The Christian life is a journey of choices. Choosing a church to attend involves choices. The decision to study the Bible – which Bible translation to select, what book to read, how often to read; the decision to engage in missions – take an overseas trip, volunteer at a downtown shelter, start a Bible study in the neighborhood. They all involve choices.
Loving God and walking with Him is a choice.
Giving should be guided by choices as well. When the Israelites brought gifts to the tabernacle or Temple, God expected a gift from everyone. But it was up to each person to determine the amount of their gifts (see Deuteronomy 16:16-17). Paul reminded the Christians living in Corinth to give; but the amount was for them to determine (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
When we give, we are expressing our childlike and free-will choice to say, “Father God, this much is for you.”
King Solomon understood giving involved a choice. He chose to offer 1,000 burnt offerings to God. Zacchaeus, a repentant tax collector, chose to give half of his possessions to the poor. When Annanias and Sapphira lied about the gifts they had bought to the apostles, Peter reminded them – you had a choice to give none, some, or all. The property was theirs to keep and theirs to give. (Lying about it was their downfall. Literally.)
When I selected an engagement ring for Stephanie, I spent weeks examining stones, talking (sometimes haggling) with diamond merchants, and counting my nickels. I ran my calculator to determine what impact the purchase of a small, medium, or large diamond would have on our financial situation. The ring-selection process consumed my energy and my heart. It was the most exciting gift I’d ever given, and Stephanie sensed every bit of it when I presented it to her.
Remember, God notices your gifts. So when you are choosing among a small, medium, or large home purchase and running the numbers to determine how it might affect your monthly giving budget, God notices what that decision means to you. He sees how the choices involved flow from your heart.
When you are deciding whether to buy a new car or keep driving the old one because of how it might affect your gift to the church’s capital campaign, God notices the trade-offs being played out in your mind.
When you ponder selling an investment or dipping into your savings or postponing a new laptop purchase so you can support a missionary, again, God notices what this means for you.
Our gifts are measured by how they feel to God, which is connected to how the gift feels to us. They are not measured by how much they help others, or how the gift solves a problem or meets a need, or how “generous” someone else considers the gift.
If your decision to give five percent of your income (or one percent or even one dollar) causes your heart to beat faster and your hands to sweat, then that healthy tension can make your gift matter both to you and to God.
But if giving a tenth or a third or a half of your income becomes a routine payment, and causes your giving to be a simple decimal-point calculation, something may be missing.
Remember, God enjoys your sacrifice for Him. And sacrifice only matters if it’s a choice.
**This post is an excerpt from the book Divine Applause: Secrets and Rewards of Walking with An Invisible God