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My wife and I have decided to give regularly. She’s thrilled, I’m not. If God loves a cheerful giver, I dread knowing what He thinks of me.
While I don’t like addressing you as Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ classic book Christmas Carol about a greedy, stingy, selfish man by that name has a very happy ending. Scrooge experienced a transformation of his heart and wallet.
I do appreciate your honesty and sincerely understand your pain. I once walked in your shoes before God changed my heart. That is what it took for me and my wife to become united on the issue of giving generously and cheerfully.
God Loves You
Your dread in knowing what He thinks of you is answered in 1 John 4:18-19: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If you believe in God, then you do not have to worry about punishment. Discipline? Yes, but only because he loves you and wants to conform you into His image.
Thomas Chalmers wrote: The love of God and the love of the world are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity…the only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.
The expulsive power of a new affection? Yes. God.
How? And, how does this impact our desire to give generously and joyfully?
God Loves It When You Give With Joy
The Bible, God’s living Word, reveals who He is and what He’s done for us. Reading it gives us a glimpse into the depths of His marvelous grace and mercy.
In it we learn that He is our Provider. When we ponder this deeply, the correct question to ask ourselves is not “how much of my money should I give?” but, “ how much of God’s money should I spend on myself?”
Since we have four boys, I can recall taking them to a fast food place for hamburgers and fries. It gave me great pleasure to get them a large cheeseburger with hot french fries. On more than one occasion, since I did not order fries, I would reach across the table to take one of the boy’s fries before they were all gone. Almost instantly, one of the boys would say, “Hey Dad, that is mine!!” He had forgotten that I provided the burgers and every single french fry on the table...all of them! He had also forgotten that I could provide all the fries he likely would ever be interested in eating! These became teaching moments for our boys. (They have since become much more willing to share their fries when I want a few.)
But doesn’t that give you a picture of our own attitudes? God provides to meet all of our needs and we balk at an opportunity to give what He gave us! It gave Him joy to provide; He wants us to find joy in giving it to others!
As Crown’s founder, Larry Burkett, used to be fond of saying: “Most of what God has given you is not for you.”
Although many are deceived into believing otherwise, God is greater than anything the world offers. He is love. And, we love because He first loved us.
Give Because You Love
To know His love, we have to fill and renew our minds on Truth, as Romans 12:2 teaches. It’s how we snuff out worldly affections and adopt God’s. Through Bible reading, study, prayer, and worship in the local church, our hearts become tuned to His. Generosity and service become a desire – a natural outflow of a heart kept in the love of God.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 1:20-21a ESV)
God’s economic message is that we trust our needs will be met one day at a time. We then demonstrate trust in His faithfulness to provide for our future needs as we serve the needs of others. Couples who align their hearts in this way acknowledge that their prosperity is entrusted to God’s loving care.
Beware of Fear
It has been my observation through years of counseling individuals and couples about giving is they are often gripped by fear. Their concerns about the future cause them to get into a “what if” mindset. Maybe they have a desire to make a large gift then they are hit with the first “what if… the hot water heater goes out?” Suddenly they reduce the amount a little until the next “what if...the kids need braces?” strikes. Now the amount gets smaller. This keeps happening until the amount God put on your heart is reduced to far less than you had hoped you would give. You decide it is better to keep most all of the french fries for yourself.
· Start a list of what God’s provided, including what money cannot buy.
· Make consistent giving your top priority.
· Give away something that you treasure.
· Practice meekness in your lifestyle choices.
· Serve the poor in your community, nation, and the world.
· Volunteer to work on church and community projects.
· Pray, with your wife, that your treasures will be in heaven and not on earth.
· Read the Bible and biographies of heroes of the faith.
· Examine where you spend most of your time.
· Do your friends encourage materialism? Guard their influence on you.
· Limit exposure to advertising, commercials, and shopping.
· Establish financial goals that impact God’s kingdom.
· Write your obituary and include how you hope to be remembered.
Help me to be joyfully generous with all my resources, Lord. Open my eyes to the needs around me, fill me with compassion, and help me to view everything I have as a tool in my hands to love others well in the name of Jesus. I want to be a channel that you use to funnel resources back into growing your Kingdom. Help me to honor my wife’s desire for us to become united and generous as a couple.
Remember that you are not under a law or taxation plan. This is what God wants for you as you mature and grow in your faith.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)