You Can’t Really Talk About Love Without Talking About Giving
Remember the guy in the end zone who always seemed to have a big poster board with the scripture reference to John 3:16? Long time sports event attendees may know the guy, but long time church event attendees may have heard the verse so often that it has ceased to have any meaning. Let’s look at it again, this time with an eye for one word in particular.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
The word “give” tells us something about the character of God. This verse is a constant and profound reminder that we worship a generous God whose love is unbounding, grace overflowing, and mercy unending.
Love and giving are synonymous.
When it comes to God, the key biblical word for “love” (the Hebrew word chesed) is closely related to the key biblical word for “give.” The Hebrew word is built on the reciprocal nature of human relationships, which makes God’s extravagance all the more remarkable. The constant, reliable, and permanent nature of God’s steadfast love for us doesn’t depend on us returning the favor. God is extravagant beyond our understanding. It is when we become extravagant in our desire to share God’s gift with others that we truly discover what it means to have an abundant life.
This verse is as close to the center of our shared faith as it gets.
Yet for some reason this connection is lost in how we live out our faith.
When it comes to our faith, we separate “loving” and “giving.”
One in five American Christians give nothing to church, parachurch, or nonreligious charities. How can we love if we don’t give? What is keeping this 20 percent of U.S. believers from giving? Most often it’s because congregational leaders aren’t connecting the two. The dilemma is confounded by the idea that some of these non-givers have yet to realize the source of their wealth and blessings.
Returning to John 3:16…we are reminded that God first loved and then God GAVE. The source of every gift and blessing is God and as caretakers of God’s abundance, we are called to respond with generosity.
Teaching people that loving God is synonymous with giving doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something we must practice and grow into. So how do we express an inspiring vision and remind people of God’s call to be generous? Here are three ways to start.
1. Integrate the subject of stewardship in your discipleship ministries.
- Show people the connection between giving and Jesus’ directive to “love God and love our neighbor.”
- Provide stewardship education as it relates to discipleship and generosity across every age group.
- Offer regular classes on money management.
- Provide seminars on conducting finances from a Biblical perspective.
2. Integrate inspirational stories of changed lives from within your ministries.
We often do such a great job announcing upcoming ministry events in our church that we forget to focus on the results. Love occurs in relationships not reports. Highlight relationships in your church by:
- Celebrating ministry highlights in worship and church publications.
- Sharing reports of how people’s faithful giving has changed lives.
- Utilizing your most dedicated givers and workers to give brief testimonies of their personal belief and passion for giving.
3. Preach, teach, and model the Biblical principles of giving often.
The Bible contains over 2,300 references to stewardship and yet most pastors say they don’t know where to begin. In fact, a recent study of pastors showed only 35 percent preach or teach on the subject of generosity and stewardship. We have to move past the fear of talking about money and instead emphasize what it means to be generous.
Let us never forget the widow and those two copper mites that represented incomprehensible generosity. Some people have tried to extract a percentage principle from the parable, but I don’t think Jesus was talking about percentages.
Jesus was talking about love.