The Blessedness of Giving
George Everard, 1884
"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said: It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
These words of Christ come to us in a remarkable way that seems to give them double force.
Suppose you had had a father whose wise and loving counsels had saved you from many mistakes and had influenced your whole life for good. But he dies, and you miss exceedingly the voice which has so often directed and comforted you. Years pass away, and one day you come across a friend who had known your father well. In the course of conversation, he repeats a striking and instructive remark of your father which you had never heard before. Would it not be likely to leave a very strong impression on your mind? Would it not take hold of you in a way that you would never forget?
Now was it not something like this, in the case of the words of the Lord Jesus to which I am referring? They are not given to us in any of the Gospels. We have no account of their having been heard or enforced until Paul, speaking to the elders of Ephesus about twenty-seven years after our Lord's death, presses them upon their conscience as a motive for self-denial and liberality.
Nor does he speak of them without telling of the effect they had had upon himself. "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 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." Acts 20:33-35
It is a word worthy of our frequent meditation. It is a word calculated to raise the Christian character, and to assist greatly a follower of Christ in imitating the Master whom he loves.
It is a very precious word. You have often recalled such words of Christ as tell of His saving grace and mercy.
"I am the Good Shepherd."
"I am the way, the truth, and the life."
"Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
But this word in its place will be no less helpful to you, than the most comforting of these. It will be a means of bringing no small benefit to others, but the most of all to yourself. Especially at this season, should we dwell on the importance of this as of every other talent with which we are commanded to trade. If we would hear at Christ's appearing the word of commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"--then we must carefully mark every opportunity for giving in His name, and not be slack to avail ourselves of it.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." What a marvelous contrast here to the spirit of the world, and to the lives of many who profess to belong to Christ! "Get what you can--and keep what you get!" seems to be the creed of many. Strain every nerve to add house to house, or thousand to thousand--and then be very careful what you give. Only give that which is absolutely needful, that you may not lose caste in the society or congregation to which you belong.
Ah, and there are many who are only too glad if they can find any excuse why they should not give. If only they can find some flaw in a certain society, or some defect in a good work--then they are quite content to refuse even the smallest sum. Alas for such shriveled souls! They are not like the flowing river, giving freely as it receives--but like the stagnant pool whose waters grow more putrid day by day, rather spreading foul vapors and disease--than bringing blessing to those around.
But WHY is it so blessed to give--more blessed to give than to receive?
Because it is like our Father in Heaven. To be like God is often set before us as our duty and privilege.
"Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
"Be followers (or imitators) of God, as dear children."
And is there anything which more clearly than this, marks the dealings of God with man?
He is the great Giver.
He is always giving.
From eternity He has been giving.
He is giving at this moment.
He will ever give.
He gives in Heaven above.
He gives on earth beneath.
From ages past He has never ceased to give for one single moment.
"Every good gift and every perfect is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).
"You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16).
"He gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).
In His Providence, He gives all things needful to supply the needs of the vast population of our world. He gives His sun to bring to us warmth and light and fruitfulness. He gives His wide ocean to be a highway from nation to nation, and its treasures of fish to supply the necessities of multitudes.
Every drop of rain,
every grain of corn,
every specimen of gathered fruit,
every bird of the air,
every flock of sheep,
every herd of oxen--
all are His merciful gifts to undeserving sinners.
But beyond all, look at the gifts of His grace.
He gives His own blessed Word of Truth--a very mine of wealth to such as have learned to value it aright.
He gives Heaven's very best treasure--His well-beloved Son, to be a ransom for our sins.
He gives the grant of a free and full pardon through Christ.
He gives His blessed Spirit, the Comforter, to dwell in our hearts.
He gives the glorious privilege of adoption into His family.
He gives peace that passes understanding.
He gives grace sufficient for each time of need.
In short, "He gives grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly!" (Psalm 84:10).
No less may we learn God's joy in giving, if we study the life of Christ. He came to reveal to us the Father, and in His own sojourn among us we can see more plainly than elsewhere, the Father's delight in bestowing richest benefits upon the children of men.
For Christ was poor Himself--yet was He ever giving. He knew what it was to be homeless, to be hungry, to work and to live as a poor man for thirty years; and at last His very clothing was taken from Him, and He was laid in another's tomb.
Yet was He ever giving. What gifts of tender sympathy and loving service did He yield while at work at the carpenter's bench at Nazareth! Then look at His innumerable gifts during His three years' ministry! He gave wine at the marriage feast, in token of the new wine of His kingdom that He would ever be giving. He gave food to the five thousand and to the seven thousand. He gave calm and peace to His disciples in the storm. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb. He gave health to multitudes who were sick. He gave life to those who were dead. He gave back Lazarus to the sorrowing sisters, and the little daughter to the bereaved father, and the only son to the widowed mother. He gave a blessing to the children, and consolation to the burdened sons and daughters of grief. He gave a kingdom and a place in Paradise to the dying thief. And last of all, He gave Himself, every member of His sacred body, every drop of His precious blood--for a world that hated and rejected Him. In all this, Christ showed forth the Father. He taught us how the Father ever loves to give.
Ah, why do men cherish such wrong thoughts of God? Why do men regard Him as a cruel exacter, instead of a most bountiful giver? Why do they regard Him as a Pharaoh--asking too much of them, ready to demand bricks without giving straw--instead of a Joseph, delighting to supply the cry of the hungry and the famishing?
Thus we see the true blessedness of giving.
It is like our Father in Heaven.
It is like the Lord Jesus.
It is to manifest that we have something of His Spirit.
It is to follow in His footsteps and to do His will.
But more than this. There is a felt joy in cheerful giving. Where love is ruling in the heart, a gift oftentimes brings fresh gladness and pleasure to the giver. Who has not known the pleasure of bringing a gift to a dear child or parent or friend? And if our gifts are only bestowed out of love--out of love to God, out of love to the Savior, out of love to man--then every gift is an addition to the Christian's joy.
There is an example of this in 1 Chronicles 29. There was great liberality manifested in preparation for the building of the temple. David gave gold and silver and precious stones with all his might. And the chief of the fathers and the princes and the captains, no less freely and willingly offered abundantly. Gold, silver, brass, precious stones were poured in abundantly. Then notice the outburst of joy (verse 9), "The people rejoiced because they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord--and David the king also rejoiced with great joy."
Then arose a magnificent song of grateful praise for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to Israel (verses 10-20).
Be assured that the reflex benefits of cheerful, liberal bounty are by no means small.
Giving becomes a great means of grace.
It feeds and nourishes the spiritual life.
It counteracts the terrible spirit of selfishness which is so great an enemy to our spiritual progress.
It draws forth our sympathy and interest in the welfare of others, and in the various good works to which we contribute.
It brings a man into closer connection with God's most faithful servants, and in many other ways strengthens the Christian in doing the will of God.
Nor must we forget a very remarkable word of Christ bearing on this point. He tells us of two ways by which we look for gifts from above. One is by prayer: "Ask, and it shall be given unto you" (Matthew 7:7). The other is by giving: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38
How God loves to repay those who love to give! "One man gives freely--yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly--but comes to poverty." Proverbs 11:24
Nor among the various blessings that rest on him who gives, should we omit the favor and acceptance which every true gift draws forth from Christ.
We cannot mistake this point. Take one of Christ's great "whosoevers." We have not a few "whosoevers" of invitation and encouragement to sinners to come to Him; but here is a "whosoever" of recompense to quicken His servants in giving in His name: "Whosoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42).
By the side of this promise, I would like to place two examples given in the gospel story. There seems to me a very precious thought in joining them together. Both were women. But one was comparatively rich, and one was poor. So one gave her offering, worth about nine pounds in our money, and the other gave about three farthings. But Christ greatly commended both.
Of Mary, who brought the box of precious ointment and poured it upon His head, He declared that "she had done a noble thing for Me," and that wherever the gospel was preached, her deed should be proclaimed (Mark 14). Of the widow who brought her two mites, Christ spoke as giving more than all the rich who cast in of their abundance (Mark 12:41-44).
Wherever there is a willing spirit and a loving heart--Christ accepts and rewards the gift. It may be the smallest coin cast into a missionary box by a poor child. It may be a cheque for a thousand pounds given to some agency for the spread of His gospel, by one who loves to act as the Lord's steward. He accepts and rewards and blesses both gifts. Nothing is given in vain. And when we see the King face to face, we shall know how precious has been everything done or given for His name's sake.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." But how can I realize this? How can I live in the power of this truth? How can I be something like the Master, to the utmost of my power delighting to give wherever I have the opportunity?
Remember that there is a divine order in the various duties we have to perform. So is it in this matter of giving. And the order is found in these other words of Christ: "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). If you would be a glad, joyful giver--you must first be a glad, hearty receiver. There is a blessedness in receiving, as well as in giving. First, you must come, if you have never yet done so, to ask and to receive from Christ, the rich mercy and grace He delights to give. Open your mouth wide, and He will fill it. As a free gift for Christ's sake, God offers you full forgiveness, a new heart, the grace of repentance, the comfort and power of the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life! Will you not accept these benefits trustfully, thankfully, joyfully?
What does a free gift need, but an empty hand to receive it? And what is this empty hand but the faith that owns its poverty and looks for everything to Christ? And is not salvation offered to us as a free gift? Look at the words of Paul: "The wages of sin is death: but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
If you want to know the blessedness of giving--you must begin with knowing the blessedness of receiving. Cast away all indifference and unbelief and doubt--and receive in humble faith all that God has to give you. Seek to be filled with the fullness which is in Christ. Get your little cistern to overflow with the living water. Get your treasury enriched exceedingly from the unsearchable riches of Christ. Get your cottage filled with the sunshine of God's loving-kindness. Then you will be prepared to give, because you will have the spirit of your Master guiding you. You will have Christ dwelling in you and with you, and He will prompt you to give as He gave.
I do not believe it is possible for the soul of man to be possessed of the love of God, and to have the blessed Spirit abiding with him in power--and to keep the heart shut and the hand shut to the cry of distress and to the needs of the Church of Christ.
Another point is most important. You must not limit the idea of giving. Perhaps in God's sight, many of the greatest givers may be those who scarcely ever handle a sovereign. The bountiful giver, is the one who has the spirit of giving. And if such a one has not gold and silver, he may yet give that which is still more precious. He may give true heart-sympathy in times of trouble;. He may give prayers and tears, and looks and words of kindness. He may give time to assist another who is oppressed with overwork. As Christ was always giving, though always poor--so he in whom Christ dwells will be ever acting in the same way. He will have the eye to discern another's sorrow, and a willingness to bear the burden with him. He will use his influence to obtain from others for a needed cause, that which he is unable to give himself. You remember the words of Peter to the lame man at the beautiful gate of the Temple: "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6).
There is many a humble Christian who may speak in the same way. Peter gave through Christ, far more than silver and gold could have purchased when he restored the man to vigor and health. And so the follower of Christ now may be the channel of bestowing gifts of spiritual consolation and help which shall never pass away.
A very useful illustration of gifts more precious than money, has lately been given in connection with the visit of the American evangelists to London. Their work seems to have been blessed very largely, and this to a great extent through the zeal of God's servants in helping them. And this in very various ways. Money was needed and freely given. £16,000 was raised without any one being asked for a single donation. But far better than money, was given no less willingly. Young men came up from the university and gave their time and influence to carry on the work. About a hundred people followed from place to place, taking lodgings at their own cost, to work night and day to bring in the people to the Savior. Then titled ladies and others moving in very high position came down and visited and worked in the slums, nursing the babies while the mothers went to the meetings, and being content to feed and watch over these little ones for an hour or two until the service was over.
Another gift of service has been named perhaps still more remarkable. The heir to one of the greatest fortunes in London stood outside the door during the whole meeting, holding a cabman's horse that the cabman might be able to remain during the service which was going on.
Very precious in God's sight, are such deeds of practical self-denial, and it may be that they will bear fruit such as would arise from no gift of silver and gold.
But as money is so vast a responsibility, and may be so large a talent for service, that it may be well to say a few words upon the use of it. A few practical hints are all that I will add.
Never consent to be limited and kept back by the standard of giving that you find either in the Church or in the world. In the sight of the urgent needs of multitudes both at home and abroad, both in temporal and spiritual matters, nothing is more painful than the driblets which find their way into the Lord's treasury. Men never hesitate to give hundreds and thousands in the course of the year for some favorite indulgence, for entertaining friends, for some particular specimens of are--and yet for a great and good work scarcely a five-pound note or a guinea is to be obtained!
We must leave all this behind. If we really believe in the blessedness of giving, we must not give the conventional guinea, but double and treble it. We must ask ourselves how little we can manage to spend on self--and how much we can contrive to spend for others and for the work of God. We must be willing unsparingly to cut off needless luxuries in dress, in food, in adorning our homes--and then delight to use it for higher purposes. We must imitate Miss Havergal, who was so glad for the first time to have any large sums of money of her own that she might send it to our noble Church Missionary Society and kindred agencies.
We must exercise forethought to enable us to give it more freely. Could not many who have a fixed income, or who can reckon somewhere about what their income will be, give a fair proportion, such as a tenth, or even more, for good works? When by this means money is reserved, it becomes so easy and pleasant to give a helpful gift when a matter of necessity is brought before you.
If young people who are beginning life would enter upon it in this spirit, I believe God would bless and prosper them the more, and in the course of a few years, they would do an incalculable amount of good in Christ's Church.
The weekly offertory which is now so widely practiced, affords another opportunity for systematic giving. Unless you are reduced to very great straits, never pass the plate or bag without contributing something, however small. Think how much a liberal, free heart will suggest for each Sunday, and then be prepared, on special occasions, when the object commends itself more particularly to your sympathy--to give twice as much as your ordinary gift. See if you cannot afford at least sixpence or a shilling on each occasion, but if it be only a three-penny or a penny piece--let it be always ready, and then in the course of the year you will bestow very substantial help on many a good cause.
Then do not forget the use of thank-offerings. It is a good and pleasant thing to be thankful, and never more so than when thankfulness stirs you up to a fresh gift. When some unlooked-for sum of money comes in; when you yourself, or one of your household, is restored to health; when a year has passed without a doctor's bill; when a little one is born to bring a fresh beam of sunshine into your house; when some difficulty or temptation has been removed, or a special prayer answered; when you have found fresh comfort and peace in God's service; when one you have often prayed for, has been drawn to Jesus--in these and in other seasons for deep gratitude, let your gratitude take a practical form and give a proof of it by dropping a half-sovereign into your missionary box, or in your case, it may be, a sixpence, or even less, will be no slight token of a thankful heart.
But whatever you give, give it with cheerful, ungrudging spirit. Thank the Lord that all you have is from Him. Thank Him that He grants you the privilege of giving. Thank Him that He accepts your gift, and will remember it at His coming. Prove for yourself the true saying of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
"We lose what on ourselves we spend;
We have as treasure without end
Whatever, Lord, to You we lend,
Who gives all.
Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee
Repaid a thousand-fold will be;
Then gladly will we give to Thee
Who gives all.
To You, from whom we all derive
Our life, our gifts, our power to give,
Oh may we ever with You live,
Giver of all."