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In our minds, it seems contradictory to give without expecting anything in return and at the same time to give expecting something in return. The Bible places both sides of this seeming dilemma before us. That we are to give and be generous is clear as a point of character so that we can be more like our heavenly Father (2 Cor. 9:5-7). The principle of giving is to be embedded in God's people, but along with that there is also the reality of knowing that a person is to give within the bounds of what the person is able to give (2 Cor. 8:12). Jesus said to "love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High for He is kind to the unthankful and evil" (Luke 6:35). In this verse we see that we are to give freely - even to the unthankful and evil, but Jesus clearly tells us that we will be 'getting' in return - there will be a reward. He says our reward will be great. So Jesus said to give in order to get and once that is understood we will not find ourselves battling within our minds or feeling bad that we do expect some return. A few verses later Jesus said: "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom." (verse 38). The one area that God does not define is exactly when and how we will receive that blessing of gift from Him.
It is important to us that we see the fruits of our giving. When we see that our gift has been appreciated and has helped people, we are happy to give. We receive a sense of satisfaction and when gratitude is expressed, we fulfill a need within us to do a good deed for another. But even if the result is not obvious, we still need to keep the attitude of giving, albeit wisely. We are social creatures and helping each other is usually something we learn in our homes. What really does matter is the willing heart - not so much the amount we give. Unless our attitude is right, merely giving accomplishes little. We need to want to give, give willingly and then give as we are able (2 Cor. 8:10-12). In these verses too, Paul states that giving is to our advantage - that is the advantage of the giver (verse 10). There were many lessons Jesus taught His followers about giving and the willing heart. None were so clear and revealing as the observation of the giving at the temple and the very small amount that a widow brought (two mites, Mark 12:42-44). In God's eyes she put in more than the wealthy had given. No doubt the widow felt a little sad and possibly embarrassed that she could only give such a little amount. She did not make a big show of her small gift, but her attitude was complimented by Jesus. Wealthy givers usually made a big thing out of their gift giving and do expect a return even if it is only a good reputation or name.
God does not give instructions that are out of the realm of reality. He knows that some people will take all they can get and do nothing in return. Our giving includes understanding and thoughtfulness. We are to be generous toward those who have little - providing they are frugal and hard working, or poor in a way that is not their fault. Paul knew there were people who simply expected even more when they were given something. What they received was never enough it seemed. For those, Paul taught that if they were not willing to work, they should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). That simply means we are not obligated to feed lazy and slothful people. Most of the time we cannot be sure if a person is simply lazy or if they truly are in need. When we recognize a great need, we must not ignore that. We find it hard to turn away from someone who may be lying, but who says they are hungry. God knows every thought of a person and we do not. So there will be times when our generosity will be abused.
The disciples of Jesus complained when an expensive ointment was poured on Jesus' head. They felt it should have been given to the poor, although those were only words for some of them. Judas was the treasurer for the disciples and abused that trust. No doubt his voice was first in complaining (John 12:6-8, Matt. 26:6-13). Shortly after this point in time, Judas took the steps that would lead to his betrayal of Jesus to those who were plotting to kill Him. Our attitude is so very important. When we allow greed or our own way to dominate, we mess up the path God has given us to follow. We mess up and interfere with some valuable lessons He is carefully teaching for our benefit. The disciples thought they had a better idea than to anoint Jesus. They were wrong.
Jesus taught that we are to give and hope for nothing in return. When we give in that way - expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35), we are developing the character God is seeking and becoming more like Him. We are also unloading the expectations of our mind that will lead to frustration and anger. Some of our gifts will be wrongfully taken and wrongfully used. Only if we let go of how we expect the gift to be used or what we think the response ought to be can we have peace of mind. Jesus went further to say that at times we ought to give anonymously so that the receiver cannot thank us personally (Matt. 6:1). There are lessons to learn and blessings from God to be gained. This sort of giving is not always possible or even wise. We need to be sure there is a true need and that our gift will fill that need, then just put our thoughts on the shelf.
One who fears God is a person who ponders, considers and thinks about many things. He learns what discretion is as well as generosity. The Psalmist noted that a good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion (Psalm 112:1-5). That man will also gain wealth and riches and be blessed. God does not simply give and give with no consideration as to where His gifts end up. James noted that those who ask gifts from God will receive nothing if they do not ask in faith (James 1:7). When Jesus spoke about how we are to act, He told us not to cast our pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6-8). He informs us that God is generous and gives to the one who asks in humility and faith. Jesus complimented parents for knowing how to give good gifts to their children (verse 11).
God requires that people remember Him as the Giver (Deut. 8:18). What God seeks in return are godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). God fully expects a return for His giving - but He is God. He knows the hearts of men and can guide them to repentance, understanding and wisdom. When Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, He gave a parable of trusting servants with monies and responsibility and then the master coming back seeking a return on His investment (Matt. 25:24-28). Jesus labeled him a wicked and lazy servant, so God does understand about people who always have a hand out, but do nothing themselves.
Honour the Lord with your substance, and with the first fruits of your increase, so shall your barns be filled with plenty, and your presses shall burst out with new wine (Prov. 3:9,10). When we give to God in tithes and offerings as He commands, He promises to bless us with abundance. God teaches to give in order to get - but always with the right attitude and for the right purpose. God says we rob Him when we do not honour Him (Mal. 3:8-10). Long before Israel was a nation Abraham knew the principle of the tenth (Gen. 14:20). Jacob knew this before God had made the covenant with Israel (Gen. 28:22). God is concerned about the whole world and wants to give eternal life and all He possesses to all mankind (John 3:16,17). Since God is the creator and author of all things - He is the greatest giver of all. He gave His Son and Christ gave His blood. If we are to be like Him, we will be givers - wise givers with a godly attitude.