February 2

Giving is a Matter of the Heart (Matthew 6)

Daniel Watts

My daughter’s birth was a big event. Even the church celebrated!

I remember going to church the Sunday after she was born. I still smile thinking of the banners hanging over every room in the children’s ministry area: “Welcome, Brittany Watts!” One banner was even hanging between two palm trees in the church parking lot!

I had wanted children for a long time, and I’d been involved in vocational children’s ministry for over six years. I honestly recall having the desire to have children when I was in high school. I know that probably sounds weird.

Now—finally—I was a dad! Naturally, I immediately threw myself into fathering. The word doting comes to mind, but even that’s not sufficient. I didn’t merely dote; I over-doted—and I got called on it.

One of the church elders took me aside and gently reminded me that “a good father is a good husband first.”

Then the church leadership instituted one of those time management exercises for the staff. The one where you write down what you do every half hour of your day.

After two weeks I clearly saw that the way I was spending my time did not reflect that commitment to put my wife first. Things like date night had gone out the window, and now that I had slowed down to look, I could even feel my life and myself getting out of whack.

Then one of my close colleagues at work reminded me that where you spend your time reveals where your priorities are. That was a lesson I needed to learn—stat!

Giving and the Heart

Giving and the heart

How you allocate your time reflects your priorities. Similarly, how you handle your monies reflects your heart priorities. This is exactly what is on Jesus’ mind in Matthew 6.

The passage is loaded with pithy teaching, but the core of the message is found in verse 21. This crucial statement is widely viewed to be the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Jesus understood the connection between our material wealth and our heart. He recognized that what we do with our material possessions both reveals and impacts our heart, our motives, our values, and our priorities.

Consider, for instance, what saving all our money and not spending it reveals about our heart. Or, conversely, what does the splurging on worldly possessions beyond our means demonstrate about us?

Whatever we do with the financial resources in our care makes a statement about our priorities.

Easy proof of that assertion comes with giving a son and a daughter five dollars and sending them into the Dollar Store. My son would come out with a toy car or truck, a weapon of some sort, and candy. My daughter would buy some beauty products and chocolate.

I am not being chauvinistic; I’m just reporting what I saw. The reality that they had different priorities became quite evident in how they spent their money. (I should note that priorities change, and my daughter is now a mother of two and a weightlifting buff.)

Unfortunately, we may allocate or disburse our funds in a manner that conflicts with our values and desires, resulting in dissonance—cognitive, spiritual, and emotional. Not doing what we know we should do causes cognitive dissonance that, in turn, can lead to an internal spiritual conflict and undermine our emotional peace.

So, what are we doing with the treasure the Lord has entrusted to us?

The relationship between our heart and what we do with our money is the central point of this passage. God doesn’t want us to engage with Him only based on intellect and thought, God desires a heart relationship—a relationship of love—with us.

This heart relationship should impact and guide what we do with our money.

Think of it this way. If you’re married, if you have parents still living, or if you have a cherished friend, what you do with your money affects those personal connections.

  • Forget to give your wife an anniversary card several years in a row and see how that impacts the marriage.
  • When your daughter’s birthday rolls around, think about how she will react if you forget to give her a gift.
  • Imagine what happens on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day if you neglect to give a gift to your parent. 

In each of these cases, people know that memories lapse and mistakes are made because we’re all human. But if we repeatedly forget or if we make the same mistake year after year, we send the message loud and clear that this person is not really that important to us.

When we repeatedly choose not to give to God, we send Him that same message: “You’re not really that important to me.” Clearly, a battle rages between giving our heart to material wealth and giving our heart to God (Matthew 6:24).

Of course, God’s desire is that we give our heart to Him. One way we do that is by seeking first His kingdom (v. 33), and by giving our material possessions to Him for His work.

Jesus called His followers to invest their material resources in God’s kingdom; to give their heart and wealth to God’s kingdom rather than placing their trust in material things.

Closing Thoughts

Giving and the heart

The simple truth of this Matthew 6 passage can be summarized as follows:

We can give our heart to the world by
giving our money for worldly treasures.

—or —

We can give our heart to God by
giving our money to Him for His kingdom purposes.

Jesus’ teaching clearly redefines how to fund a church or ministry: the shift is from our asking people for money to our doing a work of ministry.

God has called Christian leaders to help Christ-followers keep a proper perspective on their material wealth. He calls us to help other Christ-followers to grow as disciples. A key to that growth is to give our material wealth to God and His kingdom.

The implications of this passage are enormous for Christian pastors and leaders, as well as for those individuals that are being pastored and led.

If leaders and pastors are serious about spiritual leadership, then we need to be helping people give their heart to God more fully. And all of us more fully give our heart to God when we give financially to Him and His kingdom work.

This is the shifted—the new—paradigm.

This is the road less traveled: A Christian leader is not asking people for money but is instead, helping people to give their heart to God rather than to this world.

Many of the problems plaguing Christianity and the subject of giving could be resolved if all of God’s people understood and tried to live according to this crucial teaching.

To learn more about The Road Less Traveled in Christian fundraising and giving check out our website at www.egminstitute.org.

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