We Can't Give What We Don't Have - Faith Promise Devo Day 3
Faith Promise Devotional Series: Day 3, Wednesday January 27, 2016
You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have
“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” - 2 Corinthians 8:12, ESV
We spend when we care. We care when we spend. But we can also only spend what we have. In exploring the Scriptures we see that our financial habits of stewardship are ultimately a matter of the heart, and that because of this connection a growth in our habits can also cause a growth in our hearts. However, as you consider growing in the grace commitment of giving you will likely consider the question, “how is God calling me to grow in the habit of giving to His work?” and even more specifically, “How much is God calling me to give to His work through our church’s Faith Promise fund this year?” As we reflect on that question, and read the Scriptures, we find that Paul addresses this very question in his second letter to the Corinthian church.
As you consider making a pledge to participate in this year’s Faith Promise fund, you are considering giving in one of the two primary ways that we observe in the pages of the New Testament. The first and primary way that Christ followers are called to give is through financially supporting the work of the local church to which they belong. This is a practice that God establishes in the life of His people in the Old Testament, and one that the Apostle Paul both describes and defends in writing to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 9:1-14. The second primary type of giving we see in the New Testament is the pledging of additional funds to support the work of God beyond the walls of one’s local church in order to support the spread of the gospel or to provide aid to those in need. This is what Paul wrote to address in 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9.
Seeing that followers of Christ in Jerusalem were badly in need of aid, Paul asked other followers of Jesus in Macedonia and Achaia, where Corinth was located, to pledge and give funds to provide support (see Romans 15:25-28). In doing so, Paul would first ask the churches to pledge their support, which he would then later collect. As he writes to the church in Corinth, Paul follows up with these followers of Christ as they consider how God is calling them to participate in this special missions and relief work. As they consider the amount that they will commit, Paul recognizes this principle – We can’t give what we don’t have. Paul instructs the Corinthian believers by describing the commitment of the Macedonian believers. He writes:
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” – 2 Corinthians 8:3-4, ESV
On the one hand the Macedonian Christians gave “according to their means.” That is to say, what they were able to give was reflective of what they had. In the same way that a teenager working a part-time job after school, a child saving money by doing chores at home, or a tween babysitting on the weekend will not have the means to match what a local CEO or Vice President is able give. Simply put, we can’t give what we don’t have.
However, while we can’t give what we don’t have we should also recognize that we often have much more than we will readily admit. In describing the Macedonian believers, Paul connects the heart that longs to honor God with the habit of giving according to one’s means. Moved by the grace of God, the Macedonians took proactive steps to “take part in the relief of the saints.” While you and I may only give once someone has begged us for funds, the Macedonians instead “begged” Paul for the opportunity to participate in this work of relief. It is this heart that made them give not only “according to their means” but even “beyond their means."
While God undoubtedly owns everything, and can provide for us in ways beyond His ordinary means of provision through the jobs He gives us, he often calls us to reconsider how we are using the means He has given us for the ministry He is doing. While we cannot give what we do not have, God calls us to consider how we are using what we have for the work that He has called us to.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What are the “means” (income, etc.) with which God has blessed you? In what way do you think God is calling you to give according to the means He has provided?
2. Write down an amount about which you want to continue to pray and talk about with those involved in your financial commitments, such as a spouse or parent.