We were finishing dinner in a lovely restaurant and I had given a report on the ministry work around the world.
The couple across the table had been very gracious financial supporters of the ministry, had visited the work in Hungary and Poland and hosted me in their home for years.
When the waiter arrived at the table with the check, I took the check hoping they would follow through on their previous commitment. On the way to dinner, I had asked them if I could buy our dinner. They had hosted me in their home, fed me meals, taken me out to wonderful restaurants and been the picture of generosity.
This one time, I wanted to experience the gift of giving by buying them dinner. They had reluctantly agreed, but I know they ordered less expensive items on the menu ! They let the check pass to me and I paid our bill.
They had more than enough to afford dinner, but graciously allowed me to pay; they gave me the gift of giving. This is on the mind of Paul, in II Corinthians 8-9.
This principle—giving is a gift from God—runs through 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. God doesn’t need our help, but because He loves us, He invites us to join Him in His work.
In fact, He’s actually doing us a favor by allowing us to be part of His work through our material giving.
I remember reading 1 Chronicles 28 and 29 and realizing that God wasn’t wringing His hands in heaven, wondering what He would do if David didn’t come through with the huge amount of materials for the construction of the temple.
But of course, God wasn’t depending on David. God owns everything, He has all the resources He needs at hand, and He is fully able to fund His own ministry initiatives. God didn’t really need David to lead a capital campaign for the building project. After all, God Himself spoke the entire world into existence, and speaking the temple into existence wouldn’t have been at all difficult for Him.
Yet acting according to His magnificent wisdom, He offered David and the people of Israel—just as He offers us—the gift/grace of participating with Him in His work.
And partnering with God is a wonderful gift. You see, I really like walking into the sanctuary at my church and thinking, We gave funds to help build this sanctuary.
It Sounded Bad…
When Krysten Norkaitis joined the EGM staff, she brought with her a love for all things Latin American.
When she lived in Argentina—on staff with YWAM—she really immersed herself in the Argentinian culture. When she joined the EGM team, she began opening doors for a ministry in Mexico.
One opportunity involved serving in Oaxaca, Mexico, alongside several churches and Growers First, the organizing ministry that worked with pastors in the Oaxacan mountains, many of whom were coffee growers. Each year Growers First held a conference that was attended by over one thousand pastors from across the region.
Many of them were from very low-income areas, and they lacked basic essentials. In addition to Bible teaching, amazing worship, and a week of beautiful fellowship, Growers First offers some practical help. A group of American ophthalmologists, optometrists, and nurses, for instance, set up a little eye clinic, and I went to check it out.
I stood near the line of pastors waiting in line for their eye exams. The gentleman nearest me looked quiet elderly. When it was his turn, he explained to the nurse that his eyes had gone bad three years ago, and he couldn’t read anything anymore, including the large-print Spanish Bible he held.
You could see the sadness on his face. The doctor sat him down, did a brief eye exam, and determined he was farsighted and had severe hyperopia. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded bad. One doctor said he was a +3, and that didn’t sound too bad.
The doctors had little tubs filled with glasses, and each tub was labeled +1, +2 and -1, -2. One tub was labeled +3. They reached in and got out a pair of black-rimmed glasses, placed them on the pastor, and adjusted them to fit.
Then, looking down at the Bible, this dear man blurted out in Spanish, “I can read!” He was weeping, smiling, and laughing all at the same time—and he wasn’t the only one. Everyone in the room joined him in crying, laughing, and celebrating all at the same time.
The people of Growers First had given their time, finances, and expertise to the ministry, and in that wonderful moment, they experienced the gift/grace of giving. Of course, God could have managed that whole conference all by Himself.
No problem! He could have provided glasses or just healed the pastor’s eyesight. But instead, God offered the gift of giving to Growers First, and that group of Americans experienced the overflowing joy that comes with the gift of giving.
God’s Amazing Word
The gift of giving isn’t restricted to missionary work. It’s an unrecognized part of church life as well.
Although we may not see it as such, our tithes and offerings are a gift from God allowing us to be part of His ministry work in and through our own churches. I myself have been on the receiving end of a local church’s giving.
When I was a seminary student, I took Hebrew, and the big final project was translating Jonah from Hebrew into English. When it was over, I literally knew Jonah word for word—in Hebrew.
Some years later I attended Urbana, and the four days of Bible exposition were about… Jonah. I honestly thought I had nothing new to learn. After all, I knew that book word for word in Hebrew. Was I ever shocked when Ajith Fernando delivered some of the greatest Bible exposition I’d ever heard! Each day he offered a profound insight, directly from the text, that I had totally missed.
I returned home from Urbana and learned that Kenton Beshore—my pastor at Mariners Church—was about to begin a four-week series on—yep, you guessed it.
I thought to myself, What can he say that would help me who’s studied the book in Hebrew and has heard a super-gifted, world-famous Bible teacher teaching it to 15,000 people at Urbana?
Of course, the series was awesome, and I can still remember new insights, directly from the text, that Ajith and I had missed. Not that my Old Testament knowledge is anywhere close to Ajith Fernando, but you know what I mean.
Again, the main point in this chapter could be how amazing God’s Word is—I kept learning more and more about Jonah! —but it’s not. It’s about the gift of giving.
Freedom to Give Joyfully
Kenton Beshore is a gifted Bible teacher, pastor, and Christian leader. Before a recent change in his leadership role, Kenton served as the lead pastor at Mariners Church for over 35 years. I had the honor of serving under Kenton’s leadership as a young children’s ministry leader.
Since that time, I have watched how the church community loves their Pastor and expresses that love in gracious giving. Kenton is loved by the Mariner church family and one reason he was able to teach and lead Mariners Church was the gracious giving of God’s people.
God was certainly able to provide directly for Kenton and his family without anyone’s help, and God can do the same for your pastor. However, God allows us to join Him in providing financial resources for His servants. This opportunity is a gift from God. He has also allowed people to join Him in providing for the needs of Kenton and his family and certainly the needs of the Watts family.
This provision is a gift from God, not only for the recipient, but for the giver themselves. Giving to God, for the support of your pastor or missionary is a gift to us, the giver, reflecting His generous and unmerited favor in our lives.
The road well-traveled, however, seems to have taken a detour around this subject. It rightly teaches that giving frees us from the bonds of materialism as God and money battle each other for preeminence in our heart. Sometimes, though, the road well-traveled may unintentionally have us believe that giving is an act of penance for having a greedy heart.
In contrast, on the less traveled road, giving is a gift from God that we are to open with the joy of a Christmas morning. When the offering is taken on Sunday, the online gift is given, or the year-end appeal goes out, let’s talk about what a blessing God bestows when He invites us to join Him in His work through our giving.
Let’s help Christians understand that giving is a gift from God. We get to show our love for Him, join Him in His mighty work, and be part of fulfilling His vision in this world. Let’s help people see the opportunity to give as a gift from God, as another way He showers us with His unmerited favor.
When we see giving as the gift from God that it is, we are freed to be cheerful and generous in our giving. Like my son Caleb, we can take the dollar that the Almighty Himself provided for us. We can bound right into the spiritual Dollar Store and buy a gift for Christ. That is the road less traveled.
The Road Well Traveled: The road well-traveled may make a detour around the idea that giving—the opportunity to give—is a gift from God.
The Road Less Traveled: On this road, we help God’s people realize that giving is a gift from God. He allows us to express our love for Him and to join Him in His work by giving our material gifts.