Whilst all are called to give liberally and with generosity, the gift of giving is the special ability that God gives to people to make lots of money and give lots of money away. They have a well-developed spirit of generosity and are usually strong in the gift of faith. Both ‘poor’ people (e.g. the Widow’s Mite) and rich people (e.g. Joseph of Arimthea) can have this gift, but it is difficult for your cup to overflow to others if there is not much in it in the first place!
Examples from scripture
• God is of course the ultimate giver (Jn 3:16).
• King David gave his business profits and personal resources to the building of the temple (1 Chron 29:1-5).
• The Widow who, proportionally speaking, gave away a huge amount (Mk 12:41f).
• Barnabas’ extravagant gift must class as the gift of giving (Acts 4:36).
It seems that this gift can operate in whole churches for a season or forever:
• The Israelites had to be asked to stop giving when building the temple (1 Chron 29).
• The Early Church exhibited a lifestyle of giving to the point where there were no needy among them (Acts 2:45, 4:32-36).
• The Macedonian Churches had a special ‘grace of giving’ shown by giving beyond their ability and even fighting for the privilege of giving (1 Cor 8:1-5).
How will I know if I have it?
You will find yourself more alert than others to needy situations, and you derive satisfaction out of meeting those needs. You might be happy to do without yourself, but don’t like others to do without. You love to hear that your gift was an answer to prayer. You will also like to encourage others to give. You will not usually be gullible to fake needs.
Because they often have the ability to make lots of money, and because they often keep quiet about their giving, they can be unfairly regarded rich misers! They can sometimes appear carnal and fleshly because they handle and talk about money in a direct manner.
God gives all of the gifts for the benefit of the body, not the individual, and there should therefore be accountability for all the gifts. I mean, imagine an unaccountable prophet or teacher or miracle worker – dangerous! The gift of giving is rather unique in that it centres around money which is itself a powerful thing (note the weighty warnings of 1 Tim 5:3-10 and 17:19), and because, more than any of the other spiritual gifts, it appears on the surface that the individual is ‘responsible’ for making the money, and by extension might therefore feel that he doesn’t need the same level of accountability that other more spiritual gifts might need.
I think this means a willingness on the part of the giver to recognise that his gift of making and giving money is for the good of the body (just like all the other gifts), and therefore also requires some level of accountability and direction.
The challenge of secrecy
It is sometimes hard for someone who consistently gives large amounts of money to the church to not feel that he/she has a right to be publically acknowledged, or to receive special treatment by the leadership. Whilst we certainly want to honour all spiritual gifts and those that labour so hard in different ways, those with the gift of giving need to be convinced that they will receive their reward from God who sees everything. Have a look at these verses:
Matt 6:1 “Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
John 5:41 “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
John 12:42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
The challenge of laying it at the feet of others…
Often big givers are themselves CEO’s in the business arena and used to influencing leadership decisions. However, this does not necessarily translate into leadership authority in the church. Givers need to be content before God that their responsibility is to make money and lay it at the feet of the leaders (Acts 4:35) without strings attached, and trust the wisdom of the leaders to distribute it appropriately.
How can I grow in this gift?
Pray for more of it. Study it in scripture (especially 2 Cor 8 & 9) and through good resources. Learn from other givers. Stay accountable. Keep stretching yourself. Pursue generosity (Rms 12:8).