John G. Pearce
We Christians have four reasons for giving:
The first and the foundation of them all is GRATITUDE. For we recognize what God has done for us. And we want to respond by giving to God ourselves - with our time, talents, treasure, and testimony. We express that when we sing the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
So gratitude is the push behind our giving. It comes out of the past.
The next three reasons draw their power from the future. They are expectations that we hope will result from our giving. In contrast to the push of Gratitude, they are the pull that draws us to look ahead.
One is the GROWTH of our Christian personality. We have heard Jesus say “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We realize that if we don't give, we will stagnate. But if we give, we will be stretched beyond ourselves and become bigger persons.
Another is the GOOD of other people. We know that they have needs and problems. We realize that we should love them as ourselves by doing kind deeds to them and by offering them generous gifts. So we give because we want these people to be happy.
The final reason is the GLORY of God. We are aware that we bear Christ's Name and that the way we live and give reflects upon Him. Because we want Him to receive all the credit, we live faithfully and give generously to His honour and glory.
These are the four reasons for giving - Gratitude for God's gifts, the Growth of our Christian lives, the Good of others, and the Glory of God. Together they comprise powerful and compelling motives for us to be generous givers.
They are like the four notes in a chord of music. Gratitude is the bass note, which gives grounding to the chord. On this note the rest of the piece is built. It permeates the theme and provides a background to everything else in the composition. Above it is the tenor note. That represents our Growth and self-development, which must always spring from Gratitude and seek to be in harmony with it. Then comes the alto note. That is the Good of other people or the social benefit motif. It is close to the soprano or top note, but can never replace it. For the soprano note represents the Glory of God. It presents the whole melody of the piece. We carry it in our heads when we are doing our daily work. For God's Glory must always be paramount - the most conspicuous part of our life. St Paul advised “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). These four “notes” - Gratitude, Growth, Good, and Glory - provide us with music that we can sing throughout our lives!
A woman stood beside me one day and muttered “Why should I be grateful to God? He hasn't helped me win a lottery prize yet!” And I realized her concept of God's help was severely limited. She was overlooking what God had already given her - a body and soul with its senses, reason and faculties. She was forgetting that God had provided her with clothing, food, home, and family. And she was blind to how God was protecting her against danger and shielding her from evil. He had shown goodness to her without any worthiness on her part! Didn't she owe it to Him to thank Him for all the mercies He was already giving to her?
But her complaint revealed that people won't be grateful until they realize there is something to be grateful for. Only when the Samaritan leper in Luke 17:15,16 saw he was healed did he return to give thanks to Jesus. Only when a person has received a gift does she send a “Thank You” note. So we can't expect people to give thanks to God until they have realized His gifts.
What could she have done? She could have looked around her and seen the parts of the world God had given her, and recognized He had provided her with eyes and ears to enjoy it all.
I heard about a farmer who had a gigantic crop. His friend said to him “You should be grateful for this crop!” The farmer replied “Nonsense! I got it by the sweat of my brow.” Then his friend answered “But Who gave you the power to get the sweat on your brow? Don't you know that all things come from God, even the power to sweat?”
To crown His gifts, God has offered His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the greatest Gift we could ever receive. He came to redeem people who were lost and condemned. He wanted to free them from the devil with his wages of suffering and death. And all of this He will do in order that we may belong to Him and live with Him for ever.
Jesus desires to be admitted to our hearts. As Revelation 3:20 records, He says “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Then, after receiving Him, we shall want to reverse the process. Having been given His greatest Gift - Himself, we shall want to respond by giving Him our greatest gift - ourselves.
An Indian chief went to a church one day. As the story of Jesus' life was unfolded, the heart of this chief was touched. He brought out his tomahawk and gave it to the preacher. The preacher went on and mentioned that Jesus asked us to love one another. So the chief brought out his war-bonnet. Then the preacher told about His miracles of healing and helping the needy. So he went and brought in his horse. Finally, when the preacher described how Jesus died on the cross for us, he came up himself and knelt down, saying “I give myself to Jesus!”
Our Prayer Book has a thanksgiving in which we say “We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; But above all for thine inestimable love In the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; For the means of grace, And for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, That our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, And that we show forth thy praise, Not only with our lips, but in our lives, By giving up ourselves to thy service, And by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days” (pages 14 and 15).
That puts it in a nutshell. Because of all that God gives us, including His Son, we are filled with gratitude. This gratitude overflows from us and makes us want to give abundantly of ourselves to Him and to everyone around us!
Our gratitude is reflected in our giving. And that's why we sing:
“When all thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love and praise.”
“If you don't use it, you'll lose it!”
It may seem selfish to say it. But a reason that we Christians want to give is to help ourselves grow. It leads to our personal development. Like exercise, it has beneficial side-effects. It's a very important habit for us.
Let's examine the negative side first.
If we never give, we STAGNATE.
For an example, look at the Dead Sea. It has no flowers growing around it and few fish live in it. Even the birds shy away from it. Anything it touches it withers. And the reason is that it is a dead end. Every drop of water it gets it tries to keep, for it has no outlet.
That's like misers. They are not pleasant, For they live for themselves. Everything they touch they taint. And the reason is that they have no outlet. They do not give. So they gradually stagnate.
Second, if we never give, we SHRINK.
Like muscles that are unused, we not only become soft; we become smaller. And we can no longer do even simple tasks. So a person who gives only a trifle eventually loses the ability to give. The soul atrophies; it cannot stretch itself. And the normal demands of life - the give and take of ordinary living - become unbearable.
That means that if we don't give we become our own worst enemy. We commit a spiritual suicide. In other words, what we don't use, we lose.
Now let's look at the positive side.
When we do give, we STRETCH ourselves and become stronger.
Take the example of a little stream. It can carry only a trickle of water. But if the rain falls heavily on the ground around this stream for some time and a rushing torrent is then forced along it, its banks will be widened, its channel will be deepened, and it will become a river.
God wants to turn us into rivers. So He blesses us abundantly that we may carry these blessings out to refresh and revive a needy world. And that's why we pray “Stretch us, Lord, and make us a river to carry blessings to many people!”
Second, when we give, we become FRESHER.
Do you know the name of a body of water near the Dead Sea? It's the Sea of Galilee. What a contrast! People like to visit it and to travel on it. Beautiful flowers bloom around it. Birds enjoy flying over it and fish abound in it. It is pleasant. And the reason is that it doesn't keep its water. Every drop it gets it gives; for it has an outlet in the River Jordan.
That is like giving Christians. When they give they constantly renew themselves. They become fresher and healthier. There's no time for anything in them to stagnate and become poisonous.
That is why Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Like a physical work-out, our giving not only makes us feel good; it does us good.
So let's gladly welcome needs and requests that come our way. They are offering us a chance to avoid stagnation and shrinkage, and on the contrary to grow and keep fresh. Let's give abundantly to these needs and requests - yes, even for our own sake, for our own growth!
Occasionally I pass a gully with a sign on it “Clean landfill wanted”. Its owner is asking for earth and rocks to be dumped into it so it can be raised to a normal level.
That makes me think of our world. It has fallen and become a depressed area. Our vision, morals, abilities and resources have been lowered. There is an emptiness around us, deepened by suffering and sorrow and death. People are looking up and trying to get help.
By God's mercy we Christians have been lifted out of this gully and are standing on the higher ground of blessings. But as we look down into this gully, we feel compassion for those who are still there. So what should we do? We can't be neutral. We realize we've been “saved to serve”. So we want to give all we can to other people - to do GOOD to them. And that is an important reason for our giving.
Jesus taught us that no one is a stranger; everyone is our neighbour. And we are to love these neighbours as ourselves. Therefore we treat all suffering persons not just as members of our families, but as part of our bodies, as ourselves. When we are helping them we are helping ourselves.
Do you remember the story of the man who was beaten up by thugs and tossed into a ditch to die? Two people passed by him without lifting a finger. But a third man - a stranger from another country - came and knelt down and ministered to him. He lifted him onto his donkey, brought him to an inn and spent the night with him. The next morning he left some money for this suffering man's care, and promised to give more should it be needed. We call him the Good Samaritan.
Christians value this story. And they want to copy the Good Samaritan. They want to pour in their “oil and wine” of sympathy where there are wounds and aches, to offer their “donkey” of support where there is weakness and helplessness, to provide themselves as company where there is loneliness and despair, and to put out their money where there is any future need. They want in their lives, as Jesus said, to “go and do...likewise”.
How do we do this? By volunteering in church and community organizations. By visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, and giving money to the poor. By sacrificing our own pleasures and depriving ourselves of our rights. If necessary, we descend into the gully to help someone who is trapped there. We want to join the noble band of Jesus' disciples who are giving all they can to fill up the vast pit of human need.
This pit may have a lot of quicksand. It may keep swallowing up what we provide and still ask for more. No matter. We know our gifts are doing good, even if only temporarily. And we are making the lives of some people, even if only a handful, better than they would have been without our help. We are trying to do good.
So we carry on, giving and giving and giving again. To paraphrase John Wesley, we do “all the good we can, to all the people we can, by all the means we can, as long as ever we can.”
Some people might call us “a soft touch”. But we don't mind; for we want to copy our Master, of Whom it is recorded: He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
The love of Jesus in us still prompts us to lift people out of their gullies. Let's look around and see whom we can help today!
We Christians are to give, not just for gratitude or personal growth or the good of others. Our greatest purpose is to promote God's glory so that He is revered and praised.
Yet we often promote our own glory. We like to be regarded as the source of good things. I read of a man who went to hear two different preachers. He commented “After I had heard Pastor Brown, I went away saying ‘What a great preacher Pastor Brown is!' But after I heard Pastor Black, I went away saying ‘What a great Saviour Jesus is!'” One preacher, perhaps unintentionally, drew attention to himself; the other drew attention to Jesus. He wanted Jesus to get the glory.
How can we do that? There is a principle that all products reflect their creator. A sculpture reflects the abilities of its sculptor. A building reflects the purposes of its builder. So, as God's children, we reflect the abilities and purposes of our Heavenly Father. It is “like father, like son”.
But this reflection of God is not guaranteed. The sculpture can become dusty and dirty. The building can deteriorate and become cluttered. They must be appropriately maintained. So Christians must have the mind of Christ and reflect it in their lives.
What is it then to be the image and reflection of God? The answer is the God-Man, Jesus Christ. God is essentially a Giver. He created the world out of nothing. Then He put us into the world as His gift to us. When we fell into sin, He gave Himself to us in Jesus Christ Who in turn gave His life on the cross to give us new life and forgiveness of sin. As His children, God promises to give us eternal life in His heavenly kingdom. As the Bible says “(He) giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
How can we imitate God? By receiving His gifts and using them for His purpose. For imitation is the sincerest form of praise. When we imitate God by giving Him all that He has given us, we are truly ascribing to Him the glory due to Him.
And what do we have? They can be summarized as Time, Talents, Treasures and Testimonies. Our Time is simply our life on earth. We shall want to spend our moments and days, letting them “flow in ceaseless praise”. Our Talents are the special abilities God has given us. Though they may be few, we shall want to be faithful in using them in His service and bringing glory to Him. Our Treasures consist of our money and possessions. We shall want to offer them with thankful hearts, saying “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold”. And our Testimonies are our words which, combined with our lives, let others know what the Lord has done for us, and what He can also do for them. We want to follow the Scriptural teaching “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Psalm 107:2). In all of these ways we are declaring “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 9:12,13).
What will be the result of our generous giving? Not only will God be praised by us; He will be praised by others. The Scripture predicts “They may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It was because of the bravery of his soldiers that people said of a certain general “He must be a great leader to elicit such sacrifices!” Oh that our sacrifices for Jesus would result in praises going to Him too! Paul wrote to the Corinthian church “For the administration of this service not only supplieth the wants of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men” (2 Corinthians 9:12,13).
The apostle Paul was a realist. He saw that many people treat their gifts to God only as tips (patronizingly bestowed), or taxes (required for membership), or talismans (for good luck, to keep on God's good side), or trophies (to be proud of). But he wanted them to look at them as treasures (precious belongings) and tributes (symbols of their regard for the One to Whom they were offered).
That's why he pointed out “Every man as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (1 Corinthians 9:7). Of what do these words remind us? To me they speak of a horn. If I touch it, it squawks. It gives grudgingly. Then they make me think of a pump. I have to work on it to get anything out of it. It yields only of necessity. And then they bring to my mind a fountain. It spouts spontaneously and continually. It gives cheerfully. Such people are “fountains” - glad to imitate their Heavenly Father and bring glory to Him as they freely spread joy to others!
Do you know any people like that? The more you ask of them, the more they give. They are glad to be givers. Like the flowers in the fields, they respond to the sun and rain which are poured upon them. They bloom in their garden to the glory of their Heavenly Gardener.
I think of a man called C.T. Studd. He was a famous cricketer in England, who inherited a fortune. But when God called him to be a missionary in China, he decided to give that fortune all away. And when he found that he still had some more money remaining, he gave that away too. At the bottom of the letter which he sent to General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, he wrote words something like this “Do not advertise my name. Just say that it comes from someone called ‘Go, and do thou likewise'.” For he had got hold of the guiding principle “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Have we got hold of that principle, and are we following it?
The following is a sermon preached by John Pearce:
HOW TO TURN GETTERS INTO GIVERS
Suppose I showed you a picture taken long ago of a baby boy. Since he was born, his parents surrounded him with love. He was given everything he needed - milk and food, clothes and toys. He was smiled at - played with - cleaned up and carried - coddled and hugged. He felt content. Imagine him. He is a happy little sponge, soaking up everything given to him.
Well, this little fellow could have grown up to be a spoiled brat. All he did was to get. But his parents didn't want that to happen to him. So what did they do? They tried to teach him to give. They began by teaching him to say “Thank You!” to anyone who offered him presents. They paid him a few cents if he washed their kitchen floor on Saturdays. He joined the Wolf Cubs, where he learned to do a good turn to somebody every day. He even took on a newspaper route to earn pocket money.
But when this fellow reached the age of 16, his father had a heart attack and was forced to quit his job, and the family didn't have much money. That Christmas, all he received was a Prayer Book. He was sad, for he thought his happiness depended on the amount of presents he got. But as he started to read this book, he realized that the secret of happiness was in the presents he could give. One day he went to Woolworth's store and bought some small presents. And he felt happy about it. He was beginning to realize that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. This was a revolution in his attitude to Christmas and to giving.
Well, you've probably guessed who this individual is. It's me. Like all of us, I started life as a getter. And like your parents too, mine didn't want me to become spoiled. So they tried to teach me and you to become givers. And that is also true of our Heavenly Father. He is trying to teach us to give to others and to Him too.
How can He do this? What strategy can He use? His first step is to do exactly as our parents did. He gives to us. He gives us our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our talents. He gives us a home. And He gives us food and clothing and friends and lessons. In other words, He surrounds us with love. Isn't that how we treat a little plant? We supply it with good soil, we weed it and water it, and we see that it has plenty of sunshine. It starts off its life by getting. But we don't expect it to stay that way. We want to see it develop and grow into its full potential. And that will happen naturally as we continue to nourish and care for it.
That's the second step which God takes. He shows us what we have been given - life and health, and power to work and leisure to rest, all that is beautiful in creation and in the lives of people, but most of all our salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. And we begin to feel not only grateful and indebted. We want to give back something of what we have been given. Like the plant, we want to sprout and grow and give off something beautiful to our environment. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
The third step is this. He gives us particular things to give back to Him. It may be a musical voice, or a skilful hand, or a strong back, or a keen mind. And He asks us to use it in His service. To go back to our parents, when we were young they probably gave us money so we could buy them presents. They gave first so we could give to them later. That's how our Heavenly Father treats us. “He giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), so that we can return some of these things to Him. We express that fact in church when we say at the offertory “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14). As a hymn puts it “We give thee but thine own, Whate'er that gift may be: All that we have is thine alone, A trust, O Lord, from thee.” So Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
God wants us to grow. He wants to change us from being only getters into being givers. Of course we never stop being getters. But a new dimension - the dimension of happiness - is added when we also become givers. Like a plant, it may take a lot of giving on God's part. We may have absorbed a lot of time and patience from others. But now at last after months and years, it comes time for us to bloom - to show our appreciation of what God has given us. We can produce “something beautiful for God” - an adornment that breathes fragrance around itself and delights both its owner and those who see it.
As the Bible says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17) So God showers us with blessings. And His greatest blessing is Himself. He offers Himself to us so that we may open our hearts to Him. This is symbolized as we receive Holy Communion. But then His intention is that we should produce for Him. We should be “a kind of first fruits of His creatures” (James 1:18). He wants to turn everyone in His family from being getters into givers.
I'm sill struggling with my desire to get. But Jesus is working in me to become a giver. I remember that He said “Freely ye have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
Reprinted June 2011 by the Diocesan Council
of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton
Giving thanks for the life, witness and priesthood
of John Pearce 1924 - 2009
Copyright © John G. Pearce