Sacrificial Giving Strengthens Faith
“Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, `Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, `Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.'” – Luke 19: 8-10 (NRSV)
From the story of the generous widow we learned that genuine giving is proportionate. How much we give matters only in proportion to how much we keep. From the story of Zacchaeus we learn the second principle of genuine giving: genuine giving is sacrificial. Giving out of our excess is not genuine giving. The sacrificial giving of a sinner moved Jesus heart and spirit. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give if you’re not doing it sacrificially; what I am saying is that I don’t believe that kind of giving srengthens your faith, the kind of faith that brings you salvation and eternal life.
Let me give you an illustration from the physical world. If you want to strengthen your muscles you must work them beyond their current ability. In other words, you must lift a weight that is heavy enough to exhaust you by lifting it 5-7 times. Lifting a very light weight many times will not strengthen your muscles.
One of the reasons I believe God calls us to give sacrificially is that it strengthens our faith and helps us grow spiritually. If we merely give out of our excess we don’t give God the opportunity to prove his faithfulness. That’s like lifting a very light weight. It won’t strengthen your muscles. But when we give sacrificially, when we give to the point of it hurting a bit, we exercise our faith – we learn to trust in God by giving him a chance to prove himself trustworthy.
This is at the heart of this whole stewardship conversation…. the issue of trust. Every piece of money minted in this country has the same four words printed on it, “In God we trust.” That’s the biggest lie in America. If we’re honest we’ll admit that most of us put a lot more trust in the security of money than we do in the security of God’s promises. There’s a word for that; it’s called idolatry. I believe that money is the greatest idol in our culture. And nothing breaks the spell of material idolatry like proportionate, sacrificial stewardship. Let me be clear: giving isn’t for God’s benefit. It isn’t for the church’s benefit. Genuine giving benefits us. It strengthens our faith and protects us from idolatry.
Bringing It Home
1. Be honest…. is your current giving sacrificial, or are you giving out of your excess? In what ways does your giving impact the way that you live?
2. Spend some time in prayer and let the Holy Spirit search your heart for any hint of idolatry in relationship to your finances. Your checkbook and credit card statements might just help your meditation!
Father, it’s so easy to say that we trust in you and in your provision for us and yet we so often find our deepest security in what we own or in our savings. Help us to distinguish between our wants and our needs. Teach us to simplify the former and trust you for the latter. Set us free from any financial bondage that we may suffer from, that we might be free to give as you graciously provide. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN