Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey. If you missed the first seven posts in this series you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, Make Disciples, Love, Worship, and Observe the Lord’s Supper.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the eighth of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This command is to give and is found in Matthew 6:1-4.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Here Jesus is working on the assumption that disciples would be giving and goes deeper to the heart of how we give. We are to give as an act of righteousness and we are not to not use our giving as a way to practice this righteousness to be seen by others.
It is also worth noting that Jesus does seem to make some reference to a possible motivation for giving. “For then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Think about it; we are often told that if we give with an eye on what we might receive from our giving, then our giving is tainted. To be charitable is to be free from self-interest. But Jesus seems to contradict this notion and encourages the desire to receive a reward from our Father who is in heaven. Very interesting, don’t you think?
Nonetheless, there are some questions about giving that we would do well to consider. So here they are.
What should we give to God?
Each one of us has three resources that we should give to God. These are time, talent, and treasure.
Time is one commodity you have that God can use for His purpose. But you might not have even thought about it. Your time is probably like a lot of people’s time…there is precious little of it, but if you are spending your time on the right things, then you are making good use of your time. You are being a good steward with what you have been given, and since none of us know when our last day will be, we must make the most of the time God has given us. Think of your time as an offering; unless we use our time wisely, we’ll spend it uselessly, like we tend to sometimes do with our money. Try to keep track of what you are using your time for. You might be surprised how little time you are spending for or with God. We are challenged to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). So let’s decide to do a better job with our time.
Talent is another commodity we have that can be given for God’s use or not. I believe everyone has a talent of some kind. Many have several talents, but everyone has at least one talent. You have a God-given talent for something, perhaps something that can be useful for the Body of Christ (Matt 25:35-36). Whatever it is, you can use it for the glory of God and for Jesus Christ Himself (Matt 25:40). What is done for the least of those is done for Jesus, so what is your talent? I’m sure you have one. Maybe it’s your smile and positive attitude, and living a life of faith that others find attractive. Perhaps it’s a skill for listening and not judging, but just letting others talk. If could be in music, art, writing, plumbing, or just being a diligent person. These can all be used for the kingdom of God. Whatever talent you have, use it for the glory of God.
Our treasure is usually where our heart is. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). This is why the Lord said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:19-20). Whatever you store up here will do no good for God, but whatever you do for God on earth you are storing up treasure in heaven. You can’t take it with you, but you can forward them ahead. And it is no surprise that funds are usually necessary for ministry to happen, especially when that ministry takes place across the ocean, as is usually the case for missionaries.
So let’s be generous with our time, talent, and treasure.
Why should we give to God?
The first answer to this question is that we are commanded to give.
The second answer to this question is that giving changes us. God can do so much more through a wise, giving, mature person than a person who is overly concerned with possessions of this world. Our money and belongings can disappear or get destroyed at any time and if we place too much value on them, we will be devastated when they are gone. God wants our treasure and worth to be with those things that can never be destroyed or taken from us, namely Himself and the people He has put in our lives. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21).
As God changes our hearts to be more like Him we learn to focus on what is eternally important instead of on the temporal things of this world. Paul reminded the Corinthians to do this: “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2nd Corinthians 4:18). By opening our eyes to what God may be doing behind the scenes, we can step out in faith, obey when He asks us to give, and rest in His plan in the midst of unknowns and seemingly scary circumstances.
The third answer to why we should give is that our giving glorifies God. Giving simply is not part of our sinful human nature. We are born looking out for our own desires and comfort. As we grow up and learn values, especially as we get to know God and submit our lives to Him, He changes us to be others-minded and to trust in Him to meet our needs. The fact that selfish, sinful human hearts can be changed to put others first can only be attributed to God, thus our giving gives Him glory.
And the fourth reason why we should give is the blessing that we will receive. Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” There can be no mistaking what He says here. Give generously because the measure you use to give is the same measure that will be used back to you.
How should we give to God?
There are basically three things to consider when we ask how we should give to God.
The first is that we should give generously. In Matthew 10:8 Jesus gives the principle that since you have received freely, you should give freely. Since you are the recipient of God’s lavish grace and His generous love in Jesus Christ, we should also be lavish and generous with the time, talent and treasure that we give as well.
The second is that we should give cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves someone who gives cheerfully. Period.
And the third is referenced in the command of Matthew 6. We are told that our giving is to be done in secret, without any attempt to be seen by others. And the reason seems to be that there can only be one reward for our generosity. Either we receive a temporary reward from man or we receive an eternal reward from God.
Who should we give to when we give to God?
Acts 4:34-35 gives us a picture of who the early church gave to.
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Their giving was directed to all who had need. This ought to be our pattern as well.
So how are you doing with your giving? Do you consider your time and talent a resource to be given like your treasure?
Is one of these three easier to give than the others?
What change can you make this week to be more intentional about giving in one of these three areas?