Is Your Giving Good, Better or Best?
HAVE you not found that contentment makes for peace of mind as well as being conducive to peace with others? That is why the apostle Paul could write: “It is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having [food] and [clothing], we shall be content with these things.” In fact, he went farther, encouraging contentment with one’s lot, whether slave or freeman, whether married or single.—1 Tim. 6:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:12-27.
However, when it comes to giving expression to Christian virtues, such as generosity, we may well ask if we should be prone to be content with our performance. Are we content with simply doing what might be termed “good,” when we could be doing that which is better or even best?
For example, what about giving to a truly worthy cause or helping a deserving needy person? To make a modest contribution might be said to be good in that it is certainly better than not giving anything; and regardless of the amount, it will do some good. In this regard, some pride themselves in giving the tithe, or tenth, of their income. This certainly might be said to be good, even though there is nothing in God’s Word requiring Christians to tithe. However, the fact is that for the very poor or well-nigh destitute, a tithe may represent a real hardship, whereas for the affluent it represents no sacrifice at all.
If all such giving might be considered “good,” then what would be considered “better” giving? It would be giving in proportion to one’s means. This is what Jehovah God required of the Israelites in connection with their annual festivals. He commanded them: “Three times in the year every male of yours should appear before Jehovah your God in the place that he will choose: in the festival of the unfermented cakes [in connection with the Passover] and the festival of weeks [at the time of Pentecost] and the festival of booths [at the end of the harvest season], and none should appear before Jehovah empty-handed. The gift of each one’s hand should be in proportion to the blessing of Jehovah your God that he has given you.”—Deut. 16:16, 17.
Certainly that is a just requirement, and it was recognized as such by the apostle Paul. Thus, when encouraging the prosperous Christians at Corinth to make contributions for their needy brothers in Jerusalem, he wrote: “For if the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have. For I do not mean for it to be easy for others, but hard on you; but that by means of an equalizing your surplus just now might offset their deficiency, in order that their surplus might also come to offset your deficiency, that an equalizing might take place. Just as it is written: ‘The person with much did not have too much, and the person with little did not have too little.’”—2 Cor. 8:12-15.
This matter of giving in proportion to what one has might be said to be both a comforting and a heart-searching principle. How so? It is a comforting principle for the Christian who has little to give. As long as what he gives is in proportion to what he has he can be content. On the other hand, it is a heart-searching principle for the Christian who has many possessions, who is rich, for he may well ask himself if his gift, though larger than that of others, is in proportion to his wealth.
If giving proportionately to one’s means can be said to be “better” giving, then what might be termed “best” when it comes to expressing generosity? It would be giving at great personal sacrifice. In this regard the Creator, Jehovah God, gives us the finest example, for what do we read at John 3:16? “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son,” his most costly treasure and possession, “in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” And God’s Son, Jesus Christ, gave in the same way, for as he said: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”—John 15:13.
In this Jesus serves as a model for us to follow his steps closely, even as he himself stated: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35; 1 Pet. 2:21.
The Christians at Philippi expressed this kind of love. We read at 2 Corinthians 8:1-4: “Now we let you know, brothers, about the undeserved kindness of God that has been bestowed upon the congregations of Macedonia, that during a great test under affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty made the riches of their generosity abound. For according to their actual ability, yes, I will testify, beyond their actual ability this was, while they of their own accord kept begging us with much entreaty for the privilege of kindly giving and for a share in the ministry destined for the holy ones,” that is, for the needy Christians in Jerusalem. Not without good reason did Paul counsel those affluent Christians at Corinth: “May you also abound in this kind giving.”—2 Cor. 8:7.
Why should we not content ourselves with mere nominal, token giving when we can give what is better or even best? Because such is the obligation laid upon Christians by God’s Word, both by precept and by example, even as we have seen. Further, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing one has overcome the selfish hoarding instinct and has given generously. And, more than that, there is also that Scriptural principle governing such matters, the effect of which we cannot escape, namely: “He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Reap what? Not material but spiritual rewards, in keeping with the words of Jesus: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—2 Cor. 9:6; Acts 20:35.