If you give freely and generously of your time and money, what can you expect to receive in return? Should you expect anything at all?
One of the popular doctrines shared widely on television teaches that if you sow a gift (i.e., give money to a “ministry”) you will reap far more more money in return. Is that our hope?
Jesus does teach that if we give ourselves to him that the basic needs in life will be met (Matthew 6:25-34). But what of comfort and riches? If we give money to God should we expect more in return? The real story of giving and receiving is far richer, far deeper, and far more meaningful.
Paul praised the Christians at Philippi for their desire to help him in spreading the gospel. “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only” (Philippians 4:15 ESV). Paul was grateful for their gifts, but more than that he sought “the fruit that increases to [their] credit” (Philippians 4:17). He promised that “my God will supply every need” that they had “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
How does this partnership of giving and receiving manifest itself?
This partnership is reciprocal. In defending his right to receive funds for preaching, Paul said, “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:11). The monetary gifts enabled the apostles to “refrain from working for a living” (1 Corinthians 9:6), and instead made it possible for them to devote themselves to working in the word. This allowed those who contributed to reap great spiritual blessings from the apostles’ time and effort.
Likewise the gifts given to the poor saints in Jerusalem was an act of giving and receiving. The Holy Spirit argued that the Gentiles had “come to share in” the spiritual blessings of the Jews, and “ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Romans 15:26, 27).
Giving is a grace not a grift. When one gives purposefully, generously, and gladly, one is laying up treasures not on earth but in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Will God bless generous givers with the ability to give more? I believe that is so (2 Corinthians 9:11). But that is quite different from giving to ensure comfort.
The ultimate goal of giving is to use physical blessings in this world to bring God glory by promoting the proclamation of the word and lifting up those in need. The ultimate result will only be seen in heaven. Give for the glory of God, not your own gain.