Giving is a work of grace. The Apostle Paul, when writing to the believers in Corinth on the subject of giving, encouraged them to “excel in this act of grace”. (2 Corinthians 8:7) As a work of grace, giving is something that can be perfected. We can practice giving and can “excel” at it by incorporating it effectively in our lives.
As a work of grace, giving is also a process. It has a start and a finish. It is important to understand clearly the best way to start giving, and just as important is understanding how best to finish it - or rather the only way to really finish it. Paul points all this out in his epistle referenced. I suggest a good study of the eighth chapter of 2 Corinthians. But let me try to give a brief synopsis of Paul’s writings.
There are an infinite number of reasons on which to base a charitable act. The reason may be self serving - a gift given to obtain some personal advantage with God or other people. This really is not giving at all, but the result is benefit to others so we can call it a charitable act. Giving may also be based on a feeling of guilt or obligation. We may give out of compulsion or a sense of duty. We may give because it makes us feel good. The list goes on practically forever. But our reason for giving is not really the key. The key to the best way to give is found behind the reason. It is our attitude, our heart, that is the key.
Paul refers to the Corinthians’ “eager willingness” to give in his letter. He also states, “if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” (vs 12) What a powerful truth. This is the reason why your heart attitude is more important than your reason for giving. Willingness in giving creates the attribute of acceptability for the gift given. Acceptable to whom? The recipient? Of course not! The recipient has no say in the acceptability of a gift. A gift freely given is a gift regardless of whether it is received or not.
How about others outside of the charitable transaction? Not important. People do not have the ability to define a gift as acceptable or not. There is only One who has the ability and the right to establish the acceptability of a gift - God, the Originator of charity and the greatest Giver to ever exist. When Paul discusses the acceptable nature of a gift, he is saying that when willingness is the basis of our giving it is acceptable to God. What’s more is that the gift is acceptable on the basis of what the giver has, not on what she/he does not have.
It’s like this: when we give willingly, God receives our gifts, not accounting them based on their size or the donor’s worldly stature. The gift is received by God and accounted to the giver on the basis of the willingness, the heart, behind it. God uses that acceptable gift, as only He can, to do more than we could have ever done with it. That is the power of starting your giving with willingness!
So if we are to start our giving with willingness, how should we finish it? Well, we finish giving by doing it. This statement seems too elementary, but it is very much necessary. Willingness in giving does not create the gift. Desire to give is not giving. Paul reminded the Corinthians about this in his letter and we need to be reminded of it today. “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” (vs 11) So much giving is never accomplished, it simply never happens, because the willingness is not followed by the action.
Oh, the immense opportunity for truly beneficial change in our world lost due to inaction. Giving is a work of grace. So let us work at it.