by Wayne Barber
What is the secret of true grace-giving? In this article we are going to look at the priority that must be in place if we are going to ever experience giving as a reality in our lives. Giving is a matter of one's heart. Unless a believer is surrendered to Christ, then you can forget giving in his life. Paul begins verse 5 by saying "and this, not as we had expected." Paul was blown away by the giving of the Macedonian believers. He knew the limited resources these people had and was literally overwhelmed with their generous giving. But Paul knew the secret behind their giving. He realized that this kind of gracious, generous giving was the result of surrendered believers living under the lordship of Christ.
He knew that a believer does not begin with giving his money but, instead, he begins by giving himself fully to Christ. "They first gave themselves to the Lord." You see, this is the priority that one must have long before he thinks about giving his money. When a believer gives himself to the Lord he gives all including what he thought was his money! I want you to know that as a believer we don't own anything! God owns it all! You don't have your money in the bank and in your wallet but rather you have God's money.
If you have given yourself to the Lord, then you understand that! The word "Lord" used here illustrates His sovereign rule over all we have and all that we are! Giving is never an emotional reaction to a need nor is it a gamble that you will get something back if you give! Giving is a response to the Lordship of Christ who lives in you and owns your money!
Philippians says that Christ Jesus lives in us to will and to work (Phil. 2:13)! The desire to give is His desire, and the resource that He demands is also His to begin with!
When one walks yielded to the Lordship of Christ there is no fear in any of this! Perfect love, which is absolute obedience to His will and command, casts out all fear! You say, "how could they listen to God's man and actually do what he asked them to do?" Paul answers this "they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us." Once they surrendered to Christ they could trust those who Christ put over them to communicate the need! Wow! You mean they actually trusted God's leadership He had placed over them? Absolutely, but it wasn't a blind submission—it was "by the will of God."
The word "will" is théle\ma, which refers to that which is the result of the will of God! True giving, which involves one's money; one's total resources; is always preceded by one's surrender to the Lordship of Christ. It is then and only then that one can respond to the leaders that God puts over him. Grace-giving is a true miracle of the human heart that is affected by Christ living in a believer.
We learn from the Macedonians that when God motivates the heart giving takes place, no matter how tough times may be! We have learned that we don't own anything but all that we have is God's to begin with and is under His Lordship! We have learned that accompanying our giving will be His joy, even in the midst of our poverty! We learn that before we ever start thinking about giving our money we need to give ourselves to the Lordship of Christ. We have learned that it is God's will that we trust those that He has put over us! He will many times communicate the need of what He wants to do with His money that He has entrusted to us through those whom He has put over us.
So, how is your giving? Is it a spontaneous reflex of the heart to the will of God in your life? Or are you one of the 70-some percent of believers who don't give? We need to get a handle on this, because when there is no giving in a believer's life there is no life of Christ being seen.