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Nurturing Life – A Journey of Faith

The Joy of Giving

The Joy of Giving

by Conrad S.G. Duncan

The great saying of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NIV) took on more significance when, in the summer of 2009, I experienced a very strange act—strange because it seldom happens.

The occasion was the first Men’s Ministries convention in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Among the 2,500 in attendance was a very special person—a celebrity of sorts. This man migrated to Mexico from Jamaica in the 1960s and, during those years, became a famous wrestler and movie actor. He also excelled in business. I had heard and read about him in the sports history books, but fate had it that we would cross paths in a personal way during 1992-1995.

I, too, migrated to Mexico, along with my family, in the early 1990s for the purpose of education. While at Montemorelos University (a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning), I was introduced to this famous Jamaican-Mexican movie star by a mutual friend. This movie star had grown up in the Adventist church in Jamaica. After many years of public acting, he strayed away from the church of his childhood but now had returned to God. He was very engaged in Christian education and spreading the gospel to his famous counterparts.

After a brief visit with me and my family, this fellow Jamaican was so impressed with our bold and ambitious transition that he, unsolicited, contributed to our living and studying expenses for the next two years.

Unfortunately, we maintained contact for only a few years. As we migrated to the United States and traveled to different states, we lost contact with him. More than 10 years had passed since we last communicated.

At the end of the Men’s Ministry service in Montego Bay, while I was greeting old friends and hundreds of worshipers who claimed to have been blessed by the message God gave them that day, this famous movie personality raced through the crowd, screamed out my name, embraced me with tears in his eyes, and said, “This is the greatest day of my life. I never thought that I would ever see you again. I thought that I would die before I saw you again. To have met and helped your family was the most fulfilling experience of my life. I would do it over again simply because God has blessed me in unbelievable ways. Thank you for crossing my path in Mexico.”

The people around me that day had never seen nor heard such exultant jubilation. They stood amazed at the sight and sound of the man’s actions and words. Both he and I were convinced that God, and not man, brought us together so far away from our native homeland. The manner of his action that day left the onlookers thinking that I was the one who helped him. Actually, it was the other way around. This was a classic case where the giver was more cheerful to give than the receiver cheerful to receive. Then and there, I saw Jesus’ statement coming to life. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It is generally believed that the greatest joys and satisfaction come from giving to others and enabling the joy of other people’s lives. One couple concluded:

Our attitudes about sharing versus hoarding, giving versus gathering, speak volumes about the condition of our heart and soul. What’s more, giving can be a tremendously positive aspect of your relationship, bringing joy and fulfillment as you demonstrate gratitude to God by helping others.
—Palmer, Bethany and Scott; Cents & Sensibility; NavPress Publishing Group, 2005

When is the right time for me to give?

Many people say, “As soon as things get better, I will give or give more.” Others say, “I will give as soon as I know what is in it for me.”

The truth is, what people give, when they give, and to whom they give is less important than why and how they give.

One gives because it is a pleasure to bring pleasure and satisfaction to others. Giving with a grateful heart produces joy every time one gives, regardless of the quantity of the gift. The most appreciated gifts are those given out of sacrifice, not surplus. Jesus commended the widow for her two mites, not the wealthy with their two million (Mark 12:41-43). She gave joyfully of her best. Regardless how much and how often we give, we should enjoy doing it.

The subject of charitable giving, or even required giving, does not have to be a source of distress or discomfort. As in the case of the movie personality I met, giving can and should be a source of freedom and fulfillment. It is, indeed, “more blessed to give than to receive.” Put yourself at the receiving end and see how good it feels. Yet, according to the Bible, it should feel even better to be the one doing the giving.

Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle, points out a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. He even refers to Jesus’ statement that says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 NIV) Still, many people are reluctant to give. The good news is that more people are willing to give than those who are not.

The following seven points speak directly to some sound reasons for people, even Christian people, to give:

  1. God is the owner of everything, even my paycheck. “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (Deuteronomy 10:14 NIV) He even gives us the power and opportunity to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). God advocates for our prosperity.
  2. God is honored when we give. Giving should not be an act of duty, but of gratitude. Says Solomon, the wise man, “Honor the Lord with your wealth.” (Proverbs 3:9 NIV) Sharing our resources is one way of acknowledging that the Creator of the universe is in charge and sovereign over all the world. As Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 KJV) It is better to give than to lose what we have.
  3. Giving changes others. In The Treasure Principle, and also quoted in Bethany and Scott Palmer’s book, Cents & Sensibility, Randy Alcorn wrote, “Because we give, eternity will be different—for others and for us.” Whenever we give money to help others, their lives are changed for the better, and forever.
  4. Give without expecting anything back. A gift is something we give with no strings attached; otherwise it becomes a tradeoff. Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Giving not only changes others, it also leaves the giver enriched and enhanced. Wasn’t it the wise man Solomon who said that God will personally reward those who give to the less fortunate?
  5. Make giving to God a priority. Give to God first, since He is the one who gives us all things. Again, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9 NIV) “But seek ye first [not second, or last] the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) Whatever we give should come right off the top, not from the bottom of the budget. A good motto to live by is, “Give to God what is right, not what is left.” (This came from a church sign I saw in Colorado Springs.)
  6. Give cheerfully. If you have ever received a gift from someone who was not happy to share, you would probably understand how much was lost from that gift. The purpose and impact of the gift were spoiled. You probably felt like returning or even refusing the gift. Scripture declares, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV) Giving cheerfully means giving without grumbling, whining, or reluctance. Being cheerful is not an emotion as much as it is a choice, and everyone can decide to give with a cheerful and positive attitude.
  7. Give as a Family. Children learn the value of giving when parents practice it. It is good to identify a project for the whole family to support. Church and special funds for charitable purposes are two worthy entities to which families may give. In this way, children learn to be unselfish, kind, and generous from an early age.

Our heavenly Father has given so much to this planet and, more specifically, to man—you and me. We are, indeed, abundantly blessed. The interesting thing is that God enjoys giving. It pleases Him to give, and this explains why He constantly gives everything to everyone. For God, living is giving. And for my movie star friend in Mexico, giving is the source of real joy. I am a firsthand witness of this fact. As God has given joyfully, we do well to share the joy of giving.