Giving and generosity are topics each of which is so distorted by modern culture that the lies about them are worth at least a quick look. We now live in the era of “fake news.” Instead of just enduring and possibly being deceived by the lies, let’s learn the truth.

There is a lot to be said about truth. One of the better known and most miserably misused statements of Jesus’ is “the truth will set you free.” To a guilty man in court about to be tried and potentially imprisoned for a crime he actually did commit, the truth will do anything but set him free. The honest meaning about this truth lies in the context of what Jesus said in John 8. Jesus was speaking about being spiritually free.

There are several curious points about the statement Jesus made about truth. He made that statement to Jews “who had believed Him.” John 8:31. This was not a rebuke to Pharisees or scribes but to His own followers. Then, even more odd, they argued with Jesus about it!

John 8:33
33  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
By the end of the discussion, these “believers” were trying to stone Jesus.

John 8:59
59  At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

It seems that the truth can be controversial and cause dangerous divisions between people. Probably the main reason that the truth becomes so divisive is that lies are so pervasive and convincing. Satan does that.

John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

When the truth becomes lost in lies, many other things are lost, including peace of mind. Jesus wasn’t speaking of historical or political truth and freedom, He was speaking of spiritual truth and spiritual freedom. The truth is that for a criminal, the truth will likely not set him physically free, but it will set him spiritually free. A lie will keep a person in sin and bondage forever:

John 8:34-36
34  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
35  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
36  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The truth sets a person spiritually free from that bondage of sin.

The lies about generosity and giving and the lies about possessions and wealth are as spiritually imprisoning as the lies about sin. That is why Paul wrote that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:10. Making us want to hold our money and possessions closely is one of the great successes of the lies of Satan. The love of money and possessions is a prison with strong bars.

1 Timothy 6:9-10
9  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Wealth can be a trap. The strength of generosity comes from the grace that causes it and the grace that is openly displayed by generous giving out of love. When giving stops, grace is greatly diminished and Satan laughs. Perhaps that is why at times God refers to the “grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7.

So, what are a few of the other lies that are pervasive in our society and even within the church at times?

God cannot be trusted to provide

We speak about our trust in God and sing of trust often, but doubt still sneaks in at times. “Sure, God provides, but what if He doesn’t give me what I need this time.” Part of the problem with our doubts lies in the fact that our definition of “need” is often very different than God’s definition of need. In all honesty, my “needs” on occasion look suspiciously like “wants” rather than real needs.

That confusion between wants and needs is another one of those lies that creeps into my mind. The truth lies in such passages as Isaiah 58, Matthew 6:25-34, and Philippians 4:19, among many, many other promises from God that He will provide.

Doubt and concern are normal and natural, but trust is the response we are to have.

Psalm 32:10
10  Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

One answer to doubt is found in the Bible. Read it. Looking at history (His story) makes it easier to see God’s faithfulness over many generations. Reading the gospels helps us see that there are no limits to His love or to how far God will go to restore us to Him.

This is mine; I earned it and deserve it.

No, it is not yours. At best it is yours temporarily since you are a steward for the real owner, God. See 1 Chronicles 29:10-11 and Psalm 24:1-2 and It All Belongs to God.

Jesus left no room for doubt that we are stewards and not owners. Luke 20:9-18 and Matthew 25:14-30.

So, if we are stewards and not owners, the answer to holding on tightly to what we have and seeking more is found in asking the Owner for advice. The answer from the Owner comes from prayer and spending time in God’s Word where He has spoken to us.

However, we find many reasons not to listen to God.

I need it more than “they” do, or they will misuse it

One of my common hesitations to giving to a homeless person is my lack of knowledge about that person’s need. I have doubts about whether money I give will be used for essential food, or for alcohol or drugs. “Does that person really ‘need’ it or is he just another lazy beggar?”

The harsh truth is that I have never seen a man or woman panhandling who had more than me or needed what I could easily give less than I needed it. Most of what I am really doing is judging the person without knowledge or information and, as usual, those kinds of judgments are harsh and often unfair. The rest of what I am doing is looking for an excuse not to give.

If I want to be judgmental, I need to check out myself first, Matthew 7:1-5 and then liberally apply Proverbs 21:13 to my own heart.

Proverbs 21:13
13  Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.

Can I justify doing nothing?

If those are the lies, what is the truth?

One of the beauties of Christianity is that it is not just a religion; it is a relationship. Each person’s relationship with Jesus is unique and how the truth is lived out will also be unique. That does not mean the truth is relative, because spiritual truth is solid and unchanging. It is our response to that unchanging truth that makes Christianity the amazingly diverse and vibrant relationship that it is.

The truth to which we must personally respond is that we live separated from God by our sin, Isaiah 59:1-2, and God gave us a means for our restoration to Him, Jesus. Jesus had to die a horrible death on the cross because we could never be good enough to end that separation. When Jesus died, He removed the condemnation for sin (Romans 8:1-2) so that we could approach God. As a result, we are to respond to His amazing grace out of gratitude, not out of guilt or as an effort to work our way closer to God.

We are now called to be wise stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us, Psalm 24:1-2, Matthew 25:14-30. In America we have wealth beyond that of any nation in history, and we are more than able to be generous not only with our money but also with the time and talents we have. Accepting the lie that we should give God and the poor our left-overs (if we have any), is a sin. James 4:17.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.