The Puzzle of Christian Partnership, Your Gifts

by Marlin Hoover

Your Gifts - The third piece of the puzzle

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Everything we’ve got was created and given to us by God. The gift piece of the puzzle is the only piece that God made and has already put in for us. We’re to take this piece of the puzzle out. You think, how am I ever going to get my partnership puzzle put together if I’m to take this piece of the puzzle out? Not only are we to take it out but we’re to give it away.

Giving this piece of the puzzle away

So you say: God has put the gift piece of the puzzle in for us and you’re telling me I’m to take it out and just give it away? Yes, but not just because it’s what we’re told to do. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It’s the thought that counts

In reality a gift is not just what is done or given, the gift is in the intentions of the giver or doer. To determine our intentions we have to ask ourselves what is our motive, our plan, the purpose; the “why” we are giving this gift? It’s like giving flowers. Flowers are a symbol of emotions. Is the reason we’re giving the gift because of a feeling of love, obligation, gratitude, to make amends, showing our sorrow or just because it’s the customary thing to do? Is our giving to make ourselves feel good, being such a generous giver? What does the giving of this gift really mean to us? What does it mean to the receiver? Is our gift meaningful or meaningless. In Isaiah 1:13 it says: “Do not bring any more meaningless offerings; I consider your incense detestable!” In this Bible verse it tells us that having a proper heart before God is more important than burning the proper incense at the proper time, with the proper fire with the proper implements.

How will I ever finish my puzzle?

So before we pull our gift puzzle piece out and give it away we need to make sure it’s righteous side up, that we’re giving it away for the right reason and with a giving heart. I know you’re still thinking that it’s going to be impossible to put my partnership puzzle together without the gift piece, if I give it away. Luke 6:38 says: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Every time that we take that gift piece of the puzzle out and give it away cheerfully for the right reason with a giving heart, God puts another one back in for us, every time.

First things first

Proverbs 3:9—10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

There are people who read the first part of this verse as “Honor the Lord from your wealth......” They take a little from all that God has given them and give it back. They wouldn’t want to give too much, that could cramp their lifestyle. They worry, what if the economy tanks, we’ll need enough savings to maintain our current standard of living. Is maintaining our lifestyle honoring God? How much is enough? What this verse in Proverbs really says is: “Honor the Lord with your wealth” all of it. It doesn’t say to give it all away but to honor God with it. It says to honor God with the first fruits of your produce. We’re to honor God first with our wealth, not with our left-overs.

What’s honoring God with our wealth?

How is it that we’re to honor God with our wealth? Is storing our money up in a bank honoring God? Is spending it on ourselves honoring God? Is using it to maintain our current lifestyle honoring God? We all like getting the gift piece to our partnership puzzle. We like holding it, looking at it, we might put it in a frame in a prominent place for all to see. We might even carry around pictures of it to show everybody. We like to think that this is honoring God, showing everybody how good God has taken care of us. We think that having this piece of the puzzle makes our puzzle complete. Not so! Until we give it, it’s not going to fit. Does this mean that we’re to go empty our bank accounts, sell our houses, put the money in a suitcase and put it in the collection plate at church? A story is told in Mark chapter 12 verses 41-44 about a widow who donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. Jesus explains to his disciples that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant, but proportionately lesser, donations of the rich. Jesus wasn’t putting the widow up on a pedestal, but teaching us that we should be willing to honor God with all of our wealth, however much or little that might be.

Why give money to the church?

Just like money makes the world go round, is it our money that makes the church go round? What better place to give a gift to God than to His church. Gifts to the church allow it to do its job of spreading the word of God, of seeing that God’s will is done in the local community and the world. When the church is in need we are to give with a loving heart, gladly, honoring the Lord. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart” We’ve all been taught that it’s not the gift but the thought that counts. What is it that we think when we put money into the collection plate? That it’s enough? That it’s too much? That it’s too little? What does God think?

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

God gave us a gift…He gave His only begotten Son! Why? Because He so loved the world! Through this gift God has shown the extent of His love. Our gifts are symbolic of our faith, trust and love.

For you so loved God, that you gave…what? What’s your gift?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should our giving be a sacrifice, should it hurt?
  2. What’s required to honor the Lord with our wealth?
  3. What kind of gifts don’t honor the Lord?
  4. What kind of gifts do?
  5. Is just giving our stuff away honoring God?
  6. When is our gift to God enough?
  7. Is it OK to re-gift?
  8. How should you respond to an unappreciated gift?
  9. Is giving sometimes unnecessary? If so, when?