Reading 5 – Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Gift of Giving

By Gustavo Castellanos, Austria

“… He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity.” Romans 12:8.

The spiritual gifts are the instruments by which the Lord empowers His church in these last days to accomplish the commission that He has given it. The key for the power and effectiveness of God’s people is to allow these gifts to develop in all their diversity.

The gift of giving covers all the other spiritual gifts. Teaching, helping, serving, and having mercy are all expressions of the gift of giving. The principles on which the latter is based are of the utmost importance for the exercise of the other spiritual gifts.

The gift of giving is not limited to the sharing of material goods but encompasses the whole area of non-material goods–the area of values governing Christian action. That which gives happiness to people cannot be bought or sold. A kind look, a friendly smile, or a word that imparts faith and hope do not cost a cent and can light up the daily lives of many people and arouse the longing for eternity.

The word “gift” (from the Greek word charisma) is related to the word “grace” (Greek, charis). The Biblical meaning for “grace” denotes a gift, an undeserved present from God. The sinner, for example, is saved by grace.  And the spiritual gifts are undeserved blessings that the Holy Spirit gives according to His will. These gifts cannot be earned or bought; they can only be received as a free favor from God.

When God gives the gifts of His grace, He is not basing His action on our outward appearance, our economic situation, or the qualities we possess. The Lord only focuses on our situation of need as sinners. To make of sinners instruments of His grace is the wonderful work of God’s love.

“He has in the past accepted persons no more promising or attractive to do a great work for Him. His Spirit, moving upon the heart, has roused every faculty to vigorous action. The Lord saw in these rough, unhewn stones precious material, which would stand the test of storm and heat and pressure. God does not see as man sees. He does not judge from appearances.” –Gospel Workers, p. 123.

Remember to recharge your batteries!

Recently a team of social workers installed a solar energy system at the “Rama” school for needy children in Uganda. Some of the most essential parts were the solar collectors. These are important, because the electrical power is needed especially in the afternoon and evening, when the sun does not shine. The batteries are recharged during the day by solar energy so they can provide electricity at night. How great the students’ joy was when the lights in the school came on for the first time at night!

Our hearts, our souls, are like solar collectors. We must receive before we can give. We can only give love if we have received it beforehand. We can only impart what we have “collected.” Do we have complete connection to the power source–the Holy Spirit? “Without Me ye can do nothing,” Jesus says in John 15:5, stating unequivocally that the ability to share spiritual blessings is possible only if we have a constant connection with Him.

This vital connection with Christ, which allows us to keep our spiritual batteries charged, consists of three elements that cannot be neglected:

  • Daily contemplation of Jesus’ life
    “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.” – The Desire of Ages, p. 83.
  • The deliberate imitation of Jesus’ example
    “ ‘Without Me,’ says Christ, ‘ye can do nothing;’ but with His divine grace working through our human efforts, we can do all things. His patience and meekness will pervade the character, diffusing a precious radiance which makes bright and clear the pathway to heaven. By beholding and imitating His life we shall become renewed in His image.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 306.
  • Pray daily, asking for power to share the spiritual gifts
    “Our prayers are not to be a selfish asking, merely for our own benefit. We are to ask that we may give….Our mission to the world is not to serve or please ourselves; we are to glorify God by cooperating with Him to save sinners. We are to ask blessings from God that we may communicate to others. The capacity for receiving is preserved only by imparting.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 142, 143.

Giving is the working program of the church

The Lord has given each of us as members of His body a concrete commission with precise instructions for carrying out that commission. No one should remain ignorant of what to do at this time. The divine assignment and the instructions for completing it are in Isaiah 68. In this chapter, the Lord questioned the religious practices of His people and opened their eyes to the areas of practical faith that had been neglected.

The greatest stumbling block in carrying out the divine commission is selfishness. When dedication and commitment to God and His cause are lacking, one’s heart fills automatically with idolatry of self. Included in this is self-sufficiency, a hard heart, and deliberate ignorance of the needs of one’s neighbors. There is a lack of identification with Christ, His cause, and the church’s mission.

Therefore, the Spirit of prophecy urges us to study Isaiah 58 and implement it in our lives: “Read Isaiah 58, ye who claim to be children of the light. Especially do you read it again and again who have felt so reluctant to inconvenience yourselves by favoring the needy. You whose hearts and houses are too narrow to make a home for the homeless, read it; you who can see orphans and widows oppressed by the iron hand of poverty and bowed down by hardhearted worldlings, read it…. The reason why God’s people are not more spiritually minded and have not more faith, I have been shown, is because they are narrowed up with selfishness. The prophet is addressing Sabbath keepers, not sinners, not  unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness. It is not the abundance of your meetings that God accepts. It is not the numerous prayers, but the right doing, doing the right thing and at the right time. It is to be less self-caring and more benevolent. Our souls must expand. Then God  will make them like a watered garden, whose waters fail not.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 35, 36.

“Then shall thy light rise in obscurity”

Isaiah 58 is the working program for God’s people today. In verse 8 is described the result of carrying out this divine plan. The church will enlighten the earth when it experiences a spiritual awakening and its members reveal the divine character: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” This is the church for which “will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God.” –The Acts of Apostles, p. 9.

At this point, I ask the person leading this service of the Week of Prayer to read with the congregation Isaiah 58:1- 12. It would be good for several believers to read the verses and share their thoughts concerning them. The gift of giving described in Isaiah 58 includes three areas of action:

  • Giving service that focuses on the spiritual and emotional needs of one’s neighbors, reaching their hearts and souls (verse 10).
  • Giving according to the material needs of the poor and of one’s neighbors (verses 5-7).
  • Giving for spiritual reform (verse 12).

The inspired pen says that this is the task for our time: “Please read Isaiah 58…. This is the special work now before us. All our praying and abstinence from food will avail nothing unless we resolutely lay hold of this work. Sacred obligations are resting upon us. Our duty is plainly stated. The Lord has spoken to us by His prophet.” –Welfare Ministry, p. 29.

Concentrate on quality, not quantity

The word of God in Romans 12:8 says, “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity;’…” In this text, simplicity refers to a pure, generous, genuine spirit, without any dual purpose in the act of sharing. The most important thing to give to others is the quality of our attitude and motives.

One who gives just to ease his conscience does not understand the essence and meaning of giving. Quality spiritual giving reaches beyond satisfying the material needs of those in need. It encompasses the surrender of the heart to the cause of the needy; it is dedicated to reaching the souls of our neighbors. “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10.

While it is true that salvation by grace through faith in Christ is obtained not by works of righteousness which we have done, it is also true that the experience of salvation becomes the  motivation for our actions. Every act of benevolence is based on one’s personal commitment to Christ. The personal experience with God leads one to connect with His love. If we have received love, then we give with all our hearts– with joy and generosity. The poor widow who gave everything she owned as an offering to the temple was praised by Jesus, not because she gave a large quantity but because she wholeheartedly and in faith gave everything she had.

“It is the motive that gives character to our acts, stamping them with ignominy or with high moral worth. Not the great things which every eye sees and every tongue praises does God account most precious. The little duties cheerfully done, the little gifts which make no show, and which to human eyes may appear worthless, often stand highest in His sight. A heart of faith and love is dearer to God than the most costly gift. The poor widow gave her living to do the little that she did. She deprived herself of food in order to give those two mites to the cause she loved. And she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her great need. It was this unselfish spirit and childlike faith that won the Saviour’s commendation.” – The Desire of Ages, p. 615.

A step of faith

Giving is always a matter of faith. The farmer, for example, sows the seed and waits for the harvest with confidence, for he did his job and trusts that God will do His part in nature. Similarly, the believer gives with the confidence that what he has done will germinate and grow into a blessing for others.

Let us take into account that:

Every action is a seed. The actions  that we sow will determine the outcome of the harvest of our lives. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

“As the seed sown produces a harvest, and this in turn is sown, the harvest is multiplied. In our relation to others, this law holds true. Every act, every word, is a seed that will bear fruit. Every deed of thoughtful kindness, of obedience, of self-denial, will reproduce itself in others, and through them in still others. So every act of envy, malice, or dissension is a seed that will spring up in a ‘root of bitterness’ whereby many shall be defiled. Hebrews 12:15. And how much larger number will the ‘many’ poison!” –Prophets and Kings, p. 86.

He who sows generously will reap bountifully. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6.

Also, when the sower casts the seed into the ground when planting, he does not do it in a stingy manner, but spreads it out as much as he can. What appears to be a waste of seed is actually the secret to the multiplication of fruit. Each seed that comes into contact with the soil is reproduced. So it is when we use what God has entrusted to us. We give generously to someone else, and the Lord multiplies the result of our benevolence.

“However small your talent, God has a place for it. That one talent, wisely used, will accomplish its appointed work. By faithfulness in little duties, we are to work on the plan of addition, and God will work for us on the plan of multiplication. These littles will become the most precious influences in His work.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 360.

We are co-laborers with God. “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9.

In our life of faith and especially in exercising the gift of giving, everything is a matter of constant cooperation with God and His laws. We depend on Him in both the natural and the spiritual realms. He has promised that in our every act of giving, every word, every service, He will be adding the Holy Spirit’s infinite power to the human instrument; and this cooperative work will result in great blessing to all around us and also to the church.

Sharing multiplies the gift that is given. This is like when garlic multiplies. One who plants garlic knows that first there is a “breaking off,” a “destruction” of the head of garlic; and then the individual cloves of garlic are put into the ground one by one. That is when the miracle happens: Each clove of garlic becomes a new full head of garlic. Just by starting and spreading the gifts, both spiritually and materially, the blessings t hat we have received from God multiply.

The Lord works if we give Him space in our lives to do so. Often access to our souls is blocked by the burdens and cares of everyday life. On the other  hand, nowadays there are many things that captivate our attention. That is why we often become insensitive to our true spiritual condition. We are in danger of losing sight of the needs of our neighbors and God’s church. But remember, no one is so poor that he has nothing to give, and no one is so old that he cannot have a part in God’s work. Everyone of us can give something. This is our privilege as Christians, as Adventists of the Reform Movement.

What needs do we find in the church? What are the needs all around us? How I can exercise the gift of giving, both materially and spiritually? To have room for the Lord in our hearts and minds, we must have windows of time during the day. These windows are special moments dedicated to cultivating our relationship with God. They are special times for prayer and meditation without distraction; their purpose is to recharge our spiritual being and fill up the reservoir of spiritual power that we need. The result of a life of communion with God, cultivating our relationship with Him, giving of the blessings that He has entrusted to us, will be a character like that of Christ. “The object of the Christian life is fruit bearing–the reproduction of Christ’s character in the believer, that it may be reproduced in others.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 67.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear youth, dear children, let us open our hearts so we can be generous givers of the Lord, so the promise is fulfilled in our lives and in the church, “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” Isaiah 58:8.