Citizenship in Heaven
The Bible says we're pilgrims, strangers, aliens on earth (Hebrews 11:13). We're ambassadors representing our true country (2 Corinthians 5:20). "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). We're citizens of "a better country--a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16).
Where we choose to store our treasures depends largely on where we think our home is. [Page 45]
Cheerful Giving a Result of Obedience
"God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). This doesn't mean we should give only when we're feeling cheerful. The cheerfulness often comes during and after the act of obedience, not before it. So don't wait until you feel like giving; it could be a long wait! Just give and watch the joy follow. [Page 27]
The Joy of Giving Despite Adversity
The Macedonian Christians understood the joy of giving: "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" (2 Corinthians 8:2). [Page 30]
How do "severe trial," "overflowing joy," "extreme poverty," and "rich generosity' all fit together in one verse? Giving isn't a luxury of the rich. It's a privilege of the poor. I've discovered that impoverished Christians find no greater joy than in giving. [Page 31]
Recognizing God's Grace Leads to Our Desire to Give
Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God in our lives. It doesn't come out of our altruism or philanthropy--it comes out of the transforming work of Christ in us. This grace is the action; our giving is the reaction. We give because He first gave to us. The greatest passage on giving in all Scripture ends not with "Congratulations for your generosity," but "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15) [Page 30]
Obedience Draws Us Closer to God
It was said of Josiah, "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD (Jeremiah 22:16). Caring for the needy flows out of knowing God, and draws us closer to Him. [Page 35]
God Blesses Those Who Give, In His Time
Health and wealth gospel dishonors Christ, since any gospel that is more true in America than China is not the true gospel. Prosperity theology is built on a half-truth. God often does prosper givers materially. But He won't let us treat Him like a no-lose slot machine or a cosmic genie who does our bidding. Giving is a sacrifice, and sometimes we will feel that sacrifice. God's payoff is very real, but it comes at the "proper time," which may not be today or tomorrow but in eternity (Galatians 6:9). [Page 72]
The Eternal Rewards of Giving
We are given these eternal rewards for doing good works (Ephesians 6:8; Romans 2:6, 10), persevering under persecution (Luke 6:22-23), showing compassion to the needy (Luke 14:13-14), and treating our enemies kindly (Luke 6:35).
God also grants us rewards for generous giving: "Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21). [Page 37]
John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress in an English prison. He said:
"Whatever good thing you do for Him, if done according to the Word, is laid up for you as treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before both men and angels, to your eternal comfort."
Is this a biblical concept? Absolutely. Paul spoke about the Philippians' financial giving and explained, "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account" (Philippians 4:17). God keeps an account open for us in heaven, and every gift given for His glory is a deposit in that account. Not only God, not only others, but we are the eternal beneficiaries of our giving. (Have you been making regular deposits?)
But isn't it wrong to be motivated by reward? No, it isn't. If it were wrong, Christ wouldn't offer it to us as a motivation. Reward is His idea, not ours.
Our instinct is to give to those who will give us something in return. But Jesus told us to give to "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.... Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14). If we give to those who can't reward us, Christ guarantees He will personally reward us in heaven.
Giving is a giant lever positioned on the fulcrum of this world, allowing us to move mountains in the next world. Because we give, eternity will be different--for others and for us. [Pages 38-39]
Your Treasure Is Where Your Heart Will Be
Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). That's the second key to the Treasure Principle.
By telling us that our hearts follow our treasure, Jesus is saying, "Show me your checkbook, your VISA statement, and your receipts, and I'll show you where your heart is."
Suppose you buy shares of General Motors. What happens? You suddenly develop interest in GM. You check the financial pages. You see a magazine article about GM and read every word, even though a month ago you would have passed right over it.
Suppose you're giving to help African children with AIDS. When you see an article on the subject, you're hooked. If you're sending money to plant churches in India and an earthquake hits India, you watch the news and fervently pray.
As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasure. Money leads; hearts follow. [Pages 41-42]
Treasures in Heaven vs. Treasures on Earth
He who lays up treasures on earth spends his life backing away from his treasures. To him, death is loss.
He who lays up treasures in heaven looks forward to eternity; he's moving daily toward his treasures. To him, death is gain.
He who spends his life moving away from his treasures has reason to despair. He who spends his life moving toward his treasures has reason to rejoice. [Page 43]
Investing in Things With Lasting Value
Alfred Nobel dropped the newspaper and put his head in his hands.
It was 1888. Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made his fortune inventing and producing dynamite. His brother Ludvig had died in France.
But now Alfred's grief was compounded by dismay. He'd just read an obituary in a French newspaper--not his brother's obituary, but his! An editor had confused the brothers. The headline read, "The Merchant of Death Is Dead." Alfred Nobel's obituary described a man who had gotten rich by helping people kill one another.
Shaken by this appraisal of his life, Nobel resolved to use his wealth to change his legacy. When he died eight years later, he left more than $9 million to fund awards for people whose work benefited humanity. The awards became known as the Nobel Prizes.
Alfred Nobel had a rare opportunity--to look at the assessment of his life at its end and still have the chance to change it. Before his life was over, Nobel made sure he had invested his wealth in something of lasting value. [Pages 77-78]
Where Are Your Treasures?
When you leave this world, will you be known as one who accumulated treasures on earth that you couldn't keep? Or will you be recognized as one who invested treasures in heaven that you couldn't lose? [Page 79]
When the Lord returns, what will happen to all the money sitting in bank accounts, retirement programs, estates, and foundations? It will burn like wood, hay, and straw, when it could have been given in exchange for gold, silver, and precious stones. Money that could have been used to feed the hungry and fulfill the great commission will go up in smoke. [Page 69]
Earthly Treasures Consume Much of Our Time
Every item we buy is one more thing to think about talk about, clean, repair, rearrange, fret over, and replace when it goes bad.
Let's say I get a television for free. Now what? I hook up the antenna or subscribe to a cable service. I buy a new VCR or DVD player. I rent movies. I get surround-sound speakers. I buy a recliner so I can watch my programs in comfort. This all costs money. But it also takes large amounts of time, energy, and attention.
The time I devote to my TV and its accessories means less time for communicating with my family, reading the Word, praying, opening our home, or ministering to the needy.
So what's the true cost of my "free" television? [Page 52]
Roadblocks to Giving
There are many roadblocks to giving: unbelief, insecurity, pride, idolatry, desire for power and control. The raging current of our culture--and often our churches--makes it hard to swim upstream. It's considered "normal" to keep far more than we give.
But I'm convinced that the greatest deterrent to giving is this: the illusion that earth is our home. [Page 44]
Giving Beyond Our Ability
Paul said, "See that you also excel in this grace of giving" (2 Corinthians 8:7). Like piano playing, giving is a skill. With practice, we get better at it. We can learn to give more, give more often, and give more strategically. We teach the pursuit of excellence in our vocations. Why not make giving something we study, discuss, and sharpen, striving for excellence?
The Macedonian believers gave "as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (2 Corinthians 8:3). What does it mean to give beyond our ability? It means pushing our giving past the point where the figures add up. It means giving when the bottom line says we can't. [Page 65]
The Purpose of Abundance
Abundance isn't God's provision for me to live in luxury. It's His provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with this money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven. [Page 75]
To Save More Lives
At the end of the movie Schindler's List, there's a heart-wrenching scene in which Oskar Schindler--who bought from the Nazis the lives of many Jews--looks at his car and his gold pin and regrets that he didn't give more of his money and possessions to save more lives. Schindler had used his opportunity far better than most. But in the end, he longed for a chance to go back and make better choices. [Page 78]
In Romans 12, Paul lists seven spiritual gifts, including prophecy, serving, teaching, mercy, and giving. I'm convinced that of all these gifts, giving is the one least thought about in the Western church.
Of course, all of us are called to serve, show mercy, and give, even if we don't have those specific gifts. But I believe that in different times of history God has sovereignly distributed certain gifts more widely (such as the gift of mercy during devastating plagues). Suppose God wanted to fulfill His plan of world evangelization and help an unprecedented number of suffering people. What gift would you expect Him to distribute widely? Perhaps the gift of giving? And what might you expect Him to provide for those to whom He's given that gift? Perhaps unprecedented wealth to meet all those needs and further His kingdom?
Look around. Isn't that exactly what God has done? The question is, what are we doing with the wealth He's entrusted to us to reach the lost and help the suffering? [Pages 80-81]
Spur One Another on Toward Giving
When it comes to giving, churches operate under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. We lack communication, accountability, and modeling. It's as if we have an unspoken agreement: "I won't talk about it if you won't, so we can go right on living as we are."
Think about it. How does a young Christian in the church learn to give? Where can he go to see what giving looks like in the life of a believer captivated by Christ? Why are we surprised when, seeing no other example, he takes his cues from a materialistic society?
We're to "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Shouldn't we also be asking how we can spur one another on toward giving? [Page 82]
Your Plenty Will Supply Their Need
One ministry calls a group of its key donors History's Handful. Is there an exaggerated sense of significance in this title? I don't think so. Giving to God's great causes infuses us with a sense of destiny. It's no accident that you live in this time and place in history. Remind yourself again why the God of providence has entrusted you with so much: "Your plenty will supply what they need.... You will be made rich... so that you can be generous on every occasion" (2 Corinthians 8:14; 9:11). [Page 85]
Support Organizations Which Hold The Same Eternal Perspective
People ask me, "Should I support secular organizations?" It's fair to ask whether the Humane Society, as good as it may be, is as close to God's heart as evangelism, church planting, or helping the poor in Christ's name. Many people support so-called Christian colleges that no longer believe their doctrinal statements and now lead students astray. With all the godly ministries and schools we could support, why give God's money to institutions that actively oppose His agenda? For every good secular organization there's a Christian organization doing the same work--but with an eternal perspective. When there's a choice, why not support organizations characterized by prayer, biblical standards, and the supernatural work of God's Spirit? [Page 87]