What comes first, attitude or obedience?
Our attitude in giving (an act of worship) determines whether or not it is truly worship. Obedience in giving – to give to God our first fruits, to mimic the attitudes of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8, to hold nothing back from God if He commands us to give it – is an effect of our attitude. God is not delighted in rote acts of worship – He wants our hearts!
What does the intersection of these things teach us? How should our patterns of devotion, worship, giving – how should they change in our own lives, going forward?
These are all important questions to ask ourselves, and each other. Be prepared, though, for some hard-to-hear answers and pray now that God will give you the grace to see and hear what is not in alignment with His word for you and the grace to make the necessary changes.
The Macedonian Attitude
What was it about these people that is worth emulating in our own lives of following after Christ? Before we take a look at their attitude, it’s crucial to understand how they were in such a position to give in the first place.
The Macedonians were not wealthy – they didn’t give out of their own abundance of financial resources. They were not compelled by the human needs seen with their own eyes. Paul told them about the need that existed and they were moved by the story. They were not compelled by guilt or shame. Paul invited them to participate in the joy of giving, and they did.
Before all this giving takes place, though, there’s one word that needs to be underlined and examined – grace.
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,” –
The Macedonians gave because they were given grace by God to do so! Could they have given without God’s grace? Sure – but it would not have been in the same way, to the same extent, nor would they have received the same joy in giving that was theirs because God gave them grace.
God’s Grace in Our Giving?
We’ll examine their attitude in giving in future posts so hold on; this is too important to not examine. Let’s stop here and consider the grace of God. It is God’s grace that makes it possible for us to be reconciled to him. We are people of grace, and by grace. When it comes to our salvation, we often consider God’s grace.When it comes to our finances do we stop to consider God’s grace?
It’s important to note that God gives us grace to accomplish His purposes – for our good and His glory – in numerous ways. Let’s ask God to give us grace in our attitudes about giving and in our practice of giving. Whether you have given a tithe for 45+ years, or are a regular giver who gives $50/week (regardless of your own income), or if you wait for there to be some sort of need at the church and then you give, and especially if you don’t give at all, we all need His grace in order to give in a way that accomplishes His purposes for His Kingdom and His work.
To get to a point where you are living with a boundless passion for His work – where you are fully available and willing – where you are looking for opportunities to do great things for Him – all this starts in your heart.
God wants to give you grace in your giving – to change your attitude about it and compel changes in your practice of giving. Until He has your heart, He doesn’t have you – fully, 100%, no questions asked, no turning back. (You might indeed be saved, genuinely, but there is still a work of grace that must happen in your heart in order to have open hands before God – not holding anything back. Finances – and the way you steward them before the Lord (something He has given you to start with) – is a key indicator of where your heart is.)
Pray with me:
God – gracious and good and loving Father – give us grace! We need it every day; we need it in our minds and in our hearts; compel us with your grace to be your hands and feet.
Give us grace to give generously and joyfully and cheerfully, in the same manner with which you have so lavishly given to us all we need.
Give us grace to resist the temptations to give for self-exaltation or to give in order to assuage our guilt or to give in order to be accepted by someone else.
We thank you for giving us all that we need; we need your grace, as we honestly examine our financial resources – you’ve given all that to us. Forgive us, God, where we have robbed you – where we’ve held back for ourselves what you have intended for your purposes – what you have intended for the needs of others, the needs of the world.
Thank you for your giving posture – your generous nature is what we want, too. Empowered by your Holy Spirit, we want to be generous; thank you for helping us do this!
In Jesus’ name –
(Stay tuned for the next article where we dig deeper into the actual attitudes of the Macedonians and draw-out applications for our own lives.) Also, I’m about to start a series, “Doesn’t the Bible say….?” – in it, we’ll look at commonly heard objections to giving and examine passages some objectors try to use as proof that we shouldn’t be concerned with our giving.