How Important Is Christian Giving?
FAITHFUL disciples of Jesus Christ have at all times demonstrated active concern for those in material and spiritual need. Shortly after Pentecost of 33 C.E., for example, many in Jerusalem willingly sold properties and turned over the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to needy fellow believers. Among these were persons who had come from distant places to attend the festival of Pentecost and then became Christians. Through the generosity of their brothers, these new converts were assisted to extend their stay in Jerusalem and thus to continue benefiting from the valuable teaching of the apostles.—Acts 2:41-47; 4:34, 35.
EXAMPLES WORTHY OF IMITATION
One who keenly appreciated the importance of spiritual and material giving was the apostle Paul. To fellow believers in Rome, he wrote: “Both to Greeks and to Barbarians [non-Greeks, the term being applied by Greeks to foreigners in general, especially those speaking another language], both to wise and to senseless ones I am a debtor: so there is eagerness on my part to declare the good news also to you there in Rome.”—Rom. 1:14, 15.
Why did Paul view himself as a debtor to people of all kinds, as obligated to aid them spiritually? He knew that the world of mankind had been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Being the property of God and Christ, all persons should certainly be informed about what this can mean for them. It was God’s time for people everywhere to repent and to come into an approved relationship with him on the basis of his Son’s sacrifice. Such an approved standing would give real meaning and purpose to their lives and lead to life eternal. (Acts 17:30; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9) The time to reach individuals with this vital information was limited. Why? Because the human lifespan is very short and of uncertain duration. (Jas. 4:13, 14) Hence, Paul was eager to “declare the good news” to as many as he possibly could during his own lifetime. He rightly felt that it was his duty to impart life-giving knowledge to others. He owed it to them. Since their lives would soon come to an end, Paul recognized the urgency of reaching people with the “good news” and the grand opportunities it held for them. The apostle Paul was not the only one who felt that way. This is clear from the fact that less than 30 years after the Christian congregation came into existence the apostle could write: ‘That good news was preached in all creation under heaven.’ (Col. 1:23) This means that Christians had extended their spiritual giving to the far-flung reaches of the then known world.
When it comes to spiritual giving, the apostle Paul and other devoted first-century Christians surely set a fine example for us today. Moreover, they did not confine their giving to spiritual things. They were also eager to give material aid to brothers who became impoverished. Christians in Macedonia and in Achaia, for instance, entrusted Paul with funds to be used in helping needy fellow believers in Jerusalem.
The apostle took this relief work very seriously, asking the brothers in Rome to pray for him so that it would be successful. We read: “I am about to journey to Jerusalem to minister to the holy ones. For those in Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share up their things by a contribution to the poor of the holy ones in Jerusalem. Now I exhort you, brothers, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the spirit, that you exert yourselves with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea and that my ministry which is for Jerusalem may prove to be acceptable to the holy ones.”—Rom. 15:25, 26, 30, 31.
When Paul met with fellow believers in various places on the way to Jerusalem, God’s spirit, acting either directly upon Paul or upon other Christian prophets, indicated that bonds and imprisonment awaited him in that city. (Acts 20:23; 21:11) Nevertheless, the apostle did not shrink back from doing what he could for his needy brothers in Jerusalem. Courageously, he told tearful fellow believers: “What are you doing by weeping and making me weak at heart? Rest assured, I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Think of it, Paul regarded this matter of getting material aid to brothers in need as something so important that, in doing his part, he was willing to risk not only his freedom but even his life.
WHY SO IMPORTANT?
Christian giving is really an expression of love. Without this love, a person simply cannot stand as approved before God and Christ. Individuals who are not actively concerned about the welfare of others are guilty of self-deception if they consider themselves to be engaging in acceptable worship. God’s Word says: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:27) “By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender our souls for our brothers. But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:16-18.
The Lord Jesus Christ will pass a severe judgment on those who selfishly withhold help from deserving ones. This is clear from the illustration of the “sheep” and the “goats.” The “sheep” whom Jesus Christ puts on his right side, or the side of favor, are persons who do positive good for the “least” or the most insignificant ones of Christ’s brothers. When they see any of Christ’s brothers in a needy state, lacking food, clothing or shelter, the “sheep” do what they can to help. They are also willing and eager to be of assistance when Christ’s brothers suffer on account of sickness or imprisonment. Because the “goats” selfishly refuse to respond to the real needs of Christ’s brothers, they will lose out on life, being sentenced to “everlasting cutting-off.”—Matt. 25:34-46.
This should impress on us the importance of having the right attitude toward others. When we see persons suffering adversity from circumstances beyond their control, do we feel pity for them? Are we moved to do what we can to come to their aid? Do we keenly sense the sad spiritual plight of so many of our fellow humans? Does this stir us to be zealous in declaring the “good news”?
Individually, we should want to be wholehearted in spiritual and material giving. For such giving to have real value in God’s eyes, it must be motivated by love. It cannot be done with the thought of calling attention to ourselves. Jesus Christ admonished: “When you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.”—Matt. 6:2-4.
As in the first century, devoted servants of God today also undertake large-scale relief measures. Additionally, funds are used to maintain places of worship and to provide spiritual help for truth-hungry persons throughout the earth. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watch Tower Society plays an important role in coordinating and directing relief measures and also efforts to help as many as possible to gain an accurate knowledge of God’s Word.
At times readers of this publication wonder whether they could assist in this vital work by making monetary contributions. We are pleased to advise that donations for this purpose may be sent to the Watch Tower Society, 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to one of the Society’s branches in other lands. Such donations are never solicited. They are appreciated as freewill gifts to be used in carrying forward the Kingdom work and are acknowledged as such.
Truly, the rendering of material and spiritual aid to others is basic to one’s being a Christian. However, such giving only counts with God when it is done willingly and cheerfully, out of love and not under compulsion. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “If I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” (1 Cor. 13:3) So, may our spiritual and material giving be prompted by genuine love for God and fellow humans. Our eternal welfare depends on it.
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Spiritual and material giving are basic to true Christianity