When was the last time you allowed the Holy Spirit to put a cause on your heart?
Over the past two months, floods have devastated parts of our nation, Australia.
An acquaintance of ours who is not a Christian remarked on the outstanding efforts of a church group to aid flood victims in a town where her mother lives.
We are thrilled that our own church has taken up a generous love offering and is giving practical assistance to those who have suffered flood damage locally.
For the Christian, giving is not an option; it is part of our spiritual DNA. ‘God so loved the world that He gave…’ (John 3:16)
Throughout the church, there has been a resurgence of giving aid and serving those in need—along with a rising passion for social justice. The church in our day has the ability to make a physical difference in the lives of many people, communities and nations.
The Hunk and I spent many years in service with a Christian mission agency that was engaged in humanitarian aid, as well as church planting, so this is a subject dear to our hearts.
These days I find myself asking two questions in relation to giving:
- How can we give in a way that Jesus gets the glory? and
- How can we give without being spent—exhausting our reserves and (as a result) losing effectiveness?
Let Your Light Shine
”Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)
The love of Jesus is expressed when Christian believers are generous with our time, effort and resources to help those who are in need. When people see God at work in and through our lives, they are drawn to Him.
However, doing ‘good deeds’ alone is not necessarily going to give God glory, or draw people to Jesus.
We can do great things and draw praise to ourselves. As my pastor sometimes says, we can do good works as a church and be no different to the Rotary Club.
The good works that bring glory to God are those that, as Jesus teaches, observers give Him credit for.
This leads to an important question:
How can an onlooker find reason to give God praise for what they see, when we are doing good deeds? As we serve in our communities and beyond, how can we give honour to Jesus through our efforts and our aid?
This is a question that calls for consideration. I believe some of the ways this can happen are when:
- What we do is motivated by God’s love, not just duty on our part. People can sense the difference.
- We give joyfully. (2 Cor 9:7) Joy is an expression of God’s Kingdom (Rom 14:17)
- We talk about the part God has played in making it possible for us to do it—whether through guidance, provision or other means
- The good work is miraculous in nature, or involves an answer to prayer
- The change Jesus has made in our lives that results in us doing good things is evidence in itself
- We do something as a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit—and His anointing (Presence and power) is recognised
- We give even though we are in need ourselves (2 Cor 8:1-2)
- We give extravagantly, with no ‘strings attached.’ This means serving without any expectation of a response towards God or us. This way of serving reflects His grace and mercy towards people (Matt 5:45)
A God-Idea—or a Good Idea?
We need to be discerning about where we give.
There will be times when there is a need in front of us that we are capable of meeting—and responsible before God to do so. (see 1 John 3:17-19)
However, there will also be times when we need to make wise decisions about where to give our personal resources of time, service and finance.
Even Jesus did not respond to every need that presented itself. He said, ‘The Son can only do what He sees the Father doing.’ (John 5:19)
When we give where God is directing us, He anoints our actions and we can expect to see breakthrough.
There is power in giving prayerfully. You may have thought to give a general donation, but the Holy Spirit directs you to give to a specific need, group or person.
Not Always Understood
Even when we give in the way I have mentioned above, and our motivations are those of love for God and people, not everyone will understand us.
When this happens, we need to forgive and release our accusers and continue to do what God has called us to.
Throughout our years of service with a mission agency, there were those who understood and supported us. However, there were also those who questioned our decision to sacrifice our financial position in the service of God and Third World nations.
Ultimately, we are living to please the Father. And those He is drawing to Himself will give Him credit for what they see in our lives (2 Cor 2:15-16)
Give Light—Without Burning Out
‘I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there… on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.’ (Matt 5:15-16 MSG)
The lights that were used in Bible times were actually oil-fed lamps. As long as the oil was kept topped up, the light would continue to shine
And that’s a great picture of how God designed and created us to live, connected to Him and filled with His Holy Spirit
A problem can arise when we, individually or as churches, keep on giving, and mobilising, and serving, but we lose that vital connection to God.
When that happens, we’re no longer like the oil-fed lamp that Jesus referred to, we become like a candle, which burns of its own substance to give light, eventually burning out.
At times in the past I have snapped the proverbial candle in two and burned all four ends at once!
An inability to give resources, or to meet another person’s need is not necessarily selfishness (although it can be!) It may also be a barometer that something in our lives is amiss.
When this happens, it may be necessary to step back for a season and take care of what is most important.
The Power of Serving in Community
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’ (Heb 10:24-25)
When we serve as Christians, there is added power in giving together. Jesus said that our unity would be a witness to the world (John 17:23)
Serving in a group or community also has another benefit: we can encourage each other. And when one person is weak or needs a break, others in the group can continue the good work we have begun. (Eccl 4:9-12)
We live in a world where the needs are great, and more opportunities exist to mobilise the church than ever before. Let’s love relentlessly, give prayerfully—and let Jesus have all the glory.
Do you have any ideas or experiences to share on this topic? I would love to hear from you. Leave a note in the comments box below. If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.
© Helen Calder 2010 Enliven Publishing Blog https://www.enlivenpublishing.com/blog/
Now on team with David McCracken Ministries