PHILANTHROPY OR CHRISTIANITY? Why do Christians give? It is a simple question, yet the answer provided to many Christians is often vague at best. Many Christians hear a variety of reasons for giving such as: “God has been generous to you so you should be generous in return,” “It belongs to God and you are just redistributing it,” “There is joy in giving,” “It will teach you many spiritual lessons,” or “It is a good thing to help out your fellow man”. These reasons are all truthful, but I fear they miss the point. I have trouble separating or seeing the difference between these explanations and “Philantropy.” What separates the Christian’s call to give from a mere desire to improve the welfare of our “fellow man”? Is there any difference between the two?
My pastor, a great Bible teacher, often quotes an old theologian who said something to the effect of: “If it is not about Jesus, it is not Christianity.” I will do my best to answer the question of giving in this context: Our giving must point back to Christ.
In the flesh, in sin, we are TAKERS. Since the Garden of Eden, we are out to get whatever we can for ourselves. Even our very acts of giving can be corrupted by self-serving motives. Christ’s life in us reverses this trend. We become GIVERS when in close communion with His Spirit. Not just givers of money, but everying: time, energy, love, talents, emotions, and on and on. We live to bless others. In the flesh, we are like a sponge–soaking up all we can for ourselves. Even when every possible avenue is saturated, perhaps even drowning, we still seek to absorb more. In Christ, we begin see the water start running in the opposite direction–away from ourselves. We actually begin to see our heart and soul believe: “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Instead of a sponge: “He who believes in Me…From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38) As Christ gains the victory in the hearts of men, their desire for generosity, to bless others before themselves cannot be contained. Christ said: “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) When He, whose life, death, and resurrection lived out His saying: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13) consumes our hearts we cannot help but to follow His example. To live to give and bless others becomes a sacred joy when Christ has His proper abode in our heart.
If I am honest, I don’t know if I have ever met a godly man that was stingy. (Notice, I did not say “rich”. I have met many godly men that were rich also.) The more I study the life of Christ and inspirational men and women of faith, the more I see that the spirit stirred with the love of God cannot help but to live a life of Generosity. Those in keeping with the fountain of Living Water feel suffocated by selfishness. They are compelled to live and give as Christ. They are transformed by His Spirit and the act becomes as natural as breathing.
In conclusion, Christians give because Christ is in them. Simple as that. Our Savior is the essence of generosity. He is alive in us and the desire to bless others is only a natural expression of His power in our hearts. Certainly, our giving respects God’s ownership, brings us joy, teaches us things, and helps those less fortunate than us, but these are only branches not the the Vine. Christ, the very author of “It is better to give than to receive” is continuing His work and manifesting Himself and His power through His people. This, dear believer, is Christianity not philanthropy.