More Blessed To Give Than Receive


It is more blessed to give than to receive

Pastor Adrienne Bhana

This past Wednesday the Viva section of the New Zealand Herald was subtitled, ‘The Wellbeing Issue’, and the first article was about giving, calling it the most overlooked facet of personal wellbeing.   

Believe it or not, our giving is linked to our sense of wellbeing. Some time ago I read a story in the Grapevine magazine about a man, let's call him Mr Mean, and his son who had been sent to the supermarket by his wife.  They arrived at the shop but before they started the man whispered to the boy, ‘you know, if we really mess this up, we’ll never have to do it again'. This man couldn’t give even an hour of his day to help out his wife, and his bad attitude no doubt spilled over into other areas of his life. And worst of all? That father wasn’t just selfishly trying to get out of a job, he was also teaching his son to be as mean and miserable as he was.

Watch out for your own Mr Mean. I’ve caught him lurking around in my heart from time to time, and you might have the same problem. If we want to develop the good fruit of giving and generosity we’ve got to diligently weed him out. And we all know about weeds. You don’t have to do anything to grow weeds, don’t have to water them, don’t have to give them weed food, nothing. They just grow, in fact they thrive if you neglect them. But, if you want to grow desirable and valuable fruit it’s a different story. That takes a lot of care and commitment.

Let’s come back to our Viva article, it featured an inspiring woman who founded a charity called So They Can, which does great work among communities in some African nations where poverty is so extreme children live in rubbish dumps, sometimes having to compete with vultures and pigs. How hostile is that, children having to fight off vultures and pigs so they can pick up scraps of food?

Then the story looked at how altruism, or doing good, releases oxytocins and endorphins in the brain. These hormones make us feel good, which brings us back to the thought of giving being the most overlooked facet of personal wellbeing.

1. This is nothing new.

 It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35.

You won’t find these words of Jesus in the gospels. Paul, who had obviously heard them and built a lifestyle around them, quoted them, and Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, made sure they weren’t lost.  It is more blessed to give than to receive – I’m sure both Jesus and Paul were talking about a blessedness that goes beyond the feel-good factor. Yes God has built that into us, but there’s more. In giving we are blessed to do God’s will; in giving we are blessed to show what he’s like; in giving we are blessed to meet people’s needs, and in giving we are blessed to set ourselves up for eternity.  

If God calls us to something as big and powerful and life-changing as founding and running a charity like So They Can, then we must do it. And while I’m sure the rewards will be great, do we have to give that much before we can experience a release of the feel-good hormones? No, we don’t. Giving and generosity should be a way of life for God’s people, a regular feature of our ho-hum, routine, day by day lives.  We can’t all be at the coal-face of running a great charity, but maybe we can be one of the hundreds or thousands of little cogs that keeps the whole thing ticking along by regular giving, or prayer, or by fixing computers, for example.

2. Is it true?

I think we’d all agree that is it more blessed to have enough so that we have something to give, rather than to be so poor that we have to be on the receiving end. But more blessed to give than to receive? It sounds beautiful, but do we really believe it?  

Being blessed by giving is opposite to how most of us think. We like receiving, it’s nice, it’s fun, and maybe we don’t think too much about the joy of giving. Sometimes we’re scared of giving. We’re afraid that when we give we lose.  

But Jesus says, no, when we give we gain. He’s not denying it’s a blessing to be on the receiving end, but he is saying that it’s more of a blessing to give than it is to receive. Maybe one of the reasons he makes us prosper is not to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving?  

“He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

Being blessed by giving is a paradox, just as some other things in the Bible also don’t seem to make a lot of sense - like going the second mile or loving our enemies. But God doesn’t say these things to make our lives miserable.  A lifestyle of generous giving is not about a lifestyle of loss and deprivation, rather it’s about living life to the max and setting ourselves up for eternity at the same time.   

There’s a story about a sailor who was shipwrecked on an island.  He was seized by the natives, who carried him to their village and set him on a rough throne. Gradually he learned that it was their custom to make someone king for a year. He enjoyed being the king, but after a while he got worried about what had happened to all the previous kings. Then he discovered that after a year the king was banished to a nearby island where he starved to death. But this king was clever. He got his subjects working planting crops and fruit trees and building houses on the island. When his year was up he was banished to an island of abundance. That’s our life. For a little while we can choose what we will do with what we have and the best plan is to set ourselves up by sending it ahead.

3. What does it mean to be generous?

A generous person does, or gives, more than what’s expected of them.  

4. What resources do we have to be generous with?

When we think of giving usually the first thing that comes to mind is money; but we need to be generous with not just our money but with our time, and our talents and even our words. We see from the well-known story of the widow’s mite that God counts more than just dollars. He considered this widow's offering of two mites, in other words next to nothing, as worth more than the grand offerings the rich people had given. The heart behind the gift counts as well.

This story also tells us that generosity can be costly, even to the degree of requiring a sacrifice.  The greatest act of generosity was seen in the biggest sacrifice ever made when Jesus gave His life on the cross. That whole scenario includes the unthinkable pain of God the Father giving His Son to be tortured to death for us.

a) Being generous with our words

Kind words, sincere compliments and encouragement can literally be life-changing and a generous person will be on the lookout for the good qualities in others so that they can comment on them.  

….For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34

Generous words begin in a generous and understanding heart that thinks kind thoughts, gives the benefit of the doubt, knows that people can change, believes the best without being gullible, and refuses to judge without first getting all the facts. Of course, none of that comes naturally to most of us so we have to look to God to help us and to deal with the tendency to judge others.

And when it comes to being generous with words let’s not forget God – He deserves our praise more than anyone. Years ago I heard a really helpful tip from Radio Rhema.  If you run out of expressions of worship for singing in the Spirit, or praising God, get a little notebook, or start a file, and go through the book of Psalms and write down the cool phrases and words of praise that sound good to you.  

Here are a few examples:

"My heart rejoices in your salvation;"

"You have been so good to me;"

"I love you, O Lord, my strength;"

"Lord you are worthy of praise;"

"I will sing praises to your name;"

"I will praise you O Lord with all my heart;"

"Lord you are the King of glory;"

"Lord, I will extol you at all times;"

"God you are my refuge and strength."

I’m sure you get the idea. Just write these expressions down. Go over them, often, use them, often, and in the end you will have a great vocabulary of words and phrases for praise and worship and singing in the spirit.

Of course it would be relatively easy to give time, energy and money if we all had had lots to spare of each one. But I suspect most of us possess fairly limited supplies of one, or two, or all three of these commodities. The real test of generosity comes when we don’t have much but we give anyway.

5. Who are we going to be generous to?

a) basically to everyone - or anyone God brings across our path.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. Galatians6:9-10 NIV

b) top of the list is family.

The Bible gives the idea that generosity and giving begins with our family, then our Christian family, then spreads on out to others.

“…Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household,
have denied the true faith.”
1 Timothy 5:8 NLT

I saw a cartoon featuring a Pastor and his wife, and the wife’s words underneath read, ‘I have an idea! How about smiling and being nice at home and being a grump at church?’ This sounds so crazy, but it’s true that sometimes we are the most ungenerous to family members.

We probably all know people who will do things for someone else that they won't find time to do for their family. A lot of us have been involved in the common scenario where someone gets up at a funeral and says how kind and generous the deceased person was, meanwhile the family are sitting along the front row thinking, ‘generous - who on earth are they talking about?’  

And while we’re looking at family – a DVD called ‘Why’, which focussed on the development of homosexuality in boys, brought out how fathers especially need to be very generous with the 3 As - affirmation, affection and attention with their boys.

c) We need to be generous to those who have hurt us.

Usually the best way we can do this is to quickly and fully forgive those who hurt us. When we do that we are demonstrating the generosity of Jesus.

A cruel slave owner had just finished giving his Christian slave a very severe beating and in anger he yelled, ‘What can your Jesus do for you now?’ The battered and bleeding and suffering slave answered, ‘Master, He can give me the grace to forgive you!’ That’s the spirit of Christ’s generosity.

‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do...’ Luke 23:34

However we have to understand that where there has been a major offence forgiveness may be a long process, like the grief process, and it includes grief.

6. The power of generosity.

We know that generosity blesses the person on the receiving end, but how does it bless the giver?

We’ve seen that on a natural level research shows that if we give our time, resources and talents to help others we will increase our own wellbeing. It is a fact that generous people are happier, healthier, have better friendships, and are more physically fit than ungenerous people. They are also more upbeat about their problems and less likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders – note that I said less likely – I’m not saying if you suffer from depression and anxiety you are not generous, just less likely.

On a spiritual level generosity connects us to the nature of God – He’s the ultimate giver and we are made in His image. Generou also has the power to release us from the tight and unhealthy grip of materialism and it gives us the power to bless others and to invest in their lives.

7. How can we live a life of generosity?

In 1 Kings 17 we see the prophet Elijah declaring that God would punish Israel’s sin and idolatry with three years of famine. For a while God hid Elijah and provided for him. Then God arranged a divine appointment with a Gentile widow. Widows were usually poor anyway so they would be among the first to run out of food in a famine. This widow was in dire straits. She had enough flour and oil to get her and her son through one more day and then they would face starvation. But Elijah turned up and asked for water – now remember, they’re in a severe drought and famine so it’s hard to get water, and who cares about being nice to strangers when you’re going to die!  But she kindly went off to find water, and as she did Elijah called, and please bring me some bread.

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.
1 Kings 17:12–14.

The widow did what Elijah asked, she was extremely generous, handing over their last bit of food. You don’t have to be rich to be generous, she was as poor as it gets but she gave what she had. Then God did an amazing miracle. For probably over two years the flour and the oil never ran out.  

How could that widow give her last meal to a stranger? As well as a generous heart she had faith. Verse 12, “as surely as the Lord your God lives, she replied, I don’t have any bread”. Those words tell us she recognized that this stranger was a prophet of God, and then she obeyed God’s word.  

She trusted when it made no sense to trust and she obeyed because she believed.God wants us to get to the place of trust and faith where he can tap us on the shoulder and we will give whatever he is requiring of us.

a) God resupplies

Sometimes our biggest fear is that as we pour out there will be nothing left for us, but we don’t need to worry, as we give God resupplies.  

I’d like to have a great testimony here about giving and God resupplying, but I don’t, probably because I don’t keep records of my finances or some of my giving. Money is about the most boring thing in the world to me. I kind of know what goes in and what goes out but I don’t keep track of the rest. Now I do get receipts from tithing and charities where you get something back. And we do have a system, part of what I earn goes into our joint account and part goes into my account – that’s where the system ends. The thing is I’m not bleeding the joint account dry, I’m not taking money that’s set aside for bills, or giving in a way that’s hurting my family. Things do have to be worked out, and when it comes to giving that’s beyond tithes and offerings we do need to be led by the Holy Spirit. The only thing I can say as a testimony is that in all my giving I have never run out, and I’ve never felt any loss.

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6.

God resupplies us so that we can continue to give. A Christian called R. G. Le Tourneau, built up a business designing and making massive earth moving equipment. By the latter part of his life, he was giving 90% of his income away and living on 10%. In spite of this, his net worth continued to climb. Someone asked, ‘how come you’re giving 90% of all your income away but you keep getting richer?’ His answer is classic. He said, ‘I shovel it out and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.’

However we need to be careful not to give as a financial transaction, we don’t give to get rich – and not all generous Christians get rich.  

b) We can look forward to eternal rewards

8. How do we develop a life of generosity?

Tithing is a great place to start. Some time ago someone in Church Unlimited sent in this testimony. They were going through a hard time financially, so they made a point of setting up an automatic payment to make sure they were faithful with tithing. One of the blessings that followed was when one of their kids was awarded a scholarship at the beginning of the next school year, which paid for a lot of expenses, including their school uniform, school trips, stationary, and laptop.  

But let’s not stop at tithing, we can support the food bank, missions, special offerings, or whatever needs God brings to our attention.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21.

Who are we laying up treasure for?  We see here that it’s not for God, not for the church, not for the poor, not for the lost - it’s for ourselves.

Jesus teaches us that this life is our preparation for eternity. The rich farmer inLuke 12:20,who built bigger barns to store all his extra crops, lost perspective of how short this life is. He’s called a ‘fool’, because he was ‘laying up treasures for himself’ here on earth, he was storing his treasure in the wrong place.

9. Conclusion

We should be generous:-

Firstly - because God has been so generous to us.  

Secondly - because we’re supposed to be like God, we are like him, we’re made in his image.

Thirdly - the Bible says our role with all the things we have is stewardship rather than ownership. A steward manages, or oversees, the property of another. We are stewards of our money and time and talents.

Fourthly - because Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.  

As a church we’re in this new era of growth, acceleration of expansion, momentum, power, encounters, miracles, we’re are going places with God that seemed inaccessible to us in the past, and yes, it requires more of us.  It takes all of to be on board using our gifts for the good of all, it takes money, and it takes time – time spent in serving, in prayer, in the word, ministering to others, however God leads us. But my message this morning is not about giving as such, but about giving as the pathway to blessing. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. God doesn’t trick us, or lead us on, he seriously wants us to experience the joy and happiness and blessings of giving.

First, we’ve got to get our heads around the truth that giving is not about loss. If we had money in the bank and we took some of it out and put it into a retirement plan, or made a lump sum payment off our mortgage, would we be poorer? No. We wouldn’t have lost any money we would have just transferred some of it into a different account. Giving is a bit like transferring assets that are immediately available into another account that is not immediately available, but it will be of great value to us in the future.

Remember the boy who gave Jesus his ‘boy sized lunch’ of five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:33, Luke 9:12, John 6:1). When he handed over his food he probably thought he was losing – and he was okay with that.  He didn’t know that he would still have his lunch, and thousands of others would have his lunch too. Those of you who have boys with hollow legs will realise that this one probably ended up eating more than his five loaves and two fish before the day was through. He wasn’t poorer through giving, he was richer. It was a win/win. And that’s not even thinking about the heavenly reward.

Do we think we’re poorer after we press enter on the keypad, or send the cheque, or give the gift? Like we’ve lost and someone else has gained? Or we’re worse off than before we gave? Not really, we’re richer! We have just stashed away somemore treasure in heaven, for God? For Church Unlimited? No, for ourselves! Now we are more blessed and our future is more secure. Let’s do ourselves a favour and keep an eye on eternity and invest generously as we go through this life.

Tags: blessing giving generosity Adrienne Bhana

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