“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).
These simple words of Jesus provide the key to freedom and joy in our relationship with money. 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 towards 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 due to its overuse, so I prefer Randy Alcorn’s helpful definition — he translates “blessed” as “happy-making”.
Money, or the love of money rather, breeds many things that are anti-blessed or not “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. It whispers in our ear that without it, we won’t be happy or secure. The love of money or the pursuit of ever-more money 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 would suggest that giving can break the power of money in three ways, firstly, through revealing the power of grace, secondly, by challenging our self-reliance, and thirdly, in welcoming us into a conversation with our Creator.
- 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…” To the degree that we see how Jesus, the King of the universe, was willing to give up everything He had 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 so aptly put it in The Weight of Glory:
“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 the 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-giving 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 by 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 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 by the Holy Spirit.
As a founder of Generous Giving (www.generousgiving.org), Todd has been actively engaged in spreading the biblical message of generosity for more than 20 years. In his current role as President, Todd acts as a key spokesperson, relating with givers and implementing strategies for advancing the generosity message.