When we think about Jesus and material possessions, perhaps we think of passages like Luke 8:3 that tell us He lived from the financial support of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others. Or His own words: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus lived humbly. Despite this, how often do we reflect on Jesus’ giving?
- He gave Himself. Scripture says this explicitly in several places. He gave Himself “for our sins” (Gal. 1:4;). He gave Himself “for me” (Gal. 2:20). He gave Himself “for us” (Eph. 5:2; Ti. 2:14). He gave Himself for the church (Eph. 5:25). He gave Himself “for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). No matter how you look at the cross, it must be described in terms of His giving. This gift was the most significant act of all history. The writer of Hebrews says “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). Isn’t it interesting that Paul praises the unexpected generosity of the Macedonian givers, in part, by saying “they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). Gracious, generous giving is impossible without our first giving ourselves to God. Submitting ourselves to Him in utter dependency, yielding our will and desires, is a prerequisite for Christlike giving.
- He found it more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). This was His mentality and outlook. His default position was doing for others, not having others do for Him (Mat. 20:28). Paul, speaking with the Ephesian elders, reflects back on this character trait of Jesus, saying, “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” What is Paul talking about? In the context, he is talking about material things like gold, silver, and clothing (33), material needs (34), and helping the weak by working hard (35). He’s not referring to the Sunday collection (cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-2), but an attitude of heart instead. Again, the Macedonians embodied this attitude. Paul is still speaking of them when he writes, “Each one must do as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). We should grow to the point where it brings us joy to give to God. Isn’t that how Jesus gave Himself for us? Study Hebrews 12:1-3 closely!
- He gave with grace (2 Cor. 8:9). Most lexical definitions of “grace” include the word “gift,” “favor,” and “benefit.” These are undoubtedly giving terms and, when Paul uses it in 2 Corinthians 8:9, a financial term. Paul says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” He ties Christ’s gracious giving to his admonition that Corinth be gracious givers, too. He urges them to complete this gracious work (6), to abound in this gracious work (7), and co-participate in this gracious work (19-20). For Jesus, grace meant giving up something to meet the needs of others. For us, gracious giving means giving up something to supply the needs of others. Like with Jesus, we prove the sincerity of our love by gracious giving (8).
Should we give out of duty and obligation? Not entirely and certainly not primarily. Should we give out of gratitude? That’s certainly better than guilt. How about giving out of an effort to imitate our Savior? When we are giving, it is not merely “to the church.” It is giving to the head of the church, the one who gave everything to purchase it (Acts 20:28). Remarkably, sacrificial giving is a tangible, explicit way for us to give like Jesus. Could there be a stronger motivation?