This is going to seem a bit like mum saying “it’s for your own good” as she tips cod-liver oil down your throat - but one of the main reasons for being generous is that: giving is good for you! It may be good for the recipient too, but, believe it or not, you benefit most from being generous. You really do. Here is the main reason why: giving breaks the power of money.
Jesus Christ is famous for saying, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.’ (Matthew 6:24). When you choose to follow Jesus you choose a new master. But the old master doesn’t give up control over our lives just like that. Our eyes are often turned as he continues to display his tempting wares. Not least in the realm of money.
The old master uses money to exercise control over us. In our old life we were kept behind bars of false security, fake masks, greed and fear and although the new master, Jesus, has unlocked the cell door we are sometimes hesitant about opening it, walking out and leaving the bars behind.
“Giving” is the view through the bars. Giving flies a flag for freedom. Giving jams opens the cell door and coaxes us out. Giving breaks the power of money.
In a famous speech to graduating students, David Foster Wallace, the post-modern novelist who died in 2008, said, “If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough.” He’s right, because that’s the way the old master manipulated you – perpetual dissatisfaction, subtle envy, safety in numbers.
Most of us have worshiped money and things: we have given them our attention, we have orientated our lives around them, we have taken our identity from them. And we’ve also found that money is a deeply unsatisfying idol.
But money is spiritually neutral – it’s what we do with it that gives a crystal-clear indicator of the freedom of our spirit, the health of our soul and what has power in our life.
This is how it goes:
- We learn about tithing (giving a tenth of our income to our church) from those who disciple us;
- So we look at our spending plan and realise that if we give - something will have to give!
- For those with surplus it will mean digging into our security blanket or into the amount we save. To those who are just-about-managing it means letting go of something.
- The pain you feel at this point of realisation exactly matches the level to which the old master still has influence over you.
- If you sense yourself drawing back from giving, it’s an indicator that something from the old has a hold on you. An idol is unmasked.
- You’re being tempted to edge back into the cell, to get behind those bars. And, imprisoned in your desire, your surrender to Jesus is exposed as partial.
So I choose to give. We may still have money troubles, we still have to learn about how to deal with bills and debt and savings. But when I give generously and with joy, the cell door swings open and I can walk in a new freedom where the idols of money and things no longer control me.
Why should I give? Because giving sets me free. Because giving is good for me. Because giving breaks the power of money.