I recently read a book by Ron Blue (Never Enough?). In the very first chapter he referred to a conversation he had with a pastor from Kenya. He asked the pastor to identify what he thought the greatest hindrance was to the gospel in Kenya and he answered, “materialism.”
That was a shock to Ron Blue and to me but the explanation that followed was enough to make me a believer in this: wherever you are, whatever you have, no matter how much or how little, you can always want more.
The cold reality that there is never too much or too little for greed, covetousness and materialism to intrude is troubling. Thus, the question, “How much is enough?” is a legitimate question in any culture or context. But the better question given the pervasiveness of materialism is, “How can you win against such a powerful force?”
The good news here is that the New Testament offers many ideas that will help. Start with the gospel of grace! While the gospel is what gets you saved, it is also what shelters you and can provide a foundation for growth to maturity.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Paul commits his beloved church members to God and the word of His grace, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and writes that it is the gospel which can build them up. How can the gospel do that? It is simple, really. Through the gospel, freely given to us when we were still the enemies of God, rebelling against Him and opposing Him (Romans 5:10), He sent His Son to die on the cross for us, and through that same gospel we can learn to:
- Give back to God. One thing we know for certain, and that is how generous God is. He gave us creation, life, a past, a present and an incredible future. He also gives us every breath each day, none of which we could ever earn or deserve. Giving back a portion of what He has given is an act of affirmation of His Lordship. It is a humble acknowledgement of priorities, especially when we give of the first fruits.
- Give from your first fruits. If you give at the end of the month or pay period, it is easy to reduce your giving when unanticipated expenses ruin your budget. Instead, give of your first fruits. As soon as your paycheck is in, give, and let God make your finances work. If He could do it with five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13-21), He can do it with your finances.
- Give joyfully. In 2 Corinthians 9 we see that God loves a cheerful giver. Nowhere in the Bible does God ever suggest otherwise. Plain old common sense says that is reasonable. After all, would you rather have someone give you a gift and say, “I felt obligated to give you this” or would you prefer “I am so happy I had the opportunity to give you this”? We have been given so overwhelmingly much that we should be overjoyed that we get to keep so much!
- Give as a part of your worship. As we are to give thanks to the Lord for He is good (Psalm 136), we should also give to the Lord because He is good – and that is a form of worship. To not give is to rob God, and ultimately, to rob yourself of true worship. (Malachi 3:8-10).
- Give generously. Paul wrote to his church members in Corinth at times with frustration at their conduct, but he could without doubt commend their generosity. He wrote, “ But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7. We are to excel in giving.
- Give without hesitating. Some have used 2 Corinthians 9:7 as an excuse not to given because they do not want to give of their time, talents or treasure under compulsion (“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.”). But a review of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 leaves no reasonable way for that one verse, 2 Corinthians 9:7, to be used as an excuse for anything but a personal heart examination. If you don’t want to give, hesitate and ask why not? Giving is an issue of the heart, Matthew 6:21. If your heart doesn’t want to give to God, that is not an excuse for withholding, it is a call to examine your heart in light of the many calls for generosity throughout the Bible and especially considering 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 read together and in context. The rest of those two chapters urge generosity, so no other interpretation of 2 Corinthians 9:7 fit within the overall context which says “give, give and give.”
- Give privately – almost! Giving is between you and God and definitely not a matter for public display. Matthew 6:1-4. On the other hand, giving is an opportunity for raising up your children and setting an example for them to see. Children need to see faithfulness in deed as well as word. Writing a tithing check or more and sharing in that act with young children is setting a great example. Your children are always watching, even when you don’t know it!
- Give sacrificially. King David knew well that giving that costs nothing meaningful is meaningless giving. 2 Samuel 24:24. An offering that has no noticeable cost is not a “sacrifice.” It is closer to tipping God than giving generously and sacrificially. We are called to give on every occasion, because that is why we have been given what we have, that and the fact that out of a generous heart, God receives praise. 2 Corinthians 9:11.
What happens when you display the gospel in your life this way? Many things, all of them good. First, God gets the glory for your generosity. 2 Corinthians 9:13. Second, you are freed up from the stranglehold of materialism and greed as you are enriched in every way by God. 2 Corinthians 9:11. Finally, you are blessed. It is far more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35. That is the gospel of grace.
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.