Of course, we all start out as receivers and takers; from the inception of life (which is a gift in itself), even an embryo is entirely dependent on its mother for nourishment and the continuation of its tiny existence, and really, that pattern continues through birth and well into childhood. But, God doesn’t intend for us to continue being “on the take” for our entire lives!
It’s not just that some of us are “givers” by nature and others are “takers.” Those who are mature give; those who are immature take. God wants us to become mature, which is why Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:42: “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” In Luke 6:30, the command is even more emphatic: “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” Wow! Really?
Why does Jesus ask us to do such impossible things? Is he really just out to make us feel like failures? I don’t think so. I think he knows something that we have trouble understanding: True love gives, and loving truly makes us happy! What do you think? Do you think that’s right or wrong?
I think Jesus was right (as always), even though I struggle to be like Jesus. But, notice his example: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). So, Jesus came to earth and made himself of “no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) for our sakes, so that we could become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) and someday “reign for ever and ever” with him (Revelation 22:5). In order to do all this, he had to die on the cross—the ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours. The ultimate gift given by the ultimate Giver! Do you suppose this made Jesus sad, or happy? He didn’t do it begrudgingly, because there was no other way. He did it “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Yes, he sweat great drops of blood and would have taken some other way had there been one, but Jesus surrendered fully to God’s will, even to the point of death, in order to give the gift of eternal life to all of us who put our hope and faith in him. He is our example, and he did it for JOY. God wants us to give for the joy of it, because we love, and not simply out of a sense of duty. This is what Jesus wants us to understand. Everything he teaches us is for our good, so that we might experience the abundant life that God intends for us!
I’ve been meditating on Psalm 41:1, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor” and love this story, told by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) in his book, Italy (recorded by Spurgeon in his inimitable Treasury of David): In Turin, Samuel Rogers met a Piedmontese nobleman who told him that he’d been on the verge of committing suicide in a river when a little boy tugged at his cloak and begged the man to help his family of six children who were starving to death. The nobleman followed the child to his home and was so overwhelmed by the poverty and squalor that he gave them his entire purse. They burst into such joyous gratitude that he said, “It filled my eyes, it went as a cordial to my heart. ‘I will call again tomorrow’ I cried. ‘Fool that I was to think of leaving a world where such pleasure was to be had, and so cheaply!’”
Here are more awesome thoughts on giving to the poor from Spurgeon’s Treasury of David: “How foolish are they that fear to lose their wealth by giving it, and fear not to lose themselves by keeping it? He that lays up his gold may be a good jailer, but he that lays it out is a good steward . . . Thou hast riches here, and here be objects that need thy riches—the poor; in heaven there are riches enough but no poor, therefore, by faith in Christ make over to them thy moneys in the world, that by bill of exchange thou mayest receive it in the world to come; that only you carry with you which you send before you.”—Francis Raworth, Teacher to the Church at Shoreditch, in a Funereal Sermon, 1656.
Texts for the Meditation: Matthew 5:42, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Luke 6:30, “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.”
Remember: Giving isn’t simply a duty; it’s a great privilege!