by James A. Fowler
Christian giving is allowing the character of God to be expressed in the behavior of a person in whom God dwells. As the summation of God's character is Love, Christian giving expresses God's Love for others. God is Love (I John 4:8,16). Divine love seeks the highest good of another, with no thought of what I get out of it. God's love is unconditional and unselfish. He wants to express His character through His people.
Paul tells the Corinthians that by giving they can "prove...the sincerity of their love." (II Cor. 8:8). Later he encourages them to "openly before the churches demonstrate the proof of your love..." (II Cor 8:24).
The manifestation of Christian love is only an expression of God's love functioning in and through us.
"The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)
We love, we give, because the loving, giving God is living and operative in us. Christian love is an expression of God's loving character. Christian giving is an expression of God's giving character which has been given to us by the presence of the Spirit of Christ, the presence of Jesus indwelling the Christian.
There are forms of giving and contributing that are not expressions of God's love. In I Corinthians 13:3 Paul writes, "if I give all my possessions to feed the poor...but do not have love, it profits me nothing." Loveless giving is not Christian giving.
On the other hand, some have been challenged to "prove their love" by giving. This challenge is usually made by those who want to be the recipients of those gifts. People then give to meet someone else's expectations, and their love is evaluated and rated by the external criteria of the amount of the gift. We cannot prove our love by giving to such a challenge. It is not "our" love anyway; it is the Love of God expressed in us, prompting us to give. God's love is demonstrated in active expressions of Christian giving.
The loving and giving character of God operative in the Christian is also an expression of His righteousness. The righteousness of God is expressed in the givingness of God. Paul writes in II Corinthians 9:9,10 quoting from Psalm 112:9:
"'HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ABIDES FOREVER.' Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;..."
Notice that Paul does not say, "..increase the harvest of your bank account," but rather, "...increase the harvest of your righteousness." When God gives through us and loves through us, He expresses His divine character of righteousness through us, because the Righteous One, Jesus Christ (I John 2:1), is functioning in us. We are not made righteous because we give. The giving of contributions does not, in itself, constitute righteousness. Rather, the righteous and just character of God is expressed in us as we are the conduits of His givingness.
©1999 by James A. Fowler
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