The Attitude of Giving
In Second Corinthians, Paul writes what is probably the most important thesis on the attitude of giving. Nowhere else in scripture do we find giving referred to in the same way, with the same attention to the detail of the heart of the giver.
Now, I realize that you are probably familiar with much of what these verses say, and might even have some of them memorized. But, it is rare that we really analyze these verses together, and I’d like to take a few moments to look at them both as individual points, and how they fit together.
I personally believer that our attitude, our words, and our actions are a very important part of the act of giving. It isn’t just our money that brings our blessing, it’s how we give that money. In fact, I’ll go a little farther than that and say that our attitude is more important than the money we give.
Now, don’t take that as an excuse to throw some pittance in the offering, and try to say that “brother Murphy said that the amount I give doesn’t matter, as long as I do it with a good attitude.” I didn’t say that. What I said is that the attitude is more important than the money. Someone who tries to give a pittance, “covering up” for their lack by acting like they have a good attitude is just putting on a show. The first way we are going to show a good attitude is by the amount we give in the offering.
These verses start out with a warning from Paul about the amount we give. He says, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly” (2 Cor 9:6). I’d have to say that this point is very important; otherwise it wouldn’t be listed first.
I’m not much on farming. In fact, I’m well known for being able to kill anything that’s supposed to be green. But, I do know a little bit of the theory behind how plants are supposed to be grown (I just can’t put the theory into practice very well). The most basic thing to be known about farming is that one’s harvest is directly connected to one’s sowing. If one is sparing in the use of their seed, they’re not going to get much of a harvest. On the other hand, one who plants lots of seed, or as the scripture says, “sows bountifully” is much more likely to receive a bountiful harvest. Obviously, this isn’t the only thing that affects the harvest, but it is one of them.
That same principle holds true in the spirit. The Bible uses lots of allegories that deal with some aspect of farming. Why? Because it was an agricultural society; most of the people made their living farming. As farmers, they could easily identify with these images.
Even though we aren’t farmers, we should be able to understand this concept. We’ve probably all planted something, sometime in our lives; even if it was just for a science project in school. We all know that the harvest comes from the seed, and more harvest comes from more seed.
Paul didn’t just say that those who sow sparingly, reaped sparingly; he also said that those who sow generously, reap generously. I like this, because God always ends things on a positive note. Yes, He admonishes those who don’t do as they should, but He also shows them the blessing that awaits them if they repent for their inadequate ways, and start obeying His commandments.
Now let’s connect this verse (verse 6) with what Paul wrote in verse 10: “Now he that ministers (gives, supplies) seed to the sower…” We find here that not only does God expect us to sow seed in order to receive our harvest, but supplies the seed we are to sow. We are not responsible for coming up with our own seed! He knows we need it, and gives it to us!
How much seed does one need? Well, that depends on how much harvest they need. One may need a big harvest, while another may need a huge harvest. That’s because the calling and vision that God has for each of us is different. Notice that I’m not saying how much harvest they want, but how much they need. Everyone wants the huge harvest, but not everyone needs it. Those that only want it probably want it to spend on their own selfish desires. I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where God provides for our selfish desires; He only provides for our needs, and our ministry needs.
How do we receive this seed from the Lord? We receive it the same way we receive everything else from God; by praying in faith. If we pray in faith, I am sure that God will provide the seed. Please note here that many people try and skip over this step. Instead of praying for the seed, they start praying for the harvest, without having planted any seed!
Yes, we do need to pray for the harvest, but not until after we have received the seed, and planted it in fertile soil. If the Kingdom of God functions by seedtime and harvest, then we need to follow that rule. As long as we plant seed in faith, we can count on a harvest, but if we don’t plant any seed, we have no right to expect a harvest!
Seed must be treated with carefully in order to insure a good harvest. We can’t just throw the seed out on the ground and expect to receive. Jesus talked about this in the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-8; Mk 4:3-8; Lk 8:5-8). No, we must seek out good soil, and plant it there.
The other part of treating the seed well is making sure we use the seed that God gives us as seed. It doesn’t matter how hungry a farmer gets, he doesn’t eat his seed. If he does, he knows he will never have another harvest again. When we pray to receive seed from the Lord, we’d better be sure to sow that seed, and not to waste it on something else! Otherwise, we will never see our harvest!
I’ve seen so many cases in which someone believed God for something they needed, and never received it. In the process of questioning them about the situation, it often came out that they had misused the seed that God had given them. Instead of obeying God, and planting that seed in such-and-such a place as He commanded them, they used the money for some other need, or want. They were just like that farmer who ate his seed, instead of planting it.
How do we know what part is our seed, and where to plant it? By asking the Holy Spirit. If we are praying for seed, and expecting a harvest, He will tell us what our seed is, and where to plant it. I have had this happen many times throughout my years as a Christian. But, it only happens when I take the time to ask the Holy Spirit about my giving. If I make my decisions, without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I can be assured that I am not going to hear from Him. That doesn’t mean He won’t be talking, it means that I won’t be listening.
I remember a story about a minister who was in a building program. He had a $350,000.00 need for part of his building program. While he was ministering at another church, the pastor announced to the congregation that they would be taking up a special offering for a $35,000.00 need in their own building program. The Holy Spirit told the guest minister, “That’s where to plant your seed.” He gave the $35,000.00, and within two weeks had received the $350,000.00 he needed.
Now, I realize that you and I might not need that kind of money today, but the principle still holds true. It doesn’t matter the amount, what matters is obedience to God’s principles. When we do that, we can be assured that He will be working on our behalf.
Our part is to ask for the seed, then to plant it where God tells us. Once it is planted, we must keep “watering it” with our prayers of faith, expressing our confidence in God to bring forth the harvest. That’s where our part ends, and God’s part begins. We are not responsible for bringing forth the harvest, that’s God’s responsibility.
Notice the part I’ve got underlined, that says very clearly that it isn’t our responsibility to bring forth our own harvest, but it’s the responsibility of God. Pretty simple, isn’t it? We receive seed from Him, plant it, water it, and He brings forth the harvest.
Praise God we don’t have to depend upon random chance for the multiplication of our seed! Instead, we can depend upon the love and mercy of our God, who will make sure that our seed produces an abundant harvest!
Okay, now let’s go on to verse 7:
There’s a lot in that verse, so let’s take it piece by piece. First of all, Paul talks about having purpose. This refers to the act of making a decision, not so much about how much one is to give, but their desire and reason for giving.
Why do we give in our church services? Is it only because it is expected of us? Or, do we give because we are making a declaration to God by our giving? If all we do is throw a few dollars in the offering, it’s obvious that we’re only meeting some perceived obligation. On the other hand, when we bring a good offering to the Lord, it shows that we’ve thought about it. In fact, if we’ve really thought about it, we’ll not only have a good offering to give to the Lord, but we’ll have it already set aside as our offering.
Our offerings should say to God, “You are important to me. I am giving this offering to you to show my dedication to you.” All too often, we don’t set aside our offering until after we’ve paid for everything else. Then we give God from what’s left over. The problem with that is the message it says to God. Instead of saying, “You’re important,” it says, “All these other things have priority over you. You only get to receive a little, because I have to put them first.” Ouch! If that’s the message we’re sending God, we need to repent right away. That looks an awful lot like idolatry.
Another part of purposing to give is that we plant our seed with the expectancy of a particular harvest. A farmer knows what type of harvest he is expecting, and plants the appropriate seed for that harvest. If he wants corn, he plants corn seed; if he wants beans, he plants bean seeds; if he wants a car, he plants car seeds.
Likewise, we need to know what type of seed we are planting. It isn’t enough just to put a quantity of money in the offering, expecting God to provide. We need to know what we’re expecting Him to provide. Not only know, but name that seed accordingly.
I remember a number of years ago when God told me to start planting seed for an airplane. At the time, we were traveling full time in a motorhome, ministering wherever God opened doors. The idea of an airplane was a little far fetched at the time, but I didn’t question God. He knew much more than I did what the future would hold for us. So, since then, from time to time, I’ve planted seed for an airplane.
Now, our ministry has extended to various parts of Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, and parts of Africa. Through the Internet part of our ministry I am receiving invitations to minister all around the world. I didn’t need an airplane when I started planting seed, but I can see the day coming when I will. If I hadn’t started planting seed when God told me to, I wouldn’t be able to have an expectancy of that harvest when I need it.
Planting a specific seed for a specific harvest requires specific action. It isn’t enough to just put the money in the offering, expecting God to know what type of seed it is. We must name that seed when we are planting it. This is critical! The seed we plant stays here on the earth, but the words we speak while we are planting that seed go on to heaven.
The next phrase in that verse says, “Not grudgingly.” I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of people in your life who give grudgingly, as if giving to God is going to hurt them. Most of those people never receive their harvest, because they never plant enough seed. However, there are a few who plant plenty of seed, but still don’t receive their harvest. Why? Because of their bad attitude. Instead of giving as an act of worship, they’re giving because they have to. Their heart isn’t in their giving, the situation is even worse; their heart is against their giving.
How can God bless someone who is giving, while all the time they’re thinking they’d rather use that money for something else? I’ll tell you how, He can’t. God has chosen to be limited by His own Word. He won’t go against it.
To the Jews, giving to the Lord is an act of worship. As such, they are very concerned to make sure that what they give to the Lord is worthy of Him. King David set the example for this by giving his entire fortune to the work of building the temple (1 Chr 29:1-5). The people of Israel were so motivated by their king’s example that they gave an amount that surpassed his generous gift (1 Chr 29:6-8). This great offering became the material used in the construction of the temple, acting as a perpetual reminder to both them and God of their worship.
What really makes it clear that this was an act of worship was the next line:
Take another look at the underlined part of that verse, “with perfect heart they offered willingly…” No wonder they were rejoicing, they had the right attitude in their giving. That word “perfect” in the verse doesn’t mean that they were without error. The word there in Hebrew is “shalem” the verb form of “shalom” or peace. In this context, shalem has the connotation of “complete, without any reservation, nothing held back, nothing more to give.”
Although the Israelites hearts weren’t perfect in the sense of being without sin, or error; they were perfect in the sense of being completely dedicated to their act of giving as an act of worship to Jehovah God. He could find nothing lacking in their action or attitude to call sin.
This has got to be the only place in scripture that I know of where God calls an offering “shalem.” We don’t even see that in the offering that the people gave for the construction of the Tabernacle, even though Moses had to stop the people from giving, they had given so much.
If we continue in the same verse (verse 7), we find the phrase, “not of necessity.” Wait a minute. This seems like a contradiction with the part about purpose. What’s happening here?
Once again, we can find clarity in the scripture by looking at the word in its original language. As in many cases, a one word translation from one language to another doesn’t convey the full understanding of the word in its original language. The Greeks, in particular, used to say that they could say more with one word of their language than other people could with a whole sentence of theirs.
In this case, the word translated here as “necessity” carries the significance of distress. In other words, it isn’t a necessity of receiving a harvest from their seed, but an urgent need. God doesn’t want us giving an offering, with the expectancy of receiving a harvest RIGHT NOW!
As believers, we should never get to the point of financial desperation. If we are faithful with or giving of both tithes and offerings, and we are living by faith, God will insure that we receive what we need, even without our asking specifically (Matt 6:8). By living a life of faithful, constant sowing, we will always have an expectancy of harvest. As such, we should never reach that desperation of expecting our harvest right now.
Finally, verse seven ends with the phrase, “for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Somehow, this has become the only part of the verse we pay any attention to. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cheerful giver, but we need to understand that in context with everything else that the verse says.
How would you feel if it was your birthday, and someone came to your party, bringing you a gift; however, when they handed you the gift, it was with a sad face? Would you really feel good about receiving that gift? Wouldn’t you wonder about their motivation and desire to give it to you? I know I would.
Well, if we aren’t going to feel good about receiving a gift from someone who gives it to us with sadness, or a bad attitude, how can we expect God to be joyful to receive an offering (gift) from us that is given with sadness?
Remember what I said about the Jews and their giving? To them, it was (and still is) an act of worship. Just like the time I quoted, when they took up the offering for the Temple, the Jews had a habit of rejoicing, when they gave their offerings. Maybe they didn’t rejoice to the same degree that they did in that case, but they rejoiced. You would never find a Jew giving his offering in sadness, or bitterness.
All too often, even when we try and give with joy, our mind isn’t fully in agreement with that joy. Part of us might be trying to be joyful, while at the same moment, another part might be worried about how we are going to pay the bills. While this disagreement is going on, still another thought might occur to us about something we’ve wanted to buy, that we could if only we weren’t giving that offering. There can be many different conflicting thoughts and emotions going on at the same time.
Just like anything else we do for God, He wants our whole heart in agreement. That isn’t always easy, but it is possible; otherwise God wouldn’t expect it of us.
This attitude of joyful giving isn’t something that comes to us automatically. We must apply ourselves to changing our hearts, and learning how to see the true joy in giving. Until we can see that there is reason to be joyful, we will never be able to be joyful; we will only be able to put on a mask of joyfulness.
What reason can we find for being joyful about giving money that we might need for other things? How about the joy in knowing that it is God who has given us the money we have? What? You don’t think that God has given you that money? Where do you think you got the ability to earn that money from?
That in and of itself is enough reason to be thankful and joyful in our giving. But, if that isn’t enough for you, how about the greatest gift that we’ve received from God Himself?
His great love is something to be joyful about. I cannot think of anything greater in this life than the love of God, not even the love of my wife. His love is what has saved us, sustained us, and brought us blessing. What an awesome thing his love is. I cannot think of it without being filled with joy and wonder.
Or, how about everything that salvation has bought for us: healing, liberty, knowledge, wisdom, prosperity, and a relationship with the One True God? Isn’t that good enough reason for being joyful in returning a part of what He has given to us back to Him as an offering?
Then, of course, there’s the fact that He is the creator of this world, all that is in it, and us as well. If we can’t find anything else to be joyful about, that in and of itself should give us joy. To know that He created us, and created everything we need in this life should fill us with both joy and awe in who He is.
Remember, God LOVES a CHEERFUL giver. That’s not just anyone who throws his offering into the basket, but one who is truly filled with joy to have received the privilege of giving to God.
God doesn’t want to just give us enough that it meets our needs. He wants to use us as a channel of blessing to others.
How’s that for a ministry? We could call it the ministry of abounding in every good work. This is the true reason for material prosperity, not that of multiplying cars, and clothes and other thing to ourselves. God is looking for people who will be faithful with His finances, so that He can multiply blessings through them. God wants people whom He can use as financiers of the Kingdom of God. He wants to put money in their hands, so that that money can be invested in the lives and projects that He has planned.
This idea of blessing people so that they could be a blessing isn’t new; God has been trying to do this with people ever since the time of Abraham.
I’d have to say that Abraham was faithful with what God gave him, even though the Bible doesn’t really talk about him using his wealth to bless others, because God made him a rich man. Likewise, there have been other people who have received such riches, but there haven’t been many of them.
One example of a person who didn’t use their finances as the Lord wanted was a young man who came to Jesus. He asked what he had to do to gain eternal life. Jesus responded to him, saying:
How could someone who was seeking eternal life leave the presence of the Lord, without doing what He had commanded them? Unfortunately, it’s all too easy. Just like this young man, there are many people who are more interested in using their wealth for themselves, than for others. God can’t work through someone like this; they will block Him at every turn.
Had this young man obeyed what Jesus commanded him to do, he would never have been able to sell all he had. Jesus wasn’t telling him to get rid of everything; He was giving a ministry to that young man. Had he tried to sell all he had, he would have found God bringing him more riches faster than he could sell them. Instead of losing things, he would have gained. But, he would have gained one thing more. He would have gained the joy of being used by God as a channel of blessing to many.
Once again, we’re talking about attitude. The attitude of many is to seek riches for their own desires. It isn’t the riches which are the problem, it’s their desires. I’m not saying all our desires are wrong. Nor am I saying that God will never give us anything that we desire. What I’m saying is that when our desires prevent us from doing what God wants with money, God will know that He can’t trust us with riches.
I’m sure you’ve seen this verse, and probably even heard it quoted and misquoted. One who desires to have money, in order to use it for God’s Kingdom will never go wrong. On the other hand, one who wants money in order to use it for their own kingdom will never do right. Their desire for money will lead them into all types of sin, even to the point of leaving the Lord for their money.
Okay, so how does this tie in with our giving? After all, that’s what the other verses here are talking about. There must be some way that verses eight and nine tie in with giving.
Good point. In fact they do tie in with giving. We need to connect those verses with the first part of this study, where I was talking about planting seed in order to receive a harvest. There has been a lot of teaching in the Body of Christ (in the United States) in the last three decades about giving and receiving. However, the focus of that teaching has been an effort to manipulate God into giving believers new cars, big houses, and lives of riches.
While there are lots of people who follow those teachings, I can’t say that I know one single person who has received the material prosperity that the preachers promised them. In fact, the only ones who seem to be receiving the material prosperity are the preachers.
Why is that? I have to go back to attitude again. When people sow seed for things that only build up their pride, God doesn’t pay any attention to what they say. They are actually going against His divine will for their lives. However, when people plant seed for things that they need in order to minister to and bless others, God pays attention. Those people receive what they are asking for.
I have experienced this in my own life. When we started in the ministry, we were traveling full time, bringing the Word of God to people throughout the United States. We needed a motorhome to travel in, so that I could easily bring my family with me. Since we had already planted seed, in the form of cars we had given to others, we knew we were in a good place for a harvest. We prayed, asking God to give us a motorhome. God heard us, and moved upon the hearts of a couple to give us their motorhome.
Since it had worked for us, there were others who asked us to pray that God would give them a motorhome as well. When people would ask me this, I would ask them why they wanted a motorhome. Most of them answered, “to take our family on vacation.” I had to respond to them, “I’m sorry, I can’t pray for you. I don’t believe God will give you a motorhome just for two weeks of vacation every year.”
There were a couple of cases in which someone asked us to pray for God to give them a motorhome, so that they could use it in the ministry. In those cases, I was more than glad to pray for them. What was the difference? I had the faith that God would provide what they needed for His ministry work.
The final verse in our passage also talks about attitude; the attitude of giving thanks to God. As I said earlier, giving to God is a way of worshipping God, or giving thanks to Him; in addition, it is also a way of motivating us to give more thanks to Him.
What do I mean by that? It’s simple. Just about everyone I know deals with financial struggles constantly. If they aren’t in the middle of a financial struggle, they either just came out of one, or are on their way into another. This life we live, and the ministry we do requires money, and there never seems to be enough.
It is very easy to become preoccupied with financial worries. I’ve done it, and you have as well. As long as we are worried about money, we struggle to hear from God how He wants us to use it. Not only that, but our worry, in and of itself, prevents God from taking care of our problem.
Our enemy wants to keep us in that state. He wants us worried about money, unable to hear God, and trying to hang on to the money we have, instead of using it as God wants us to. He will do anything He can to help us stay in that state.
When we give to God in the middle of our financial struggle, it causes a freedom to come into our hearts, and into our finances. That freedom will motivate us to give thanks to Him, which in turn will help to free up more finances for the work of the ministry. Because God is moving on our part, we will desire to give thanks to Him even more. As we do that, more freedom comes into our finances. If we protect that cycle, it can continue building and increasing our ability to complete God’s will.
It doesn’t stop there though. We’re really not just talking about financial blessings, but about blessings in all areas of our lives. Look at the first words of that verse again, they say, “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness…” There’s something about giving to God that causes freedom in more areas of our lives than just our finances.
In Old Testament times, the people of Israel gave burnt offerings to God. They didn’t just do it to cover up their sins, but also to ask for His blessing, and to just worship Him. Since we don’t give burnt offerings to God, our financial offerings are our equivalent.
Not all financial offerings have to be given in order to receive a harvest. Remember what I said about the Jews and their giving being an act of worship. If you want to become thankful to God, try giving Him offerings just to say “Thank you. I love you.” You’ll find an attitude change happening in your heart from the very first time.
Like I said, the act of giving offerings to God as an act of worship will change your heart. Instead of having a heart tied to earthly things, you will end up with a heart that is focused on heavenly ones. That act of worship will bring you closer to God, and closer to His heart.
Why is God so interested in the attitude of our heart when we give an offering to Him? Because He knows the impact it will have upon us. He wants to see us blessed, not so that we live in luxury, but so that we can complete everything that He has planned for us to do. Not only that, He wants us to be close to Him; and knows that giving with a good attitude will help us accomplish that.
Remember, it isn’t just an outward joy that counts; it’s the true joy of the heart. God is still looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Here is one way we show we know how to do just that.
Copyright © 2008 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.