By: Bro. Joel Lao
John 6:5-14 (NIV)
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”. He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, Ït would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”.
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Receiving gifts is something we all enjoy. Notice that when Christmas comes children are very excited as they look forward to the gifts they will receive.
But this does not apply for little children only, it also applies to us, adults. In fact, we learned in our SCG Advance Class that one of the 5 languages of love is RECEIVING GIFTS.
But did you know that many people also ENJOY GIVING GIFTS rather than receiving them? That’s why we always hear the phrase “IT IS BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE”.
Modern day psychological research has recently proven that GIVING LEADS TO LONGER AND MORE LASTING FEELINGS OF HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING than receiving goods. I even read in an article that today scientists are looking for biological evidences for why it is better to give than to receive. Some scientists believe that giving to or helping others helps relieve stress in the body and is therefore beneficial to our health.
As I prepare this sermon, I told myself that if these scientists have read the Bible, they would have found the answer to that question. The phrase “it is better to give than to receive” actually originated from the book of Acts 20:35 … and remember the words of the Lord Jesus when He said that, “IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.”
It may surprise you to learn that Jesus taught more about money and possessions than He did about heaven or hell. The word “GIVE” is used more than 1500 times in the Bible, more than the words faith, hope, love or pray.
Under this title, I would like to share with you TWO MAIN POINTS.
- What should be our HEART’S ATTITUDE IN GIVING TO GOD?
- What are the PRINCIPLES TO REMEMBER IN GIVING TO GOD?
Before I proceed with my two main points, I would like to shortly discuss with you the importance of GIVING in the bible.
GIVING is an act of WORSHIP to our GIVER. The Bible clearly reveals that true life, a blessed life, an abundant life, a purposed life, is, in fact, ALL ABOUT GOD. When we share what we have, God is honoured and needs are met. THIS GIVING BACK TO GOD is the HEART OF WORSHIP.
Our giving is an expression of worship in 3 dimensions –
PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.
First, GIVING EXPRESSES OUR GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR THE PAST. When we give back to God, we express our appreciation to Him for all the ways He has blessed us.
Second, GIVING EXPRESSES OUR PRESENT PRIORITIES. The way people spend their time and money reveals what is really important to them.
Third, GIVING EXPRESSES OUR FAITH IN GOD FOR THE FUTURE. It is amazing that many people are willing to trust God for their eternal salvation but not with their tithes. Such eternal blessing is much better and greater than any temporal blessings in this world.
I. WHAT SHOULD BE OUR HEART’S ATTITUDE IN GIVING TO GOD?
I believe any one of us will be much happier to receive a gift from a giver who is motivated by love rather than out of obligation. In the principle of giving, God is never interested in how much one gives, but God is more interested in the CONDITION of the HEART OF THE GIVER. Why? Obviously, God doesn’t need our money. He is not poor. But God does want us to BECOME LIKE HIM, THE ULTIMATE GIVER. And that will only happen if we learn HOW TO GIVE.
Have you ever experienced working so hard in order to save money so you can buy something to give to your loved one? Who among you have experienced this? And how does it feel when finally, after many long days or weeks or even months of working hard, you can now finally afford to buy that gift and give it to your loved one. Imagine the feeling of excitement as you hand in your gift and the look of delight as you see your loved one opening your present. You forget all the hard work and all you care now is her happiness as she opens your gift.
If you have been in a similar situation, then you will agree that it is BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE. GIVING now then TAKES THE FOCUS OFF OURSELVES AND PUTS IT ONTO SOMEONE. GIVING BECOMES A TANGIBLE WAY TO EXPRESS OUR LOVE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
ILLUSTRATION 1– We always say that children like to receive gifts from their parents. But have you ever experienced receiving gifts from your children when they were still very young? I’m sure a lot of you have experienced that. Since they don’t have money to buy fancy gifts they will make their own personalized greeting cards to express their love to you. And how do the parents feel? Parents would feel really special upon receiving handmade personalized gifts because they know that it was through the child’s effort, sweat and tears that he was able to come up with the card. That regardless of the bad handwriting or the wrong spellings, the card was conceived OUT OF LOVE.
Now, how about the little children? How do they feel as their parents appreciate their handmade gifts? As they see their parents open up and read the greeting card, the child feels a certain pride. You know why? Because there’s this feeling of unspeakable joy as one gives his time, money, effort and talent to his loved one. I believe most of us here will be happy to receive a gift from a giver who gives OUT OF LOVE. This is mainly because, when it comes to giving, what matters most is the not the gift but the CONTENT OF THE HEART OF THE GIVER.
Let us now examine one of our key texts in John 6:5-14. Here we see the disciples facing a seemingly impossible task of feeding the 5000. They started to assess the cost of feeding the crowd. In this story, Jesus showed Philip and his other disciples a lesson on our heart’s attitude in giving to God.
1. OUR HEART’S ATTITUDE OF GIVING IN FAITH
As the disciples figure out how to feed the 5000, here comes a boy offering and giving his five loaves of bread and two fish to feed the 5000. Something seems wrong here. How come a young boy remembered to bring lunch and while the rest of the 5000 didn’t bring any. Here is my thought on this scene. Other people certainly have more resources than this young boy. But in their minds, they knew that what they have is not enough to feed the 5000 or maybe they were thinking that what they have in their hands is only enough to feed their family. so what happened is that they didn’t give anything at all.
But this young boy gave to Jesus the little that he had and trusted Jesus to feed the 5000. This young boy must have heard the many miracles of Jesus and he has that faith that Jesus can do something out of the little food that he gave. And Jesus begins with the little food the young boy gave and used it to perform one of the most celebrated miracles in the bible. We can see here that Jesus is not interested in the amount that you give. Jesus is definitely more concerned that his people will GIVE IN FAITH.
Jesus teaching the disciples to trust and RELY IN GOD’S POWER AND PROVISION rather than on their own provision. Having faith in God is trusting Him in providing us with our needs.
Now let us examine ourselves. Look at the resources that we have in our hands. What do we do the moment when we receive our salary?
In one of the SCG lessons I attended in Quezon, I will never forget what Pastor Lily taught. She said that when you receive your salary, the first thing a believer or a Christian must do is set aside our tithes first. The question now is are we doing that? Or maybe we are like the world that sets aside all our payables first (like the electricity bills, water bills, telephone bills, groceries, and other expenses. Then whatever balance we have will be our tithes to God.
If we are doing this, we are giving our leftovers to God. To put it correctly, we are robbing God. (Malachi 3:8) – …HOW ARE WE ROBBING YOU (GOD)? IN TITHES AND OFFERINGS.
If this is our mindset, then we don’t exercise our faith in God who will provide us with our need when we obey His word.
King Solomon in Proverbs 3:9-10 – HONOR THE LORD FROM YOUR WEALTH AND FROM THE FIRST FRUITS OF ALL YOUR CROPS; THEN YOUR BARNS WILL BE FILLED COMPLETELY, AND YOUR VATS WILL OVERFLOW WITH NEW WINE.
WHEN WE START TO TRUST GOD’S WORD IN THIS AREA OF OUR LIVES, WE ALSO LEARN TO GIVE IN FAITH. AS WE TAKE THAT STEP OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE, WE RELEASE HIS BLESSINGS INTO OUR LIVES and hence, experience His MIRACULOUS PROVISION .
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, FAITH IS TAKING THE FIRST STEP EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T SEE THE WHOLE STAIRCASE
Like the little boy in the Miracle Feeding of the Five Thousand, don’t be afraid to offer God what you have. Don’t even despise the little that you have. No matter how small it is, as soon as you entrust it in the hands of Jesus, it will be used for his glory.
2. OUR HEART’S ATTITUDE OF GIVING IN WILLING CHEERFULNESS
What does the Bible say when we GIVE WILLINGLY:
Chronicles 29:9 –THEN THE PEOPLE REJOICED BECAUSE THEY HAD OFFERED SO WILLINGLY, FOR THEY MADE THEIR OFFERING TO THE LORD WITH A WHOLE HEART, AND KING DAVID ALSO REJOICED GREATLY.
There is REJOICING in our hearts when we give willingly. When we give willingly and voluntarily, it brings much blessing. It brings that blessing of unspeakable joy, satisfaction, and fulfilment. Jesus WILLINGLY gave himself up and SUFFERED the death on the cross. He did this VOLUNTARILY so that we can have ETERNAL LIFE. What Jesus did for us is an example of how we should give to others. WILLINGLY & VOLUNTARILY.
To give cheerfully here, means to give without grudge or not under compulsion. Also, it means giving voluntarily and willingly and with joy.
Paul notes 2 types of giving that have no place among true Christians – RELUCTANT AND FORCED. “Grudgingly” means “out of sadness.” It is a HEART ISSUE. It means that we value more our resources, comfort, and security than the kingdom of God. A GRUDGING, OR RELUCTANT GIVER gives “from a heart made sorrowful at the thought of parting with something he values more.”
Whereas, a FORCED GIVER gives because he feels pressured to.
In 2Cor 9:7, Paul tells us not to give UNDER COMPULSION. Who of us really wants to receive a gift from a reluctant or forced giver? How would you feel if somebody gave you something but later on you found out that he was only FORCED to give it to you? I believe you will not be able to enjoy the gift as much as you used to after knowing that the giver gave against his will.
Everytime that you are pressured by a person to give, don’t give. God will not bless you anyway. Don’t also say “I have to give because if I don’t give, something bad will happen to me. But every time you feel challenged by God to give, you’d better give.
Once a Christian decides to give, he should do so CHEERFULLY, or WITH JOY, says Paul. Indeed, happiness is a by-product of giving that is properly motivated. The cheerful giver can hardly hide his joy. Being “cheerful” describes both the INWARD FEELING and the OUTWARD EXPRESSION of the giver. A cheerful giver touches our heart. He also warms God’s heart.
In one of our key texts which is 2Cor 9:7, The apostle Paul was prodding/encouraging the Corinthians to rekindle their initial enthusiasm for giving. Paul here reminded the Corinthians to fulfil their commitment that they would collect a financial gift to send to the church in Jerusalem. But notice also that Paul was not forcing the Corinthians to give. On the contrary, he wrote: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion….
A genuine Christian gives because he has DECIDED IN HIS HEART”. The inspired words of the Apostle Paul should be our guiding principle for Christian giving. Whether we are giving our time, our money, our effort, and our talent to God, let us do so out of own energy or material possessions, let us do so out of our FREE WILL and because we find GENUINE PLEASURE in GIVING. Such kind of giving does not only satisfy our soul, it also endears us to Our Father in Heaven. As apostle Paul continues, FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER.
When it comes to giving, motive matters. It matters to us. And more importantly it matters to God.
I realized that when we give we should not expect anything in return. We don’t give with a selfish and wrong motive. That’s why we give willingly. We give voluntarily. And if we seek God’s face more than His hands –our desires and thoughts line up with His will.
3. OUR HEART’S ATTITUDE OF GIVING WITH SACRIFICE
Going back to the Feeding of the 5000, Jesus took the little boy’s five loaves and two fishes and turned it into more than enough food for 5000 men. I would say that it doesn’t make any difference if the boy has only a slice of bread and a fish in his hand. The outcome of the miracle will still be the same. What I am trying to say here is that Jesus was not concerned about the quantity of the food that the boy offered. Jesus did not even bother to ask if there were still more so that He can multiply the bread further. Jesus saw little boy’s heart in sacrificially giving his food into the His hands to feed the crowd. Again the amount we give matters less than the content of our heart when we give. Although not mentioned in the bible, I would presume that this is all the little boy had for his lunch.
GIVING SACRIFICIALLY can be best read in Mark 12:41-44. The story of the widow’s offering – “THEN HE (JESUS) SAT DOWN OPPOSITE THE OFFERING BOX, AND WATCHED THE CROWD PUTTING COINS INTO IT. MANY RICH PEOPLE WERE THROWING IN LARGE AMOUNTS AND A POOR WIDOW CAME AND PUT IN TWO SMALL COPPER COINS WORTH LESS THAN A PENNY. HE CALLED HIS DISCIPLES AND SAID TO THEM, ”I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, THIS POOR WIDOW HAS PUT MORE INTO THE OFFERING BOX THAN ALL THE OTHERS. FOR THEY ALLGAVE OUT OF THEIR WEALTH. BUT SHE, OUT OF HER POVERTY, PUT IN WHAT SHE HAD TO LIVE ON, EVERYTHING SHE HAD.”
In this story, many people are giving. But they are giving out of their wealth. And Jesus was never impressed with them. But this widow gave everything she had. She is already in pain and yet she gave, knowing that everything comes from God. The widow trusted that God will take care of her needs. We see Jesus taking notice and admiring the SACRIFICIAL GIVING beyond the convenience and comfort of the widow. In this story, what stands out is the sacrificial giving of the widow.
SACRIFICIAL GIVING undeniably causes pain. If it does not hurt, then it cannot be rightly called a sacrifice. It requires SELF-DENIAL for our every act of giving breaks our sinful selfish nature. Sacrificial giving is the kind of giving that is done at great personal cost to the giver. In the case of the widow, she gave out of her poverty. She gave everything she had.
It is impossible to give without suffering a loss. (2Samuel 24:24) King David said, I WILL NOT SACRIFICE TO THE LORD MY GOD BURNT OFFERING THAT COST ME NOTHING.”
GIVING SACRIFICIALLY is a mark of spiritual maturity. An even better mark of spiritual maturity is our WILLINGNESS TO SET ASIDE EARTHLY THINGS for eternal reward. As we follow Jesus, we need to DENY OURSELVES DAILY. This is the chief sacrifice which God requires from us. This does not refer to money alone but involves our time, effort, and talents as well.
Giving becomes a joy when it comes out of sacrifice.
As we give sacrificially, God is doing something big in our hearts. Slowly God cleanses the person’s heart from sef-interest and selfishness and replace it with the servant spirit of Jesus Christ.
II. WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES TO REMEMBER IN GIVING TO GOD
1. Remember the SOURCE OF YOUR RESOURCES
A source is someone or something that provides what is needed or wanted. It is the point of origin.
When God created man, God placed him in the Garden of Eden where God supplies all His needs. God is the source of life for man. But when man disobeyed God, man was cut-off from the source of his resources. And to redeem us back to a right relationship with him our Creator, our Source, God has to send Jesus for our sins. As we believe in Jesus and his gift of eternal life, we are able to tap on God’s resources again.
Our employment is not the source of our income. It is only God’s channel of His resources. At the end of the day, everything still comes from God.
Our job as believers is to stay connected to Him. But our disobedience and our lack of knowledge keeps us from receiving what has been made available for us.
King David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 pointed out that everything we have comes from God, “BUT WHO AM I AND WHO ARE MY PEOPLE, THAT WE SHOULD BE IN A POSITION TO CONTRIBUTE THIS MUCH? INDEED, EVERYTHING COMES FROM YOU, AND WE HAVE SIMPLY GIVEN BACK TO YOU WHAT IS YOURS.”
When we give to the kingdom of God, we acknowledge that GOD IS OUR SOURCE OF EVERYTHING WE NEED AND HE CARES ABOUT EVERYTHING WE CARE ABOUT. There’s no need so small that He doesn’t know about, and nothing too big that He can’t provide for us.
But what keeps us from giving?
The biggest hindrance to giving is FEAR. We fear that if we give so much, we won’t have enough for our needs.
We hear people say, I’ll start to give when all my needs are met… I can’t afford to give at this point of my life, I still have lots of bills to pay, I still have to support my family members to go to school. or I will start to give when I have extra money… Does these phrases sound familiar?
If you have this mindset, it just simply means that we fail to remember that everything comes from God, that God is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider.
2. WE ARE BLESSED TO BLESS OTHERS
Have you ever come to a realization that the Lord has given you much so that you can also give much? The problem we sometimes encounter is that when God starts to bless us, we hoard it to ourselves.
Some would say “I deserve this. I worked so hard to earn this so I deserve it and I can do anything I want because I earned it.” Then this means that we forgot point number 1. We easily turn our backs away from God – the SOURCE of our resources, THE ONE WHO GIVES ABILITY TO GET WEALTH….
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 states that BE CAREFUL NOT TO SAY, “MY OWN ABILITY AND SKILL HAVE GOTTEN ME THIS WEALTH.” YOU MUST REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR HE IS THE ONE WHO GIVES ABILITY TO GET WEALTH….
We heard a lot of stories in churches that when the members are still young, they give all their talents and time to God. However, when they graduate and become successful in their respective careers, you can no longer ask them to do something for God. They are too busy to serve God. It is very sad to think that they forget that God has blessed them so that they can be a testimony of God’s goodness. That God blessed them so that they can be a blessing to others. What they didn’t realize is that what they experience right now is only a trickle of God’s blessings. More blessings is yet to come. But they missed it.
In God’s economy, the MORE YOU GIVE, THE MORE YOU RECEIVE. It is a simple cycle, but hardest to follow.
Let me give you an illustration by involving God’s creation.
We know that God has always a purpose in whatever He creates. God gave us hands so we can use it to receive his blessings. But He did not give us just one hand but TWO HANDS. One is used for receiving and the other one is used for giving. Does that make sense? But what happens if you have two hands and you use BOTH HANDS ONLY TO RECEIVE? Then YOUR BLESSING STOPS WHEN BOTH YOUR HANDS ARE FULL. We have no room for more blessings to come. You cannot receive more. And so you need to empty the other hand so that God will start to pour His blessings again. You have to share it to others who needs the blessing from God. Remember that many times God uses us to reach to others who are in need. You have to let the cycle continue to operate in this way, according to God’s way.
That’s why Proverbs 11:24 says this – ONE PERSON IS GENEROUS AND YET GROWS MORE WEALTHY, BUT ANOTHER WITHHOLDS MORE THAN HE SHOULD AND COMES TO A POVERTY.
In 2 Corinthians 9:11 – YOU WILL BE ENRICHED IN EVERY WAY SO THAT YOU CAN BE GENEROUS ON EVERY OCCASION, AND THROUGH US YOUR GENEROSITY WILL RESULT IN THANKSGIVING.
People in general only wants the first part of this verse for them to be ENRICHED IN EVERY WAY…. However, they failed to obey the second part of the verse and that is to GENEROUSLY GIVE. WHY? It is because humans look at GIVING as a LOSS, an unnecessary leakage of their personal storehouse. For this world, the more we have the happier we will be. The bigger the bank account, the more successful they are.
But not in God’s standpoint. Here, GIVING is a NECESSARY PROCESS IN ORDER FOR GOD TO COMPLETE THE CYCLE. GOD FULFILLS HIS PROMISE OF PROVISION WHEN WE LEARN TO BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS and GIVING BECOMES AN AVENUE FOR US TO RECEIVE MORE BLESSINGS.
The world has an entirely different view. It tells you to accumulate as much as you can, and enjoy the fruits of your labor with as long and as far as you can. I am not saying that we cannot enjoy the works of our hands, but my point is that we should acknowledge God first and BE SENSITIVE IN KNOWING THE PURPOSE OF HIS BLESSING UPON OUR LIVES.
1Peter 4:10 – JUST AS EACH ONE HAS RECEIVED A GIFT, USE IT TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER AS GOOD STEWARDS OF THE VARIED GRACE OF GOD…
Remember: We are only the Stewards and not the Owner.
As God pours his blessings to us, we become a channel of blessing to others. We are like funnels, For God to continuously pour his blessing, we must release the blessing to others.
I like what Pastor Peter Chng said that God is not only interested when we pay our tithes but He is as interested in knowing how we spend the 90%. How we take care and dispense of God has given us, speaks of how good we are as His stewards.
We need to use those God-given resources for God’s work and glory so that when we leave this world and reach heaven, we want to hear God say to us “well done good and faithful servant.”
3. We can NEVER OUTGIVE the GIVER
Luke 6:38 says GIVE AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU: A GOOD MEASURE, PRESSED DOWN, SHAKEN TOGETHER RUNNING OVER, WILL BE POURED INTO YOUR LAP. FOR THE MEASURE YOU USE WILL BE THE MEASURE YOU RECEIVE.
Good measure – means you shall be given “full” measure.
Pressed down – Many more might be put into the measure.
Shaken together – To make it more compact, and thus to give more.
Running over – So full that the measure would overflow.
We can never outgive the Giver. How can we? Every time we give and bless others, God gives us and blesses us more. We used to think that if we give, there might not be enough to meet our own needs. But God works differently. Giving generously does not come at the risk of future poverty. On the contrary, generosity is the route to prevent future deprivation.
Although the bible speaks a lot of material generosity and blessing, we must be careful not to turn an assurance of God’s provision into an expectation of getting rich. God’s promise of abundance means “having enough of everything” we need. A lot of people interchange the meaning of “needs” and “wants”. NEEDS are necessities in life, something required or something we must have in order to survive. While WANTS are something we desire, but not necessarily needed to survive, it is optional. Needs are things you must have, while wants are the things you would like to have.
In the area of giving, no one can outperform God who gave His only begotten Son for our sins, which was done at unimaginable cost. Needless to say, our greatest sacrifices are not even in the same league with Jesus’ unique sacrifice. In fact, This SACRIFICIAL GIVING exemplified by God is the heart of the Gospel.
GOD IS THE ULTIMATE GIVER and He wants us to be like Him. As we follow Jesus, we paint His infinitely large heart, the larger our hearts, the larger we paint God’s character.
Our greatest motivation for generous giving should be that IT PLEASES THE LORD AND REFLECTS HIS GIFT OF SALVATION TO US. John 3:16 – FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. We give generously because God has given us so much.
God is looking for a generous giver. But take note that generosity is NOT ABOUT THE AMOUNT THAT YOU GIVE but the LOVE AND THE THOUGHT THAT YOU PUT IN together with the gift. Generosity is all about the HEART AND ATTITUDE of the giver. Giving is a matter of heart than of our circumstances.
God doesn’t need our money. But the GIVING of his people in the church IS THE MEANS IN WHICH HE PURSUES HIS MISSION ON EARTH AND RELEASES HIS ABUNDANCE.
If we find the act of GIVING very difficult to do this means that we haven’t given our heart yet…