For God so love the world that He gave… [John 3:16]
I heard an objection not all that long ago that preachers are always asking for money.
The objector was right. Church leadership is often concerned about finances, and the job of pushing for greater financial sacrifice often falls to the preacher. “Preach a sermon about it.” “Make sure the church knows they need to be sacrificial and cheerful givers.” “Show them what the Bible says about giving.”
See what kind of love the Father has given us… [1John 3:1]
But, the Bible says much more about giving than we typically hear from the pulpit. We preachers have been guilty of limiting our discussions of giving to monetary matters. When we preach about giving, when we examine God’s generosity and apply those principles to Christian living, when we talk about sacrifice we almost always follow those thoughts with appeals to drop more money in the collection plate. And, certainly it is true that we should be sacrificial givers of our money, but it is more Biblical to say that we must be people characterized by giving. Giving, for Christians, must be a defining quality.
So, when Jesus preached that incredibly powerful and perplexing sermon on the side of a mountain, and when He got to the part about how His followers must love, showing kindness and forgiveness to even their enemies, He appealed to no less than God’s generosity:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [Matthew 5:44-45]
Jesus tells us we are to be generous with our love, giving it to everyone without distinction, because that’s the way God gives–that’s how generous God is. Jesus’ instructions are obviously not limited to financial matters. He is not only telling us to give our enemies food or clothing when they are in need. He is not simply advocating the noble, but limited practice of providing assistance to all of the wounded, friend or foe, when a battle is over. He is saying, “Don’t shoot your enemy in the first place, but love him instead.”
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. [Romans 13:8]
Giving, for God, is about so much more than His heavenly wallet. Giving is who God is. It is what He does. It is His nature. And that is never more clear than when we consider the cross: He shared His Son with us.
We must be that generous, and share His Son with others. We must continue the mission God started of bringing peace, joy, and reconciliation to the world. We must give.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…