Vanity Under the Sun

He Who Loves Money Will Not Be Satisfied With Money | Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, ado not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions land power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 ESV

 

After taking a brief intermission to discuss how to properly fear and worship God, the Preacher now resumes the report of experiment by turning to the vanity of wealth. Money and the love of it are some of life’s chief motivators. Actions are driven by it. Thoughts are captive to it. Partnerships are forged with it. Betrayals are bought by it. Money and the power that it buys is seductive to nearly every human. Yet even though Solomon was one of the wealthiest men to ever live (if not the wealthiest), he writes from personal experience that the quest for more money is never ending nor satisfying. Wealth will always fail to provide true lasting joy and meaning in life.

OPPRESSION REVISITED // VERSES 8-9

To begin this next section on the vanity of wealth, Solomon turns his eye once more to the oppression that he sees. However, this time he tells us that we should not be amazed by the injustice that we see being done. His reasoning for such as statement is that there is always a hierarchy of officials. Thus, we can be certain that the person who creates oppression in our lives also has someone above him creating oppression. It is an endless cycle of injustice, but don’t be amazed, this is simply the conditions of a fallen world. This is not cynical of Solomon, just realistic. He is merely describing this aspect of a post-Genesis 3 life.

Fortunately, verse 9 quickly tells us that a king cultivating the fields is a gain for the land in every way. To be honest, upon first reading this, the structure of verses 8-9 made it sound like the Preacher is saying that oppression is a way of cultivating the fields, and so it is good for the land in every way. Thankfully, that is not what this verse is saying. Instead, Solomon is providing an alternative: a king cultivating the fields. In other words, just because authority tends to be abused doesn’t mean that authority itself is bad. Authority is ultimately good for everyone, even when it is occasionally misused. Since we in the United States lean toward possessing a phobia for authorities, we need to keep this reminder in our minds. After all, God Himself is the ultimate authority, and throughout the Bible, He gives portions of His authority to finite and fallible creatures like us. Genesis 1:26 provides the first example as God grants dominion over the earth and its creatures to humanity. The judges and kings of Israel continue this cycle. Romans 13:4 applies this to all governmental authorities saying: “for he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” We rejoice whenever the legal system enforces justice rightly because it is a physical instrument of God’s judgment on earth. And this is not just righteous governments. Throughout the Bible, God even used pagan nations like Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon to enact His judgment. Therefore, as followers of Christ, let us never be a people who wholeheartedly reject authority. We lament that authority will be abused in this life, but in general, God has ordained authority for the benefit of all people.

THE LOVE OF MONEY // VERSES 10-12

Within these three verses, the Preacher presents three truths regarding money and wealth.

The first truth, found in verse 10, is that money cannot satisfy. Don’t you love how Solomon doesn’t add any qualifying comments to that statement? Quite simply, if you love money, you are chasing after something that cannot be captured. To illustrate this, a commonly told account of Rockefeller says that during an interview, the reporter asked him which was his favorite million dollars. Rockefeller simply responded, “The next one.” Even with all the money he could ever hope to spend, his heart was set on the next earning. The love of money runs contrary contentment. The two cannot coexist as they are mutual exclusives. This is why Hebrews 13:5 warns against the one and commands the other: “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The love of money and contentment are like oil and water, like black and white. They oppose one another. Since contentment cannot exist alongside the love of money, the often misquoted 1 Timothy 6:10 makes much sense: “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.” Discontentment caused Adam and Eve to eat the fruit in order to become more like God than they already were as image-bearers. Of course, we can go one step further by concluding that the root of discontentment is pride. Discontent first forms because we are prideful enough to believe that we deserve something more than what we actually possess. Love of money ultimately creates within us a heart of envy, jealousy, and dissatisfaction. Eventually, it will bring us to the place where we are willing to do anything to get what we want.

Verse 11 gives us our second truth: needs increase along with wealth. Whenever goods increase, so do the eaters of those goods. This can point to two things. First, wealth brings beggars. Time and time again, we read stories of people winning the lottery only to have a multitude of distant friends and family flock around them. This is likely Solomon’s primary meaning. However, we can also see the principle that vacuums must be filled being described here. A large surplus of income often means more spending. We see this whenever someone buys a larger home thinking that it will not be as crowded with things, but having a larger home just means it gets filled with more stuff. Because needs tend to increase with wealth, lower income families are not the only ones who live paycheck to paycheck. More money simply means more spending.

The third truth is presented in verse 12: anxiety increases with wealth. Solomon describes the laborer as coming home from his day of work and finding sweet rest in his sleep. The wealthy person, however, is restless because of the great needs that accompany his great wealth. An interesting thought struck me as I meditated on this verse: which countries tend to have the highest cases of sleep deprivation? Often it is the wealthier nations of the world. Writing primarily to a Western (and therefore generally wealthy) audience, Tish Warren Harrison notes the following about sleep:

According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, nearly 30 percent of adults average less than six hours of sleep per night, significantly under the recommended seven to eight hours. Only about 30 percent of high school students reported getting at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night, though they need around ten. In one national study, over 7 percent of people between twenty-five and thirty-five admitted to actually nodding off while driving in the past month. In 2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared, “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem.” Most of us have heard statistics like this before. And we yawn and pour more coffee. We know, we know. We’re busy, we’re tired, we’re worn out. But this public health epidemic is indicative of a spiritual crisis—a culture of disordered love and disordered worship. We disdain limits. Wendell Berry warned, “It is easy… to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.”

We skip sleep because there is simply too much to do. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But often the reason we continue to have more things to do is because we continue to have more things that we want. Our lack of contentment with what we have leads to our exhaustion-inducing efforts to accumulate more and more.

An example of this type of contentment stands out vividly in my mind. About two years ago, my wife and I bought our first home, a nearly 100-year-old space of 1400 feet. Upon first seeing our house, people would often comment that it was a beautiful and quaint starting home. The underlying idea, of course, being that we will need to upgrade in the future. But those comments stood in sharp contrast with my wife’s visiting grandparents from Colombia, who immediately asked if such a big house was only for the two of us.

Unfortunately, much of our stress is self-induced, stemming from our lack of contentment. We may not think of ourselves as possessing a love of money in the traditional sense. We can, however, very easily fall for the trap of trying to keep up with the Joneses. We become dissatisfied with things that are sufficient and long for things that are ultimately unnecessary. Agur, in Proverbs 30:7-9, gives us a prayer that stands in sharp contrast to modern consumerism: “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” How many of us make prayers like that? Our prayers tend to be for God to increase our possessions and wealth, not for Him to keep wealth out of our hands. Agur essentially prays, “God, I know my heart. I know my desires. Keep me out of poverty and riches. If I have too much wealth, pride will grow in me as am able to provide for myself. I will reject You and believe that I am self-sufficient.” May we learn from Agur’s prayer to be content.

A CASE STUDY // VERSES 13-17

Here Solomon provides a helpful example of how wealth is vanity. He describes a man who, after damaging himself through hard work, loses everything in one bad venture. Then having nothing to give to his son as an inheritance, he dies with nothing, leaving behind a life of misery and sorrow. Being a financial burden instead of a blessing upon his son would have been a severe shame in the ancient world, which only serves to emphasize the vanity of this man’s backbreaking work to accumulate wealth. His final days are nothing but sick, vexation, and anger.

This example may be a hypothetical case study, but many have unfortunately walked through this as a reality. Last week, I finished reading a biography of Ulysses S. Grant. The general of the Union Army during the Civil War, who went on to serve two terms as president of the United States, lived a life of success that few could match. However, during the final days of his life, Grant fell victim to one of the first Ponzi schemes and lost all of his wealth. Eventually, he spent the final days of his life desperately writing a memoir as he was dying from esophageal cancer with the hope that his wife would be able to live off of the book’s sales. The memoir sold beautifully and is still considered a masterpiece, but Grant died only a few days after completing it.

In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus gives us another hypothetical account of this kind of misfortune as a warning against all covetousness:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years, relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Isn’t the fool in the parable how many view retirement? We await the ceasing from work in order to eat, drink, and be merry, but we do not know that we will ever be able to enjoy the rejoices that we have stored. Solomon’s case study and Jesus’ parable are both presenting the same idea: wealth is vain. It is a terrible god that can be taken away in a moment. And if it is not taken away from us, we might be taken away from it.

What is the answer then, if wealth is a vanity? Our final three verses present the answer.

CONTENTMENT: THE GIFT OF GOD // VERSES 18-20

The hopeful refrain of Ecclesiastes returns! Notice that when Solomon says that everything under the sun is vanity he is not saying that nothing is good on earth. The Preacher emphasizes that he sees with his physical eyes that it is good and fitting to eat, drink, and find enjoyment. Just because life is fleeting doesn’t make it bad. Christianity does not align with the gnostic heresy that threatened it in the first century. We do not believe that spiritual things are good and physical things are bad. No, we believe that in the beginning God made a physical world and declared it to be good. Things may be broken after the Fall, but they are not utterly broken. If we are not careful, we can fall victim to such hyper-spiritualizations that declare all wealth and possessions to be evil. But the Preacher explicitly states that wealth, possessions, and power are gifts from God, along with the ability to enjoy them.

How exactly do we enjoy these gifts of God properly? Enjoying God’s gifts means accepting our lot in life and rejoicing in the toil that He sets before us. We are to be content, and God gives contentment by keeping us occupied with Him. How are we kept occupied with God? With joy in his heart. It is all too common for people to think of God as a cosmic killjoy, that His commands limit our freedom and force us to obey His arbitrary guidelines. But Solomon emphasizes that God is not a killjoy but the giver of joy.

Later in Luke 12, verses 32-34, Jesus gives us these words:

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus (and Solomon) are both calling for us not to forsake all treasures and wealth but for us to chase after eternal and lasting riches. Money is fleeting; God desires for us to know real wealth. The Bible is commanding us to pursue treasure, wealth, and riches because God alone is the greatest of all treasures. Furthermore, if He is more valuable than everything else put together, then He often loves us by stripping us of our lesser loves in order to bring us to Himself. God does not forbid idolatry because He is a killjoy. He forbids idolatry because idolatry will kill our joy. The wealth of this world is appealing, but even the very words of God are better than gold (Psalm 19:10).

Of course, the Christian life is one of suffering, a call to grab our cross, to come and die. At the epicenter of our faith is the humiliating death of our God after all. We must never ignore such difficult and sobering truths. But let us also never neglect the joy of the following after Christ. Let us sing with the psalmist to God, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). He is a God is worthy of following, of treasuring, and of enjoying.  God is not a megalomaniac who says, “Worship me or else.” He is a loving Father, who offers Himself freely as the highest good and richest treasure.

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Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Wealth Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 5:10 | He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.    

Ecclesiastes 5:19 | Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toilthis is the gift of God.   

OPENING THOUGHT

No book inside or outside the Bible is quite like Ecclesiastes. Probably written by Solomon (referring to himself as the Preacher), Ecclesiastes is a brutal analysis of living life post-Genesis 3. In order to analyze the world, Solomon decides to conduct a grand experiment with his life by throwing his time, attention, and heart into various things, hoping to discover a source of lasting meaning, purpose, and joy in the world. Yet the Preacher’s ultimate conclusion is that everything is vanity, a striving after wind.

After taking a brief intermission to discuss how to properly fear and worship God, the Preacher now resumes the report of experiment by turning to the vanity of wealth. Money and the love of it are some of life’s chief motivators. Actions are driven by it. Thoughts are captive to it. Partnerships are forged with it. Betrayals are bought by it. Money and the power that it buys is seductive to nearly every human. Yet even though Solomon was one of the wealthiest men to ever live (if not the wealthiest), he writes from personal experience that the quest for more money is never ending nor satisfying. Wealth will always fail to provide true lasting joy and meaning in life.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. In verses 8-9, the Preacher continues his discussion of oppression. Why is oppression inevitable? Why is authority a biblical and necessary concept?
  3. What are the three statements about wealth that Solomon presents? What examples have you seen of them in media, your life, or those around you?
  4. What alternative to the love of money does Solomon present at the end of the chapter and why? How does Luke 12:16-34 further elaborate on the truths of this text?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

 

Creating a 4-Step Time Budget

My wife and I recently finished Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and it’s been great. I’d say we aren’t terrible with our money, but we’ve always desired to be better stewards of the resources God has given to us. And it turns out that we weren’t quite as solid financially as we should be.

Budgeting has never been our strength, so we weren’t pleased to hear Ramsey teach that budgeting is the key to succeeding financially. He teaches a zero-balance budget, which means that you know where every dollar of our your income will be spent before the month even begins. It’s the only way to truly take control of your money. You tell it were to go, rather than spending it on every whim.

It’s a great idea.

But it’s also really hard to actually follow through with it.

Budgeting is the answer to controlling finances, but it requires discipline.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were talking through all of our responsibilities while on the road, and she began to lament that there simply wasn’t enough time to get everything done. I agreed with this feeling but decided to put it to the test with an experiment, a time budget. Here’s what we created:

1. Using your 168 hours. 

First, we wrote down 168 at the top of a page.

Why is that number special?

It’s the number of hours God has given to each of us every week.

That’s our “income”.

Nothing will ever increase or decrease that number. It will continue onward, steady and sure.

These 168 hours are God’s gift to you.

If the Lord wills, you will receive 168 more next week, but there is no guarantee. And there is no means of taking them back once they are spent. They will be used for good or evil, with purpose or tossed aside.

Financial budgeting is driven by the question: What am I going to do with the money God has given me?

Time budgeting is driven by the question: What am I going to do with the 168 hours God has given me?

2. What are your priorities?

168 hours fly by rather quickly, you may have noticed as much.

Once you resolve to take control of your week, the next step is to make a list of the priorities in your life. These are non-negotiables that you resolve to create time for no matter what.

For example, do you want to get more sleep? Make your first priority sleep (this is a great priority to begin with, by the way). Set your goal for each day and write out the number for the week (so 8 hours each day is 56 hours each week). Then take this number from your 168 hours. If you resolve to set 8 hours for sleep each night, your new “income” is 112 hours. Those are your awake hours, so plan on only having 112 hours with which to do things.

Continue doing this through all of your priorities.

Do you want to read for one hour each day? Assign those 7 hours from the total.

Maybe you want to give an hour to God in prayer and reading Scripture. Budget 7 hours for the week.

Write down your non-negotiable priorities, and budget for them.

3. Create a schedule.

A budget is a wish until you actually do it.

You can dream about your perfect week all day, but it will not happen until you make it happen.

This is where a schedule comes in.

Create a schedule (each day, preferably). Try to realistic with yourself, but also make it challenging.

Living out your schedule is where the true difficulty comes, so attempt to plan preemptively for distractions. You established your priorities as non-negotiables, so what kind of circumstances will attempt to force you to lose focus? How can you avoid these distractions? What is your backup plan for getting your priority done if you are thrown off course?

These are the kind of questions that you will need to ask beforehand.

4. Do a weekly evaluation.

To be honest, it’s really easy to create a well-formed plan and do nothing with it. So how can we avoid falling into that rut?

Perform a brutally honest evaluation each week.

Or, if you’re a crazed type-A, do one daily.

The point is to be honest with yourself.

If you failed miserably last week, own it. Look your failed productivity in the face and figure out how to do better next week.

Stop making excuses and letting yourself off the hook. We will never actually improve until we learn to honestly evaluate ourselves.

Certainly celebrate the places in your schedule where you succeeded, but also be honest with where, and how, you failed.

Suggested Tools

You can do all of this with pen and paper, but let’s be honest, the digital age has made many of us much too spoiled for that.

With that said, here are a few tools that my wife and I have been using.

ATracker

Probably the biggest problem with budgeting your time is actually keeping track of what you do.

Enter time tracking apps.

A glance at the app store reveals plenty of apps to choose from, and I have certainly not tried them all.

But I’ve been using ATracker, and I love it.

It’s simplistic and customizable. I can create however many tasks I want and sort them into different categories. It took some time to form the habit of using the app, but once I did it’s worked wonderfully. The report charts are also easy to create and read, making the weekly evaluation easy to do.

Action Day Planner

Both my wife and I used these planners from April onward, and we love them. If you are a task-oriented person, I highly recommend this planner. As a goal-oriented worker, I’ll actually be giving the Panda Planner a try this year.

But whatever you do, get a planner.

Preferably a daily one.

Time Budget Template

This is a Word template I created for doing our weekly evaluations. Feel free to use it until your heart’s content or update it to better serve you.

Storing Treasure | Matthew 6:19-24

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is the darkness!  (Matthew 6:22-23)

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

OPENING THOUGHT

As followers of Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, and the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ guide for living in the kingdom of heaven. This means that the Beatitudes are not pretty and encouraging words from Jesus; they are Jesus’ characteristics for His followers. Christ’s statement on being the salt of the earth and the light of the world tells us our purpose. He then addressed heart-level obedience God’s commandments within the kingdom.

So far in chapter six, Jesus has addressed the topic of religious actions, specifically giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. Though we might consider giving alms, praying, and fasting to be inherently good works, Christ explains that whenever we do them to be seen by others they are no longer good works. If we do religious works for others to notice, then we have already received our reward for doing them; instead, we should seek the reward from the Father.

Jesus now addresses the topic of reward. He warns us not to store up our treasures on earth, since those treasures cannot be destroyed or lost. Instead, we should seek the treasures of heaven, which are eternally secure. Key to this passage is understanding that we cannot do both. Our heart will always be with what we treasure, whether on earth or in heaven. If we store up treasure here, we will find ourselves serving money as our master, but if God is our treasure, we will be devoted to Him instead.

          Read verses 19-21 and discuss the following.

  1. What does it mean for us to be the salt of the earth?
  2. Christ warns against salt losing its saltiness. Does this mean that Christ is saying that a Christian can lose his or her salvation?

          Read verses 22-23 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus claims that the eye is the lamp of the body. What does this statement mean? How is it connected to verses 19-21 and verse 24?Read verse 24 and discuss the following.
  1. Here Christ explicitly claims that we will serve a master, but we cannot serve two masters. How can we evaluate which master we serve?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Prayerfully evaluate whether God is your master or if you serve another master, considering whether you store earthly or heavenly treasure. Does your life display the characteristics of the kingdom of heaven?
  • Pray. Ask the Lord for the grace to serve Him alone, laying up your treasures in heaven.

7 Principles of Biblical Giving

Giving to the poor is a staple of Christianity and most other religions.

Typically, we consider giving alms to be an inherently righteous and holy act, so when Jesus warned that there was a wrong way to give to the needy, most people likely hadn’t even considered that was possible.

How can giving ever be anything other than godly?

To help answer how to give in a godly and biblical manner, here are 7 principles found in Scripture to guide our giving.¹

1. Give secretly.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)

In these verses, Jesus effectively states that the godly nature of our giving is voided whenever we give merely to be seen by others.

Jesus calls His followers to live in righteousness at the heart-level.

Whenever we give in order to be known as generous, we reveal pride to be our motivator, not true godliness.

The two hyperboles Christ presents are simply fantastic.

First, He warns not to sound a trumpet before you while giving your money. A lot of commentators present suggestions for what Jesus means, but I think Jesus was warning us not to hire a trumpet player/town crier to play a fanfare and announce, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Harken to the marvelous donation being made!”

It’s an over-the-top picture, yes. But Jesus uses it to illustrate the ridiculousness of giving in order to be noticed by others.

The second hyperbole He uses is not letting our left hand know what the right hand is doing. I think Jesus what means by this that we should be so prone to give secretly that a piece of ourselves might not even realize what we did. It’s as if our right hand gives the money, and the left hand says, “Wait a second, what happened?”

Once again, it’s over-the-top, but this call to secret giving should create in us a desire to give and forget about the gift.

The godly giver does not keep a mental record of his or her generosity; instead, they freely give because God freely gave.

2. Give cheerfully.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I love this verse.

Jesus assumes in Matthew 6 that His followers would give to the needy, and Paul makes the same assumption throughout his letters.

Christians ought to desire to give, and Paul emphasizes that desire by saying that God loves a cheerful giver.

We should never give reluctantly or under compulsion, only cheerfully.

Why?

We know that God does not need us or our money.

As the creator of… well, everything… there is nothing that is not already His.

Each penny we “own” comes to us solely by God’s grace.

Everything we have is a gift from God, and if we are not cheerful when we give to others, it is a sign that we do not understand God’s gift of grace.

Christians are called to know only cheerful giving.

3. Give as the Lord Leads you.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

This verse is so good that I’m giving it a second round.²

If you ever feel like God is a cash-grabber, read this verse again.

There is not a one-size-fits-all dollar amount for Christian giving; instead, we are each meant to be led by the Holy Spirit to give as the Lord leads us.

Remember, giving should be a cheerful act for Christ’s followers. Sorrowfully giving what you think is the bare minimum or giving exuberantly to impress others are both sure to destroy the joy of giving.

4. Give sacrificially.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)

The poor widows offering is one of the most popular stories from Jesus’ earthly ministry. But what is the lesson to be learned from it?

The widow’s incredibly small offering was considered by Jesus to be greater than the large sums from others because she gave her offering sacrificially. Those two coins were all she had, yet she freely gave them to the Father.

This is contrasted with the wealthy givers who gave from their abundance, meaning their generous gifts had little-to-no impact upon them.

Yes, their gifts were large, but there was no sacrifice in giving them.

What faith is there in giving which costs nothing?

The widow’s faith was made evident by her refusal to cling even to her final two coins.

Let the widow’s sacrificial giving also keep us from ever using the excuse: “I would love to give more, if only I had more.”

We might have dreams of great acts of giving (dropping $100 tips everywhere, funding church plants, etc.), but in reality our hearts tend to place our wants and desires first.

Give sacrificially from what God has given you, and if the Lord wills, He will give you even more to give.

5. Giving is itself a blessing.

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

I often come to this verse to ask whether I  actually believe it to be true: Do I really believe that giving is a bigger blessing than receiving?

To be honest, I really like getting thing (books, in particular), but as followers of Christ, we must see the act of giving as a greater blessing than receiving.

Paul repeated this line of thought when he discussed a monetary gift that the Philippians sent him. After writing about having contentment in Christ regardless of his circumstances, the imprisoned Paul told the church of Philippi, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” (Phil. 4:17)

The imprisoned apostle did not need their gift because God was sufficient for him, and that contentment allowed him to share in joy of the Philippians who were blessed by giving to Paul.

6. Giving is an investment in eternity.

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:19-21)

The act of giving is a blessing, but there still are more blessings for the giver.

In Matthew 6, Jesus indicated that secret giving will be rewarded by our heavenly Father who sees in secret.

Many prosperity teachers claim that God rewards us by miraculously multiplying and returning our money to us. Though God is certainly free and able to prosper us, this give-and-get teaching is entirely unbiblical.

Such teachings view material wealth as the ultimate reward, but the Scriptures teach that godly giving is an investment in eternal treasures.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

It can be so easy to safely store our hearts within our wallet or bank account, desperate for the security and provision that money seems to provide.

It’s an alluring treasure.

But God beckons us toward more.

When we give away our earthly treasures, we go against the impulse to simply accumulate money. Giving drives a knife into the heart of greed, and it reminds us not to place our hope in currency.

Giving helps us to fix our eyes upon our blessed hope, displaying that God alone is our great treasure and He alone possesses our heart.

7. Giving mirrors God’s heart.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This is the most significant reason for Christian giving.

God gave His only Son for us.

And we are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1).

I’ll let the apostle Paul describe the wonder of this thought:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:5-11)

God Himself humbled Himself to point of the death, even death on a cross, for us.

Every grace that we have is predicated upon Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus’ words to His disciples apply to us still: “You received without paying; give without pay.”

Because followers of Christ have experienced the immense grace of God, how can we not also become givers of grace?


1) These principles are far from exhaustive on the subject of giving, but I pray they are helpful nonetheless.

2) Seriously, memorize 2 Corinthians 9:7 and pray through it each time you give as away to check your heart’s motivation. You won’t regret it.