Giving Might Be the Most Neglected and Least Modeled Spiritual Gift in the Western Church

Giving is the one least thought about and talked about gifts in the Western church, and perhaps in the entire world.

It’s increasingly common for Christians in accountability groups to ask one another the tough questions: “Have you been spending time in the Word?” “Are you living in sexual purity?” or “Have you been sharing your faith?” But how often do we ask, “Are you winning the battle against materialism?” or “How are you doing with your giving?”

 

Below is an excerpt from the new edition of my book The Treasure Principle, one I’ve tweaked a little for the purposes of this blog. I hope you enjoy it.

In Romans 12, Paul lists seven spiritual gifts, including prophecy, serving, teaching, mercy, and giving. I’m convinced that of all these gifts, giving is the one least thought about and talked about in the Western church, and perhaps in the entire world.

Of course, all of us are called to serve, show mercy, and give, even if we don’t have those specific gifts. But I believe that in different times of history God has sovereignly distributed certain gifts more widely (such as the gift of mercy during devastating plagues, and the gift of teaching when false doctrine is rampant and must be counteracted).

Suppose God wanted to fulfill His plan of world evangelization, reach the unreached, and help an unprecedented number of suffering people. What gifts would you expect Him to distribute more widely? Wouldn’t a primary one be the gift of giving? And what might you expect Him to provide for those to whom He’s given that gift? Why not unprecedented wealth to meet those needs and fund outreach to people of every tribe, nation, and language?

Look around. Isn’t that exactly what God has done? There’s greater wealth among God’s people, especially in the Western world, than there has ever been in human history. The question is, what are we doing with the wealth He’s entrusted to us?

We regularly see the gift of teaching and know what it looks like. We know of prayer warriors and Bible students, but rarely do we know of people giving large percentages of their incomes to the Lord.

It’s increasingly common for Christians in accountability groups to ask one another the tough questions: “Have you been spending time in the Word?” “Are you living in sexual purity?” or “Have you been sharing your faith?” But how often do we ask, “Are you winning the battle against materialism?” or “How are you doing with your giving?”

When it comes to giving, many churches operate under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. We lack communication, accountability, and modeling. It’s as if we have an unspoken agreement: I won’t talk about it if you won’t, so we can continue living as we are.

Think about it. If a young person wants to learn how to teach, pray, or lead a group, the church provides many examples to learn from. But how does a young Christian learn to give? Where can he or she go to see what giving looks like in the life of a believer captivated by Christ? Why are we surprised when, seeing no alternative examples, our young people take their cues from a materialistic society?

We’re to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Shouldn’t we then be asking how we can spur one another on toward giving?

Some may object, “But we shouldn’t compare each other’s giving.” Yet Paul tells the Corinthians about the Macedonians’ giving, saying he’s making a comparison to motivate them (2 Corinthians 8:7–8).

Dixie Fraley Keller told me about some friends of hers: “They’re such an example of the art of giving. Every year we try to outgive each other!” Isn’t that spurring one another on? Don’t we need to help one another raise the bar of giving so we can learn to jump higher?

Scripture tells us not to give in order to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1). Certainly we should be careful to avoid pride. But Jesus also said in the same sermon, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Through an unfortunate misinterpretation of biblical teaching, we’ve hidden giving and therefore hidden its joy and deprived God of glory. We’ve failed to draw Christians toward giving. And they lack gladness and purpose because of it.

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