When you become a person of faith, you learn to give according to what God tells you to give. Don’t let anyone pressure you or manipulate you or “guilt” you into giving. At the same time, don’t limit what you give by deciding, “This is what I think I can reasonably give.” That kind of giving doesn’t require any faith.
Instead, we can ask God, “What do you want to give through me? How much do you want me to trust you for in this particular instance?” There’s a difference between giving by sight and giving by faith.
My wife, Kay, and I have been tested several times like that on giving. One of the most dramatic examples was when we raised money to build Saddleback Church’s first worship center back in 1993. We were meeting in a tent then, and God told us to take up an offering. We asked people to make a commitment to give over a three-year period. So Kay and I prayed about what we would give, and we came up with an amount that didn’t seem reasonable, based on our income. From our perspective, it was more than we could afford. But we trusted God for that amount.
And a few days later I was reading in 1 Chronicles 29 about how the people of Israel gave the equivalent today of about $752 million to build the Temple in Jerusalem. God told King David to announce his gift publicly so everybody knew that he was sacrificing as much as everybody else.
I sensed God was telling me, “Rick, I want you to announce your gift. It will be a challenge to others.” And I really didn’t want to do it because I thought people would misunderstand my motive. But God told me to do it, and I wanted him to bless that building, so I did. I stood in front of my church one Sunday and said, “I don’t know where the money is coming from, but Kay and I have committed to giving a large percentage of my salary over the next three years. Please pray for us.”
A month later, we were going into the weekend where we would take up the special offering, and I was still wondering how this would all work out. I didn’t know how, but I trusted God to provide the money somehow. Then, the Friday before that weekend, I got a call from Zondervan Publishing Company. They said, “Rick, we want you to write a book and call it The Purpose Driven Church. We believe it’s going to be a best-seller, so we’re going to send you an advance.” The advance was more money than Kay and I had committed to giving. You cannot out give God!
When I told this to the church family a few days later, the congregation erupted with joy. People were jumping and shouting and dancing and singing. People were crying. I was crying; Kay was crying. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. And I nearly missed it because of my own stubbornness (we all would have missed it because of my stubbornness). We would have missed seeing how God is dependable if I hadn’t done what God told me to do. It was a lesson I will never forget.
“Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines” (Proverbs 3:9 TLB).
Talk It Over
- Think about what motivates your giving. Do you give by what you think is possible or by what God tells you is possible?
- How have you seen God reveal to you what he wants you to give?
- What fears can keep you from giving when you are in need?