Eight simple words of Jesus provide the key to freedom and joy in our relationship with money: It’s more blessed to give than to receive. Though this is a well-known verse, few Christ-followers truly know, understand, and apply this truth in their everyday lives.
In more than 20 years of working with givers, I have observed that ambivalence toward the words of Jesus is not due to lack of belief; rather, it is because we have been caught up in the power of money for far too long.
The term “blessed” isn’t even all that accessible anymore. It’s overused. I prefer Randy Alcorn’s definition. He translates “blessed” as “happy-making.” Reread the verse above with that definition in mind.
Randy Alcorn translates “blessed” as “happy-making.”
Money – or, rather, the love of money – breeds many things that are not “blessed” or “happy-making.” Money has the tendency to isolate and cause anxiety. It has power in our lives, because we believe it can fulfill, protect, give control, and ultimately satisfy us.
It whispers in our ear that, without it, we won’t be happy or secure. The love of money, and the pursuit of ever more of it, creates an atmosphere that all too often takes God, and our dependence on him, out of the equation.
So, how can giving break the power of money in our lives? I see three ways:
Giving reveals the power of grace
By joyfully giving, we begin to recognize the gifts we have already been given by our Heavenly Father. John 3:16, a well-known verse, sums it up perfectly as it begins with these words, “For God so loved the world that he gave ….” Jesus is King of the universe, and the degree to which we see he was willing to give up everything for us because we were his treasured possession is the degree to which we will recognize how the promises of money pale in comparison. As C. S. Lewis s aptly put it in The Weight of Glory, And Other Addresses (pg 26):
It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Giving reminds us what true riches look like and reveals that money has nothing to offer us that compares to the amount of love and fulfillment that Christ gives to us.
Giving challenges our beliefs of who is really in charge
The act of giving something away is a statement that we are free. That thing doesn’t own us. The same can be said of money. Giving money away represents an act of faith and demonstrates that money does not own us.
Deeper still, by giving, we proclaim that we put our trust in something other than money – our Heavenly Father – to give us those things that money claims to give. Giving sacrificially creates dependence on the loving, gracious God to provide for our needs, as we share with those around us. It breaks through our self-reliance and the feelings of control that money falsely creates and, instead, breathes freedom and joy into the isolating, anxious atmosphere of our false self-sufficiency.
Giving begins a life-changing conversation with the Giver
If we believe that what we have has been given to us to manage, then wouldn’t it make sense to talk to the One who owns it to learn how he wants it to be used? It is through this conversation with the Holy Spirit that the daily journey of generosity is walked out. Through this conversation with our Creator, we experience his blessedness and escape the allure of money in our lives.
The power of money and the desire for self-sufficiency are as old as Adam. There is no one-time fix, yet there is great hope. Jesus was clear when he said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. As we put his teaching into practice, we open the door to those things that relentlessly break the power of money in our lives: the grace of Jesus Christ, dependence on God the Father, and a daily conversation with the Holy Spirit.
This text was originally part of Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life, compiled by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready and is used here with permission from the editors. Feel free to download your own copy of the e-book.