God. What you become is the likeness of your Heavenly Father. When people come in contact with you, they see Him in you. You are the living testimony in the midst of a crooked generation, the light on the hill, the salt of the earth, the representative of the kingdom of Heaven on earth, a vessel carrying very glory of His Heavenly Father. People will notice and ask. That’s the time to talk. Answer them. Witness to them!

This concludes my sermon, thou there is one final note that I feel needs a little more emphasis if you would allow me to state. First of all, by submitting to God’s will, everyone does not reach the same end or become the same final product. What we become is more of ourselves than anything else. Think about it. By conforming to God’s will, you allow His plan and purpose to perfectly take shape in your life. In other words, you reach your true destination. Now your will which may be based on emotions, feelings and influence of other people and entities actually works against God’s will for your life. Remember your creator is the only sure person to know your true purpose in this life. Who better I ask than to consult the wonderful counselor Himself?

Second of all, when I mentioned about tithe and offering being talked about in churches, I really had not completely answered the question why it is so important? Tithe and offering are the basic building blocks of a Christian giver. They are there to draw a line of learning and wisdom from all the past patriarchs. They followed this system even before tithe and offering became part of the law. It was already part of who our ancient fathers were and did as givers. I would once again like to throw in a simple illustration to help understand this matter a little better. In Biology, they use a term called cell. Cell is the basic unit of life. To simplify, the cell is the foundational structure and without it no living thing whether it be a tree or an animal would exist. For any living thing to form, cell is the beginning stage to allow the essential processes of life to proceed. In a similar sense, tithe and offering is the essential foundation of every Christian giver. That’s the starting point. Every other form of giving resides upon them. Removing these two is the same as building a house on the sand. It will not hold when the storm strikes. Weak foundations create weak Christians. One last thing, experience speaks for itself and not just because the Bible says so. Have we not seen it over and over again? Givers are Receivers. Sowers are Reapers.