Generosity Brings Joy to the Soul
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will also be refreshed(Proverbs 11: 25)
Generosity is a favorite subject of Proverbs. The generous person finds that the greatest joy in giving is to be the one who gives. When we move out of ourselves and give to others, we ourselves are refreshed. And how!
I met a childhood friend of mine a little while ago whom I had not seen for forty years. In fact, we became Christians at around the same time. I remembered him as a somewhat mean and stingy individual and when I enquired about his work he told me that he had made enough money in construction to take early retirement. “So what do you do with your time?” I asked. “When I retired,” he said, “I established a Trust into which I put all the finances I possessed, keeping back a small portion for my wife and family and our daily living. The greatest joy of my life nowadays is to distribute the millions of pounds I made in business to where God directs me.” I could see by the radiance in his countenance the truth contained in the text I just quoted, “He who refreshes others will also be refreshed.”
Now we must not take this to mean that we ought to focus on being generous because it brings us rewards. Generosity that is exercised simply for the purpose of reward is not true generosity. The refreshment that comes from giving comes as a byproduct of the giving. I once heard a critic of Christianity say, “Christians give to others not because it is the right thing to do but because it makes them feel good. It really is a sophisticated form of selfishness – giving in order to receive.” Well, there may be some who give in order to get, but as a firsthand observer of the Christian life for well over fifty years, the great majority of Christians I have found give simply because their hearts are overflowing with a generosity that comes from an appreciation of the God’s largeheartedness in giving His Son to be their Saviour. His generosity generates theirs.
The generous hand comes from a generous heart. If the heart is not generous, then however much the hand gives there is no true generosity. No other section of society I believe is as generous as the Christian community. True Christians give not simply to get a blessing, but to be a blessing.
Let me come finally to an issue that I believe can transform your entire perspective in relation to giving and enable you to know the joy not only of giving, but giving again and again and again.
The Faith Promise
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in chapter 8, the apostle makes one of the strongest financial appeals I have ever read making the point that Christ who was rich for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich (8:9).
It appears that a year earlier the Corinthians had promised to help the financial needs of the Christians in Macedonia and now Paul asks them to fulfill the promise they had made “and not let those good intentions go stale” (8:11 The Message).
What a powerful appeal the apostle makes as his heart burning with passion and love for the work of the Lord in the early church leads him to send Titus and another colleague to causes him to bring pressure to bear upon the hearts of the Corinthians in reminding them of their solemn promise a year ago.
In those days as you know there were no checks, no postal service no banking facilities; so in order that the matter now be expedited, Paul arranges for some responsible brethren to collect the amount that had been promised.
Paul reminds them this is not an issue of extortion but, because of their promise, God would make all grace abound unto them and they would have sufficiency in all things (9:8). Underline that promise in your Bible.
When you give to God you are placing your life in the flow of His eternal power, and his promise is that you will always have sufficiency. And what more than that could a Christian want?
Have you ever made a faith promise to God? Countless Christians I have discovered have never known the deep spiritual joy that comes through doing this. Many, if not most, have spent their Christian lives just dipping in their purses whenever they feel there is a need and although this method of giving has its place, it is a million miles from the real life of partnership which comes from proving the Lord in a faith promise.
It requires very little faith, for example, to give a cash offering to the Lord. Sacrifice perhaps, but faith… No. All you do is reach into your purse or pocket whenever there is a need and give. You have it so you give! Again this is a highly commendable attitude of giving and one that rejoices the heart of God.
There is much to be learned and experienced and enjoyed, however, in the fulfillment of a faith promise. A faith promise is when you sit down and work out by faith just what you will give to God in the next year or six months. Once you have committed yourself carefully and prayerfully then you set in motion the law of faith. Every month you have to trust God to help you meet the challenge of your own faith and as you pursue this there comes a widening of vision, an enlargement of faith, a capacity to believe beyond human understanding and an awareness of God in personal dealings that has to be experienced before it can be believed.
People who give this way claim that the exercise of flexing the muscles of faith so much that they can believe not only for the fulfillment of their Faith promise but for many other things in other areas of their lives.
I was first introduced to this concept by Dr. Oswald Smith, the famous missionary pastor of the Peoples Church Toronto. In an article I read he told of his reaction to the first time the idea of a faith promise was presented to him. He was sitting on the platform in a certain service when a steward brought him an envelope on which were printed the words:
In dependence upon God, I will endeavor during the coming year
to give the sum of$________towards the work of missions.
He watched as every one else in the service bowed their heads in prayer for God’s guidance and he followed their action by bowing his head and asking the Lord how much he should give. He felt the Spirit whisper to him, “Fifty dollars.” He was shocked. It was a time of great economic trial, prices were high and fifty dollars in those far off days was a large sum. Besides he had a family to keep, a house to buy and he was only getting a very small wage from his church. He thought he had misheard so he asked the Lord again, “How much?” He says the Spirit seemed to whisper to him, “How much can you trust me for, not how much do you have? Fifty dollars.”
Oswald Smith says, “My hand trembled as I filled in my name and address and put fifty dollars on the card and in the envelope. But he adds, “There came to my heart such a peace and I realized that there that moment I had received the greatest blessing of my life.”
God helped him to meet that faith promise. The following year he doubled it. The next year he doubled that and so on until the Peoples Church Toronto has become one of the most famous churches in the world for its consistent missionary giving.
A faith promise provides you with a purpose to give and a purpose to pray and stimulates your faith toward bigger and greater things and open up the blocked channels of your life that fear and unbelief may have clogged.
Many years ago when I was a pastor in a London church, I invited every church member at the beginning of the year to make a faith promise to God. Everyone took some time to pray over the matter and then put the figure they thought God wanted them to give on the Faith Promise Card.
Later when recording the cards in the Church Faith Promise Register, I noticed the name of an old widow woman whose circumstances with which I was very familiar. I was somewhat surprised at the comparatively large amount she had put on her card, and later I went to see her to find out if she had made a mistake.
When I raised the matter that I considered her faith promise too large and that she ought to consider reducing it, she burst into tears. At first I thought they were tears of relief but eventually she turned to me and said, “Pastor, that is the figure the Lord told me to give. Are you trying to stop me proving the Lord? This is the amount I promised to give and this is the amount I believe the Lord will enable me to give.”
I felt rebuked and didn’t quite know what to do. I apologized for my remarks and left the matter as it was. I watched the progress of her giving very carefully in the months that followed and to my surprise and astonishment, she fulfilled her promise on a monthly basis until every penny had been paid.
This woman had only meager savings and where the money came from I have no idea. On one occasion a friend of hers told me that members of her family who previously had given her very little financial help began to send her regular financial gifts.
I think of this old widow woman often. She has gone to be with the Lord now and just days prior to her death, she withdrew her small savings and sent it to an organization I serve with a note saying, “I don’t have long in this world now. This might be the last time I can give to God in this way. Use it for His work and His service.”
As I look back, I tremble to think that I came close to hindering a woman from entering into a dimension of giving that the Lord had been leading her into. Her Saviour had been drawing her into a place where he would prove himself to be no man’s debtor. I’ll never thank God enough for the lesson that widow showed me by her faith and confidence in God.
I invite you to make a faith promise to God now. Start by asking God to help you work out the right amount – an amount beyond your tithe – that will stretch your faith a little. Do not make it too large. Your faith might be very high after reading this but start at the lowest point of your faith. There must be no strain, no anxiety, no fear. One thing is sure – your giving will open up the flow of God’s power in your life.
Some months before writing this book, I sat down and made my faith promise for the year ahead. I asked the Lord, “How much I should give?” The amount that came into my mind in answer to that prayer seemed astonishing. My reaction was to say, “Lord, are you sure?” I went ahead and made my commitment. Within a few weeks of making that commitment I was offered a writing contract that gave me much more than I planned to give.
Many of my friends and colleagues tell similar stories following their commitment to the making of a faith promise. It seems God delights to enter into partnership with us in relation to giving by faith and as we work God works. So make a start. Give God an opportunity to multiply your ability to give and increasing your faith by first committing yourself to give a certain amount to him.
The question might arise in your mind, “Where do I give beyond my tithe?” A good guide is to look prayerfully into your heart and try to ascertain where your particular “burden” might lie. God often burdens Christians to pray for and give to certain causes. Not every one will have the same burden. God has given me a great burden for children who have been orphaned, abused or are in desperate circumstances, and that is where most of my own giving is directed.
With you it might be in other directions; evangelism and the propagation of the Gospel, relief for the poor, helping Christians in the developing world have great access to spiritual resources, and so on. Pray and ask God to show you not just how much you should give, but also where you should give.
Then when you have decided, fill in a faith promise card like the one described above and send it to the organization(s) that God has laid on your heart. My concern in writing this booklet is first to help encourage you to develop your faith and second to release a flow of finance into those organizations who are involved in the affairs of His kingdom and who need financial assistance in the work that God has called them to do.
The Truth about Tithing
There is a great difference of opinion amongst Christians in relation to tithing. Some say it is an Old Testament law and really does not have any place in the New Testament. I believe myself that tithing does have New Testament support and the practice of it is a good place to begin when talking about our financial responsibility as Christians.
Tithing was actually established prior to the law being given to Moses (See Gen 14:20). It was reaffirmed by Christ in the New Testament (See Matt 23:23). The tithe is the first ten per cent of our income (See Deuteronomy 14:22-23). This belongs to the Lord. There are some Christians who think that once they have tithed their incomes, their responsibility toward God has ceased and then they are free to do as they like with the remaining nine tenths. They use the tithe as a mental license to do what they like with the nine tenths. To buy off God, so to speak. That is not what stewardship is all about. We are to use the nine tenths wisely also and under God’s direction for as we have seen - everything we have belongs to the Lord.
The tithe serves the practical function of supporting the vital church ministries of the local church – ministries such as reaching non-Christians with the Gospel, ministering to the sick, caring for the widows, distributing to the necessity of the saints, giving to the poor, and of course supporting those whose are involved in the full time ministry of the church. If a local church is not engaged in these ministries, then it is doubtful that it has a right to call itself a Christian church.
The Bible also encourages us to give offerings above and beyond the tithe. In a sense it is true to say that one cannot give an offering until the tithe has been paid. And we ought to see the tithe also as applying to more than money. Our Lord, as you will see from the statement that follows, commended those who tithed part of their harvest, but he also warned them not to neglect such important issues as justice and the love of God.
Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. (Luke 11:42)
Scripture talks a good deal about giving the firstfruits to God.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
The ancient Israelites waved the firstfruits of the harvest before the Lord as an acknowledgment that the coming harvest belonged to him and that they would use it as such. Dedicated Christians should think not only of giving the firstfruits of their finances but also of their time. Every Christian ought to ask themselves this question, “How much unpaid service do I undertake for the cause of Jesus Christ every week?” And what about the first part of the day? Do we put a fence around the dawning of each new day in order to spend time with God and deepen our relationship with Him? That, to my way of thinking, is also part of the “first fruits.”
All this might sound legalistic to some, but there is good reason why the Lord talks to us like this in His Word, not the least being this:
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year…your grain, new wine and oil… so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:22-23)
The underlying purpose of the tithe then is not just to provide the necessary finance for God’s work but that, above all, we may develop a reverence for Him. There is something about paying one’s tithe to God that brings the soul into a sense of alertness and responsibility toward the Almighty.
Believe me, there is no greater spiritual advantage than to carry in one’s heart a sense of reverence for God. Some translations when describing the reverence we ought to have toward God use the phrase, “the fear of the Lord.” There are unhealthy fears, and there are healthy fears. To have in our hearts a “fear of the Lord” does not mean that we are afraid of him in the general sense of the word, but that we stand in awe of Him, that we respect Him and seek to live according to His word.
Remember what happens to your money happens to you. Your money is an extended or contracted you. If you pile up money with no purpose behind it, you clutter up yourself and become a purposeless self and hence, an unhappy self.
How should we pay our tithe? Here are Paul’s instructions given to the Corinthian converts:
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (I Corinthians 16:2)
Permit me to tell you of a Christian businessman who told me on one occasion how his reverence for God increased as he decided to pay his tithe on a weekly basis. “At one time,” he said, “I used to pay my tithe to my local church by check every six months. Then I read I Corinthians 16:2 one day where Paul talks about laying aside a sum of money in keeping with my income ‘on the first day of the week.’ I decided to follow his advice and so arranged for my tithe to be put into the offering in my local church in cash every Sunday. Immediately when I did this, I noticed that my whole spiritual perspective changed. There was something about giving my tithe on a weekly basis that brought a new sense of personal responsibility, a new awareness of my dependency on the Lord for health and guidance.
“It transformed my giving and gave me a reverence for the Lord that was far greater than anything I ever experienced before.” In establishing the tithe as a weekly reminder of His responsibility to God, something wonderful took place in his soul.
Let me take up this point of legalism once again. There are some Christians who say that the New Testament teaches freedom and therefore the idea of paying a tithe on a regular and systematic basis is anti-freedom.
There is a great deal of muddled thinking in today’s Church about this issue of legalism. I like what Mark Buchanan in his book, Your God Is Too Small, says on this subject:
We are overly prone to see legalism lurking behind every exhortation to strive and make an effort to be holy. Every time I say ‘work out your salvation’ someone will hear me say ‘work for your salvation’. The two are utterly different things.
Something similar happens whenever the word “tithe” is mentioned. People relate tithing to the Old Testament and cry “legalism.” But it is not a return to the keeping of laws, rather it is an engaging with a truth that is laid down everywhere in the Word of God.
Regrettably the concept of spiritual freedom is often misunderstood. We are free not to do as we like but as is required of us by God. One preacher I know defines it in this way, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want but the power to do what we ought.”
The apostle Paul put it like this:
It is to freedom you have been called my brothers. Only be careful that freedom does not become mere opportunity for your lower nature. (Galatians 5:13, J.B. Phillips)
We need to be sure when arguing against tithing we are not doing so because the idea of systematic giving runs contrary to our carnal nature. It is so easy to believe what we want to believe.
Scripture reminds us that we can approach God’s word from one of two directions – with a natural mind or a spiritual mind. The New King James version puts it like this:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know then, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The difference between a natural mind and a spiritual mind is this: a person with a “natural mind” uses human reasoning before they decide to obey God’s word. A person with a “spiritual” mind begins by obeying a Scriptural command and after he or she obeys then they understand the hidden wisdom and purpose behind the command.
There is great wisdom in Scripture that is higher than anything our minds can achieve on their own. We would do well to trust the Scriptures and obey its commands even though it may run counter to our natural feelings.
Consider this also – one of the most sobering truths in the Bible is that when God’s people withhold their tithes they are guilty of robbing God. This is what the Lord said to His people about this subject through His prophet Malachi.
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' In tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8)
God goes on to say that the whole nation was under a curse because they robbed him of their tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:9). The Almighty then reasons with them that if they brought their tithes into the storehouse he would bless them abundantly and promises to “rebuke the devourer” for their sakes (Malachi 3:11 NKJ).
I am absolutely convinced through a lifetime of counseling and pastoral affairs that many Christians suffer unnecessary financial loss because they fail to tithe. Scripture clearly establishes a cause and effect sequence between God’s commands and losing money. How much does it mean to you to know that having put God first, He is there to “rebuke the devourer” for your sake.
If we fail to apply God’s principles of finance, God allows riches with sorrow or the devouring of our assets. God speaking through the prophet Haggai makes it abundantly clear.
You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. “Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (Haggai 1:9)
Service in the 8th Degree
Many years ago, a Jewish rabbi by the name of Moses Mimolidees listed eight degrees of giving.
1. Giving grudgingly
2. Giving willingly but less than one should
3. Giving only when asked
4. Giving what one should give without being asked
5. Giving when the recipients know who gave but the giver doesn’t.
6. Giving when the giver knows who the recipients are but the recipients don’t
7. Giving when the giver and the recipient both do not know each other
8. When the giver helps the receiver to give to others.
This last he called “Service in the 8th Degree.” It is wonderful to be a receiver, but the greatest joy is to be a giver. I shall never forget a man giving to me many years ago when I was in financial difficulties. I needed help. A businessman said to me, “The Lord has told me to give to you, but before I do I want to show you how to give to others.” It revolutionized my life, and I can honestly say that in my personal finances I have never had an occasion when I have not been able to give what I pledged. What he did for me I have done to others to whom I have been able to give.
This is how Jesus put it: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” One of the passions of my life is to turn getters into givers. We are saved to serve, to be useful, and nothing is more powerful than giving to God. The novelist John Grisham said, “My wife and I measure the success of each year by how much we’ve been able to give away.”
I give John Wesley the penultimate word – “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” But, as I am sure you will agree, Scripture must have the last word:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
Copyright © CWR 2004
Originally published 2004 by CWR, Waverley Abbey House, Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 8EP.
Previously available as a free publication, Service in the Eighth Degree. This edition published 2017 by Generosity Path with permission from CWR. The right of Selwyn Hughes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of CWR. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV),
copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society.
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About the Author
This text was originally written by Rev Dr Selwyn Hughes (1928 – 2006), writer of Every Day with Jesus daily Bible reading notes, internationally acclaimed speaker and widely published author. Selwyn founded the ministry of CWR in 1965, a Christian charity seeking to apply God’s Word to everyday life and relationships through its teaching, training and publishing programmes. CWR, whose ministry continues today based at Waverley Abbey House in Surrey, is delighted to see this resource being used to further God’s kingdom and work.
Generosity Path is privately funded and does not solicit donations.