Cultivate a Giving Spirit
NO ONE is born with a giving spirit. The natural inclination of an infant is to satisfy its own wants and needs, oblivious of the interests of even its caregivers. In time, though, the child learns that the world does not revolve around him. Others must be considered, and he must learn not only to take but also to give and share. A giving spirit needs to be cultivated.
Not all individuals who give—even generously—have a giving spirit. Some may donate to a cause in order to promote their own interests. Others may contribute so as to receive the plaudits of men. However, giving practiced by genuine Christians is different. What, then, are the characteristics of the giving that is encouraged in God’s Word? A brief consideration of the giving practiced by first-century Christians will answer that question.
Examples of Christian Giving
Christian giving, as described in the Bible, was generally “the sharing of things with others” who had a real need. (Hebrews 13:16; Romans 15:26) It was not to be done under compulsion. The apostle Paul wrote: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Giving was also not to be done for the purpose of making an outward show. Ananias and Sapphira made that pretense and paid dearly for it.—Acts 5:1-10.
The need for giving came to the fore when many Jews and proselytes from faraway places gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost in 33 C.E. It was there that Jesus’ followers became “filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues.” A large crowd gathered around them and heard Peter’s stirring talk about Jesus Christ. Later, the people saw how Peter and John healed a lame man at the temple door, and they heard Peter speak once more about Jesus and the need for repentance. Thousands repented and were baptized as followers of Christ.—Acts, chapters 2 and 3.
The new converts wanted to remain in Jerusalem and receive more instruction from Jesus’ apostles. But how could the apostles care for the needs of all those visitors? The Bible account tells us: “All those who were possessors of fields or houses would sell them and bring the values of the things sold and they would deposit them at the feet of the apostles. In turn distribution would be made to each one, just as he would have the need.” (Acts 4:33-35) Truly, the newly formed Jerusalem congregation had a giving spirit!
Later, other congregations demonstrated the same giving spirit. For example, the Macedonian Christians, although poor themselves, went beyond their actual ability in making contributions for their needy brothers in Judea. (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7) The Philippian congregation was outstanding in its support of Paul’s ministry. (Philippians 4:15, 16) The Jerusalem congregation itself daily distributed food to needy widows, and the apostles appointed seven qualified men to see that no deserving widows were overlooked.—Acts 6:1-6.
The early Christian congregations were quick to respond even in anticipation of hard times. For example, when the prophet Agabus foretold the coming of a great famine, the disciples in the congregation of Syrian Antioch “determined, each of them according as anyone could afford it, to send a relief ministration to the brothers dwelling in Judea.” (Acts 11:28, 29) What a fine spirit they showed in anticipating the needs of others!
What impelled the early Christians to be so generous and loving? Indeed, how does one acquire a giving spirit? We can learn much from briefly considering the example of King David.
David’s Generous Support of True Worship
For almost 500 years, the ark of the covenant—a sacred chest that represented Jehovah’s presence—had no permanent resting place. It was kept in a tent, or tabernacle, which was moved from place to place during Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and then on into the Promised Land. King David greatly desired to take the ark from the tent in which it was kept and build a suitable house for Jehovah that would contain the sacred ark. Speaking to the prophet Nathan, David said: “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of Jehovah is under tent cloths.”—1 Chronicles 17:1.
David, though, had been a man of war. So Jehovah decreed that it was his son Solomon who, during a peaceful reign, would build the temple to house the ark of the covenant. (1 Chronicles 22:7-10) This, however, did not stifle David’s giving spirit. Organizing a great task force, he set out to provide the materials that would be used in the temple’s construction. He later told Solomon: “I have prepared for Jehovah’s house a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, and the copper and the iron there is no means of weighing because they have come to be in such quantity; and timbers and stones I have prepared.” (1 Chronicles 22:14) Not content with that, out of his personal fortune, David contributed gold and silver with a present-day value of more than $1,200,000,000. Moreover, the princes contributed liberally as well. (1 Chronicles 29:3-9) Certainly, David exhibited a generous, giving spirit!
What motivated David to give so generously? He appreciated that all he had acquired and accomplished was the result of Jehovah’s blessing. He acknowledged in prayer: “O Jehovah our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build for you a house for your holy name, from your hand it is, and to you it all belongs. And I well know, O my God, that you are an examiner of the heart, and that it is in rectitude that you take pleasure. I, for my part, in the uprightness of my heart have voluntarily offered all these things, and now your people who are on hand here I have enjoyed seeing make offerings voluntarily to you.” (1 Chronicles 29:16, 17) David treasured his relationship with Jehovah. He recognized the need to serve God “with a complete heart and with a delightful soul,” and he found joy in doing so. (1 Chronicles 28:9) These same qualities also moved the early Christians to display a giving spirit.
Jehovah—The Greatest Giver
It is in Jehovah that we find the best example of giving. So loving and caring is he that “he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) To all humankind he gives “life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25) Indeed, as the disciple James points out, “every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights.”—James 1:17.
Jehovah’s greatest gift to us is his sending his “only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) No one can claim to deserve such a gift, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, 24; 1 John 4:9, 10) Christ’s ransom is the basis and channel for God’s “indescribable free gift,” that is, “the surpassing undeserved kindness of God.” (2 Corinthians 9:14, 15) Appreciative of God’s gift, Paul made it his life’s work “to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) He recognized that it was God’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:4.
Today, this is being accomplished by a great preaching and teaching work that has now expanded to 234 lands earth wide. Jesus foretold this expansion when he said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Yes, “in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) Last year over six million proclaimers of the good news devoted 1,202,381,302 hours to this work and conducted over 5,300,000 Bible studies. With lives at stake, this instruction is most vital.—Romans 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:21.
Millions of publications—including Bibles, books, and brochures—are printed each year to assist those who hunger for Bible truth. Additionally, well over a billion copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines are produced. As people respond to the good news, more and more Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses are constructed, which serve as centers of Bible instruction. Circuit assemblies and special assembly days, as well as district conventions, are arranged for each year. The training of missionaries, traveling overseers, elders, and ministerial servants is also an ongoing process. We are thankful to Jehovah for making all these provisions available through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) How we love to express our gratitude to Him!
Showing Gratitude to Jehovah
As with the temple construction and the meeting of the needs of the early Christian congregations, financing for all these matters comes entirely from voluntary contributions. It must be remembered, however, that no one can enrich Jehovah, the Owner of all things. (1 Chronicles 29:14; Haggai 2:8) Contributions, then, are an evidence of our love for Jehovah and of our desire to advance true worship. These gestures of generosity, says Paul, produce “an expression of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-13) Jehovah encourages such giving because it shows that we have the right spirit and a good heart toward him. Those who are generous and rely on Jehovah will be blessed by him and will prosper spiritually. (Deuteronomy 11:13-15; Proverbs 3:9, 10; 11:25) Jesus assured us that happiness would result, saying: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Christians who have a giving spirit do not just wait until times of need. Rather, they look for opportunities to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to [them] in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Encouraging godly generosity, Paul wrote: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) Using our assets—time, strength, finances—to help others and to promote pure worship is very pleasing to Jehovah God. Truly, he loves a giving spirit.
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Ways in Which Some Choose to Give
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORLDWIDE WORK
Many set aside, or budget, an amount that they place in the contribution boxes labeled “Contributions for the Worldwide Work—Matthew 24:14.”
Each month, congregations forward these amounts to the office of Jehovah’s Witnesses that serves their respective countries. Voluntary donations of money may also be sent directly to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, c/o Office of the Secretary and Treasurer, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201-2483, or to the branch office that serves your country. Checks should be made payable to “Watch Tower.” Jewelry or other valuables may be donated as well. A brief letter stating that such is an outright gift should accompany these contributions.
Money may be donated under a special arrangement in which, should the donor request it, the donation may be returned to him. For more information, please contact the Office of the Secretary and Treasurer at the address noted above.
In addition to outright gifts of money and conditional donations of money, there are other methods of giving to benefit Kingdom service worldwide. These include:
Insurance: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a retirement/pension plan.
Bank Accounts: Bank accounts, certificates of deposit, or individual retirement accounts may be placed in trust for or made payable on death to the Watch Tower Society, in accord with local bank requirements.
Stocks and Bonds: Stocks and bonds may be donated to the Watch Tower Society as an outright gift.
Real Estate: Salable real estate may be donated either by making an outright gift or, in the case of residential property, by reserving a life estate to the donor, who can continue to live therein during his or her lifetime. Contact the branch office in your country before deeding any real estate.
Gift Annuity: A gift annuity is an arrangement whereby one transfers money or securities to the Watch Tower Society. In exchange, the donor, or someone designated by the donor, receives a specified annuity payment every year for life. The donor receives an income-tax deduction the year the gift annuity is established.
Wills and Trusts: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Society by means of a legally executed will, or the Watch Tower Society may be named as beneficiary of a trust agreement. A trust benefiting a religious organization may provide certain tax advantages.
As the term “charitable planning” implies, these types of donations typically require some planning on the part of the donor. To assist individuals desiring to benefit the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses through some form of charitable planning, a brochure has been prepared in English and Spanish entitled Charitable Planning to Benefit Kingdom Service Worldwide. The brochure was written in response to the many inquiries received regarding gifts, wills, and trusts. It also contains additional useful information on estate, financial, and tax planning. It informs individuals of a variety of ways that gifts may be made either now or through a bequest at death. After reading the brochure and conferring with their own legal or tax advisers and the Charitable Planning Office, many have been able to assist Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and, at the same time, maximize their tax benefits of doing so. This brochure may be obtained by requesting a copy directly from the Charitable Planning Office.
For more information, you may contact the Charitable Planning Office, either in writing or by telephone, at the address listed below or at the office of Jehovah’s Witnesses that serves your country.
Charitable Planning Office
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
100 Watchtower Drive,
Patterson, New York 12563-9204
Telephone: (845) 306-0707
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What impelled the early Christians to be generous?