• Prodigal Giving


    We all know how much we like solicitations.  Whether by phone or by mail, the defenses go up when we realize someone is reaching for our wallet.

    We can react like that to sermons on financial giving.  But why is that?  Do we treat them as solicitations from God?  If we do, what does that say about our understanding of the money we have and God’s right to it?

    Jesus talked a lot about money, particularly as a rival for His Father’s affection.  He couched it in terms of kingdom allegiance.

    Paul brings us the mind of Christ in 2 Corinthians 8-9 when it comes to our financial giving.  At least two things stand out.

    Our giving must be managed by our mind and motivated by our heart. Paul speaks of personal, purposeful, planned giving.

    Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7

    When the plate comes around, the question is not “What’s in your wallet?” Rather than see what we have on hand, we need to give deliberate thought and prayer to how God wants us to give, how He wants to use us with the resources He has entrusted to us.

    We might think, “What’s to plan?  I’m supposed to give the tithe, ten percent of my income.”  In a way that’s true. The tithe has served as God’s baseline for generations. There is no reason to suppose it is no longer in play.

    But the tithe is an inadequate measure.  Rather, God calls us to prodigal giving. “Prodigal” doesn’t mean wayward. It means lavish, extravagant. The prodigal son spent all that he had. Jesus, our example for giving, gave His all.

    The problem with a tithing mentality can be that it asks, “How much do I have to give?”  It becomes like a tax.  But God wants our giving to be willing, generous, and cheerful. We are not to give reluctantly or under compulsion.  The question asked is not “How much do I have to  give?” but “How much do I have  to give”? “Lord, how can I be used of you through my giving?”

    We answer this question on an individual basis.  Paul says “each one” must decide.  Each one must deliberate and make account before the God who has entrusted him with the resources he has.

    What does Paul mean that “God loves a cheerful giver”? Does that mean God will love me more if I give more?  No, it means that God, who knows the heart, loves to see His children giving with abandon.  He delights to see His handiwork of grace in the lives of His children.  Don’t we love to see that in our own kids? To see them doing a chore without being asked.  To see them helping a neighbor, unprompted by us, just out of their own concern. To see them sharing their toys with their siblings?

    When we decide what to give, we must apply the principles of kingdom economics not those of the world.

    And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that having all contentment in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 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. 2 Cor. 9:8-10

    Jesus not only has a different take on money than does the world, He contrasts the economics of the world with those of the kingdom of God.

    Our approach can be “I would give if God gave me more.” Jesus answers that with the story of the widow’s mite, who gave not out of fat but out of lean.  Giving is responsive to what God has given, not what He hasn’t.

    Or we might say, “I’ll see if I have anything left.” But God does not want us to give our leftovers. He wants our firstfruits, as an expression of acknowledgment and gratitude that what we have comes from Him and that we are but stewards.

    Some will insist, “I give in other ways.”  That may be well and good, but it is our finances that are in question as to how we will honor God.

    God’s economic principles are pretty straightforward.  He gives us the metaphor of sowing and reaping (2 Cor. 9:6).  God gives so that we can give.  He gives us money not only for our needs but to meet the needs of others, including the work of His church.  Through what God has provided us, He wants us to “abound in every good work” (v. 8) and produce a “harvest of righteousness” (v. 10).

    Verse 11 lays it out plainly and pointedly.  I like the NIV translation on this point because it conveys the sense of purpose carried in the text: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”

    Prodigal giving operates in the fear of the Lord.  That’s the thrust of Psalm 112, which Paul quotes in 2 Corinthians 9:9.  Psalm 112 declares, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord” (v. 1) and “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord” (v. 7). In other words, he knows God and believes God and delights to do His will.  That means we give today because we trust the Lord for tomorrow (cf. Matt.6:33-34).


    In his book, The Prodigal God, Tim Keller describes God’s reckless, extravagant grace lavished on sinners.  This same God makes all grace abound to us, so that we as His children can excel in the grace of giving.

    Paul says our giving is expressive of the gospel in our lives (2 Cor. 9:13-15). Just as we forgive lavishly because we have been forgiven lavishly, so we give lavishly because we have been given lavishly.  That’s the giveback of grace. That’s prodigal giving.

    As Christians you carry the purpose of Christ as His church in this world.  The finances you have, you have been given to sow.  What’s your plan?


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