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Feb. 16, 2010

Twelve Giving Stories

1) A Strange First Story: Stephen King

One of the most remarkable articles on giving I’ve ever read came from an unlikely source. Horror novelist Stephen King. No one would accuse King of being a Christian, and certainly not a syrupy idealist. But he makes a passionate and perceptive secularist/hedonist argument for giving. Though he fails the test of eternal perspective, King intuitively recognizes not only that giving is right, but that it’s smart. He doesn’t understand that the glory of God, the good of others, and the giver’s eternal rewards are all higher reasons to give. But even bereft of a biblical worldview, the author recognizes that giving packs a transcendent purpose and pleasure here and now. King has a more accurate view of giving than many Christians:

A couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

...We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime.

All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex....

So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on....

Now imagine a nice little backyard, surrounded by a board fence. Dad—a pleasant fellow, a little plump—is tending the barbecue. Mom and the kids are setting the picnic table: fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, a chocolate cake for dessert. And standing around the fence, looking in, are emaciated men and women, starving children. They are silent. They only watch.

That family at the picnic is us; that backyard is America, and those hungry people on the other side of the fence, watching us sit down to eat, include far too much of the rest of the world: Asia and the subcontinent; countries in Central Europe, where people live on the edge from one harvest to the next; South America, where they’re burning down the rain forests; and most of all, Africa, where AIDS is pandemic and starvation is a fact of life.

It’s not a pretty picture, but we have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please.

Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self....

A life of giving—not just money, but time and spirit—repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re doing O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves.

So I ask you to begin giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.

2) Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis, owner of Scott Machinery, attended a conference where Bill Bright challenged people to give one million dollars to help fulfill the Great Commission. This amount was laughable to Scott—far beyond anything he could imagine, since his machinery business was generating an income of under $50,000 a year.

Bill asked, “How much did you give last year?” Scott felt pretty good about his answer: “We gave $17,000, about 35 percent of our income.” Without blinking an eye, Bill responded, “Over the next year, why don’t you make a goal of giving $50,000?”

Scott thought Bill hadn’t understood. Fifty thousand dollars was more than he’d made all year! But Scott and his wife decided to trust God with Bill’s challenge, asking him to do the impossible. God provided in amazing ways; with a miraculous December 31 provision, the Lewises were able to give the $50,000. The next year they set a goal of giving $100,000. Again, God provided.

Scott wrote me a note saying that in 2001, they passed the one million dollar giving mark. The best part is they aren’t stopping. That’s what it means to excel at giving.

3) Jerry & Muriel Caven

After successfully establishing a restaurant chain, two banks, a ranch, farm and real estate ventures, Jerry Caven says that’s when the real fun started.

“At age 59 I was headed into retirement, looking for a nice lake home. Then God changed our plans and led Muriel and me to put our money and time overseas. It’s been exciting. Before we gave token amounts, now we put substantial money into missions. Our hearts are in another country now. We visit and minister there often.”

What changed the Cavens’ attitude toward giving?

“It was realizing God’s ownership that got through to us. Once we understood we were giving away God’s money to God’s work, we had a peace and joy we never had back when we thought it was our money! After seeing the way poor Christians in other countries trust Him, we’ve asked God if he wants us to give away all of ‘our’ money. He hasn’t led us to do that yet. But we’ve meant it when we asked.”

Jerry says, “A nonchristian couple saw us giving, and saw how much it excited and changed us. Then they started giving too, even before knowing Christ. They saw the joy and they wanted in on it!”

He added, “One of the big results of our giving is that we no longer hold things too close to our hearts. We can let them go, realizing they won’t last...but we will.”

4) Al Mueller

Al Mueller, formerly of Counsel and Capital, says the key to giving for him and his wife Susan was understanding, through a Crown Ministries Bible study, the concept that God owns it all. He said, “Once you realize it really is God’s money, it’s much easier to put it to work in His kingdom than if you think you’re having to part with something you own.” He added this:

“If we hadn’t learned God’s ownership, we would have been content and comfortable giving 20-30% of our income away each year and feeling pretty generous, but doing whatever we wanted with the balance. Since then we’ve tried to remember that we’ll give an account of what we do with money we keep. We seek to have a steward mentality and an eternal perspective. I am fortunate to have Susan, a wife who is on the same page, or probably several pages ahead of me!

Having this understanding allowed us to take a 75% pay cut and join a financial ministry God was calling us to, without major changes in our lifestyle. Our kids have asked us why we did this, and we’ve tried to explain it. We’ve seen some neat evidences of their willingness to give sacrificially of their own resources. This has been a huge blessing.

5) Hugh McClellan, Jr.

Hugh McClellan, Jr., is director of a large Christian foundation that supports missions across the globe. He also launched the Generous Giving ministry that puts on conferences and equips people to deepen and broaden their perspective on giving.

Hugh says, “God used five events in my life to change my priorities.” One of these was “learning that God owns it all” and another was “taking a vision trip.” When he saw firsthand what God was really doing through missions work, he was hooked. That’s where he wanted to put his money, where it would last and make a difference for eternity.

Hugh says “My top priorities are to pursue personal holiness, including my daily quiet time, and then to be the spiritual leader to my wife, children, and grandchildren.” 

Hugh seeks to give away a yearly minimum of 70% of his income. He deliberately breaks down his giving into different categories, starting with a tithe to his local church and widening to different levels, including larger gifts that have a chance of making a long-term kingdom impact. He and others who work for the foundation choose ministries to invest in with just as much thought and investigation as people hope mutual fund investors would. And why not, since he is seeking to invest not just on earth, but in heaven, not just for a moment, but for eternity?

Hugh says, “God has taught me not to go for the ego trips, where I chase the three P’s: power, position, and prestige. I don’t want to be choked by the deceitfulness of riches...I want my life to bear fruit that will last.” Hugh says, “I annually reexamine every aspect of my ministry and goals, to eliminate what’s unproductive and figure out what I can effectively delegate. I try to use my gifts of initiating and organizing and vision casting. And I try to balance myself with those who have different gifts. I do this through networking and researching and discussing to be sure we make the right decisions.”

One year Hugh increased his giving considerably and after a business downturn found that his assets had lost considerable value. Someone might have expected Hugh to say, “Now I realize I gave away more than I could afford to.” But what he said to me was, “Now I wish I’d given more of it away while I still had it.”

Hugh says, “Meet with God to determine what His giving goals are for you. Not just your goals, but His goals for you to carry out as His steward. Then ask Him to give you the particular passion to burden you for giving to certain kinds of ministries. Then ask yourself, ‘What are the barriers that keep me from being a generous giver?’ Ask God to deal with you in those areas. And He will!”

6) Daniel J. Arnold

In July 1997, I was at the History’s Handful World Briefing in Breckenridge, Colorado. At the end of the event, Makram Morgos from the Sudan spoke and said that when he questioned God in the midst of discouragement as to how they could ever reach the Sudan for the Great Commission, the plan and task being so large. Makram told us that God said, “I can do what I tell you to do.” When the pledge cards were given out, I prayed “Lord, I’m tapped out right now; you know I’ve already promised more than I can do. I’m on my line of credit at the business, $650,000, but that’s me. What can you do that you would tell me to do?”

To my amazement, God spoke the name of the director of a particular region into my ear. Playing along and not sure yet if this was God or me, I turned to his request and looked, everything on the page went dark, but the name of a particular city in this region, which rose up from the page. After the event I asked the director which funding request was most important to his work. He said the name of this same city. I made the pledge and within a week felt a strong need to visit the country this city was in. This I can now explain as a call by God. I made arrangements and went to visit the staff. God moved supernaturally throughout the trip, and was with me in a very strong presence.

The first citizen of this country I met was a taxi driver who picked me up at the border. As I spoke to him about the purpose of my trip, he exclaimed with a bright smile, “Jesus, I like Jesus very much.” He had seen The Jesus Film, which was the main tool used in the funding project. I can still remember thinking he was going to crash the car because his eyes were so filled with tears as I prayed with him asking Jesus to forgive his sins as he drove us up to the city. This and many other examples were given to me by God to express that this was His will that I would become involved in funding the Great Commission, and He was very much pleased by my prayer.

He revealed His hand to me as never before on this trip. And now as I look back on my journey as a Christian into supernatural grace as God’s co-worker, it began with a simple prayer, “What can you do, God?” This was more to do with my life than about money. God was after my heart, and He broke it open and touched me through this experience that has defined my purpose for life on this earth.

When I returned home, I received a call from a real estate partner who owned 50% of an empty shopping center we had purchased a year earlier. My partner told me that while I was overseas he had leased all the vacant spaces to a telemarketer. The tenant was willing to spend two million dollars on improvements to the shopping center at their own cost and sign a long-term lease with us. This one lease that arrived on the scene and became a deal in the seven days I was gone with no effort on my part, netted me $1,100,000 after taxes. God can do much, much more than He would tell me to do!

1. I have learned most of all giving is spiritual. The donor must be spiritually qualified to take part in the flowing grace of giving in their lives and the supernatural experience of “having all that you need, abounding in good work, and increasing and enlargement of harvest being rich in every way.” 2 Corinthians 9. God wants a clean and pure vessel to work through. Anyone can put money into the offering plate; only a few can qualify to be God’s banker.

2. Giving to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the expansion of His kingdom on earth has become the common purpose of our family, our co-mission. We test the will of God for us in prayer and come together in agreement on every gift.

Personally, giving has stripped me of assets so I cannot count on my own storehouses. By giving, trust in riches and wealth, as man does, is transferred to trusting in God. Proverbs says a rich man’s high tower is his wealth. David said the Lord alone was his high tower. Another way to explain it is how can we pray the Lord’s prayer “grant me this day’s bread” when we are so rich and therefore self-reliant, that we need not ask God for bread or any other earthly want? I have learned during my walk with God that He demands faith. “The just shall live by faith” and “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Giving enters into a life of faith and trust in God. Jesus said, “No man can have two masters.” I think if money is my master, I can’t serve God with a whole heart.

3. The joy in giving is watching God work! Seeing the supernatural foretelling of His plan and His word through me and other lives of former fallen men and women to reach this world with His offer of grace is worth the price of any gift. All the endeavors of man mean nothing compared to one act of the Almighty God. The joy of giving is being able to say as John did in 1 John, “That which we have heard, we have seen with our own eyes.” To see God perform His work with our own eyes is a joy unspeakable; to know that He used me to extend His offer to others is an amazement and thrill with which nothing else can compare. The Bible calls it the joy of the harvest, this joy is enhanced as God calls us into being His co-worker.

4. Giving changes lives because God changes the heart of the donor by putting His burden into it. This burden is greater than the self-centeredness that is in the donor’s heart, and the burden pushes out selfishness so the grace of giving can flow into their lives. No one can give unselfishly without the grace of giving from God. I have seen lives change because God is active in those lives and where God is active there will be personal growth and spiritual change to a maturity. I think the pilgrimage is toward surrender and the fullness of Christ. For some of the body of Christ, God accomplishes this end by inviting us into the life of adventure in giving.

7) Bob and Melinda Harvey

Bob and Melinda say, “Our life purpose for giving is as follows: Help fulfill the Great Commission by giving 50% of our annual income to Christian causes that have the greatest leverage. To do this we must maximize our income, consult with people knowledgeable about ministry, and select the best organizations to support. We have averaged giving 33% for the last 15 years and in the most recent two years we have moved to 50% of our gross income.”


8) Ray Berryman

Ray Berryman, CEO for a national municipal services firm, says he and his wife give at least half of their income to God’s work each year.

“My joy in giving comes from serving God in a way that I know He’s called me to, and in realizing that what I give is impacting people for Christ,” Ray says. “It’s exciting to know we’re part of evangelizing, discipling, helping, and feeding the needy. It just feels wonderful and fulfilling.”

The more we give, the more we delight in our giving, and the more God delights in us. Our giving pleases us. But more importantly, it pleases God.

I get real excited when it comes to this subject! My giving has been one of the central ministry activities of my life. Just after I received Christ as my Savior, I heard about tithing. I felt compelled to tithe and soon realized that God had given me the gift of giving. I learned that no matter how much I gave God would always provide more to give. The more I gave, the more my heart would rejoice in serving Him this way.

I soon realized that God was compelling me to give much more than 10% of my gross income. While we’re still working we want to give 50% or more of our income, and before we die, with the exception of personal items going to our children, we want to give away all that we have to God’s work.

Does Ray sound like a miserable giver or a joyful one? In my experience, the miserable people are the ones who don’t give. Those who have learned the treasure principle have discovered the secret of joyful giving.

9) Tom Conway

Tom Conway has helped put on the Generous Giving conferences. He said this to me about giving:

Giving is both a joy and a privilege. I’ve found I always need to give first. If I wait to see if I have enough left over, I’ll be tempted not to give. I start with God and then make other priority decisions after that.

I get great satisfaction by investing in God’s Kingdom. That’s where I will live forever and I want to help as many people as possible get there.

I have made other financial investments, some good and others not so good, but you can never make a mistake investing with God.

To me it’s fun to invest with God. My wife and I have enjoyed partnering with others through our giving. We’ve taught our kids from the earliest days to be regular givers to God and his kingdom purposes. Our family has been blessed with four young adult kids who love Jesus and I believe that our faithfulness in giving has contributed to that. God’s returns are not always financial.

To be able to share our resources in such a way that they produce eternal dividends for the Kingdom is pure joy. The joy comes from participating with God in the building of His Kingdom knowing that it will last forever.

I’ve learned that it takes faith to be a generous giver. It’s not normal or natural. I have also learned that often people actually give before the joy comes. One time I asked a friend of mine if he tithed. He said, “No”. I asked him, “Why not?” He said that he didn’t like to. After I showed him some Scripture he started tithing, not because he wanted to but because he decided to be obedient. Now he gives much more generously than a tithe. But it all started by faith, without joy, and then the joy came and grew. Once people experience the joy of giving, it becomes infectious and they look for new and better ways to give more.

10) Hal Thomas

Hal is president & CEO, Corban Communications.

1) What have you learned about giving?

My ability to give reflects how I see the real part of me. When I get the desire to give to a particular task, I am really answering the question “For what other purpose would I need to keep the money?” I understand that God has given me the privilege of participating in His greater plan by allowing me to constantly make choices. When giving is a choice, it is an expression of love. My desire is to develop my character by learning how to choose the right answer. When the answer involves giving, I am saying “I love you Lord.”

2) How has your giving affected your life, your marriage and family, and/or your walk with God?

Giving has never been hard for me since I grew up with very little. I now understand that God prepared me for the responsibility of giving by protecting me from developing a habit of wants and desires. Since we had little, I never really gave much thought to having much. I learned to appreciate the smaller things in life. I learned to be satisfied with what was provided. Now that God has given me much, it is easy to be generous.

My marriage is stronger since it is not based on things of this world. My relationships are stronger since they are not based on things that I have. My walk with God is more real because we have seen Him use us to supply what others need. Nothing in this world can satisfy one’s desire more than to have God literally use you to build a church in a small village, bring food 
to an orphanage, or bring a doctor to a sick person. I have seen each of these happen. I have seen God working through me.

3) Have you experienced real joy in your giving? If so, what does the joy come from? How would you describe the joy of giving?

My joy comes from the relationship I have with Jesus. Giving provides me a sense of purpose in God’s kingdom. All around my office and home are little knick-knacks that I have picked up while on mission trips around the world. Today, and more than forty trips since becoming a Christian, I have reminders of the people and places God has allowed me to participate in His work. Each of these reminders, wood carvings, photographs, etc., help me to pray for the people I have met along the way. My path is a path of sharing, building, and providing for those God chooses for me to help. He has given us a company that generates resources for just such a purpose. Knowing that I am right in the middle of God’s plan for my life is the most exciting aspect of being alive that I can ever imagine.

4) As you have seen other Christians in their giving pilgrimages, what have you learned about how generous giving changes lives?

When I observe others being challenged with the choice of giving, I see what God has done for me. For those that give, I see an extraordinary and supernatural process affecting me. God has given me an ability to see needs and respond to them. I have a peace in making choices that seem difficult for others to make. I have confidence that God will supply every need. I have experienced God’s favor. When I see these characteristics in others, I know they too have been touched by the Master. I believe that an amazing aspect of giving is that God takes away the desire to have and to hold things that are not eternal.

11) Tricia Mayer

Tricia, an executive with MicroSoft Corporation, emailed me, “I’ll tell you, sharing the money God has given us has given us more pleasure than any of the stuff we’ve bought with it. We still don’t know why God put us in the situation we’re in, with all this prosperity, but we’re always on guard to do His will in it. I’m not complaining, but I’m telling you that it is not easy. It is also hard to see the shackles of wealth choke the life out of people...which happens a lot around here. I’ve seen more contentment in our circles of friends at or below the poverty level. I hope people who’ve never had to manage wealth will get an even better picture of what real wealth is. Ephesians 3:14-19 is my favorite on the subject of wealth. Being loved by God and knowing Him is to have riches beyond measure. Having all the money you need on this earth is merely having another full-time job. There is no comparison.”

1) What is your position/what are your professional responsibilities?

Tricia Mayer works at Microsoft. She says, “Over the years I’ve held a variety of marketing and business management positions, mostly within the division that works with PC manufacturers. I’ve been at Microsoft during nearly all of the major product launches. And, I’ve seen a generation of young people become wealthy in a very short period of time. I’ve also seen people lose their wealth through the .com demise and recession, and watched firsthand as people who put their security in wealth have been devastated. I’ve observed a lot about how money affects people in direct correlation with the values they place on it.

Money is a blessing, but it is also a burden when we’re given more than we need for basic necessities. We all desire more, but when money comes it is laden with the traps of greed and idolatry. Being a faithful steward of money also takes more energy than one would ever imagine. It is a constant nagging companion who always wants more of your attention, and less on the person of Jesus. It is impossible to serve both, and therein lays the battle.

Stewardship is the Christian life. It is about what we do with every resource given to us, every day we walk the earth, and every relationship we have. The difficult task of stewardship is mustering the discipline and will to manage the problem child called money. Here’s an analogy. At Microsoft I’m often in charge of millions of dollars used to market Microsoft’s products. I start each year with a certain amount, and I’m responsible for making each dollar spent equate to more money earned. If one year I decided to use some of the money (since there is so much ‘extra’ anyway) to pay off my house and buy a boat, I’d be fired and sued for damages. How unfair! Certainly I could be more productive at work if I was free from the stress of debt and had adequate leisure time. Still, Microsoft or any other employer wouldn’t go for this logic. I would be a thief. It is the same when we rob God by not being a good steward of what He’s given us.

Spending is no problem when money is no problem. I’m not saying that if we have all the money in the world, then spending it isn’t the problem. I’m saying that our spending habits are not a problem if we’ve been able to recognize all our money is God’s, and we’ve learned to be a good steward of the wealth that God has trusted us with. Sound easy? I think it takes a lifetime of practice to really learn this one.

Giving (tithing in particular) is a safeguard that God has created for us. When we tithe, we are regularly reminded that all that we have belongs to God and not to us. When we neglect tithing we easily slip into thinking about the things we should do with ‘our’ money. However, when we tithe we accept His help to manage money...just like when our children ask us to take and carry a heavy load for them, they are saying that they need our help.

We need God’s help to manage the temptations that come along with money, and tithing is where we reach up to take His hand and His offer to help.

Another thought...tithing is not a donation to God. He gets along just fine without our meager donation. The tithe is for us. It is our safeguard.

How has your giving affected your life, your marriage and family, and/or your walk with God?

Every time we give, we acknowledge that everything we have has been given to us by God. He is our lifeline, our source for everything. Here is an interesting thing to note. Our children are adopted, and when we were to adopt our first child her birthmother had several requests of us. She wanted to know our Christian testimony, our beliefs regarding children and education, and specifically our views on tithing. She wanted to be certain that she was placing her child in a family that trusted God, and to her that meant they were serious enough to know every blessing came from God (whether it be wealth or children). We’ve always been humbled by the reminder she 
gave us regarding the important relationship between giving, blessings, and our walk with God.

Have you experienced real joy in your giving? If so, what does the joy come from? How would you describe the joy of giving?

The best part of abundance is giving. Think about it. The more we give, the more we’re given to give away. I think about the disciples giving away loaves and fishes, and imagine them becoming completely giddy as they went through their first dozen baskets of food. To give until all are satisfied. Next to walking everyday at the side of Jesus and seeing Him resurrected, this had to be the highlight of their lives on the earth. The only real freedom that money offers is when you give it away.

As you have seen other Christians in their giving pilgrimages, what have you learned about how generous giving changes lives?

Giving produces freedom 100% of the time; freedom from the bondage of things, freedom to receive more from God, and freedom to be a conduit of 
blessing to others. Christians who have freely given their time, money, and themselves are the people who have changed eternity for themselves and countless others. Without fail, people who approach life and wealth with open hands receive more blessings because they are in the position to do so.

12) Jay Link

Jay is founder of the National Association of Family Wealth Counselors

a) What have you learned about giving?

This would make a book, but let me give you a couple of thoughts. Giving is a learned exercise. People are not generous by nature, in fact they are selfish by nature. It only takes watching small children playing with toys to see man’s untrained nature acted out. So when people are not generous, it is seldom because they have chosen to be selfish, it is that they have never learned to be generous. They are like adults who have still never learned to walk. This is not something to be criticized in them, but something we should recognize as a “disability.” To be politically correct, they are “generous challenged.”

The second aspect of this development or lack of development of a generous nature is regarding degrees. I have worked with wealthy couples who are making a million dollars a year and a net worth of $10 million and they are giving $15,000 a year and feel very generous. Compared to the $10,000 they gave last year and the $5,000 the year before, they are. So perceptions are fluid and ever changing. Just like a one-year-old taking that first step is a major breakthrough and an exciting event. A 21-year-old doing the same thing is tragic. So, what I have learned about giving is that no one I have ever met exemplified the pre-converted Ebenezer Scrooge. They all want to give, based upon their current philanthropic development and perceptions of what generous giving means.

This is why I recommended they change the name of his conference from the Generous Giving Conference to Strategic Giving Conference or even better yet, the Sacrificial Giving Conference. Even the couple I mentioned above would describe themselves as currently generous givers. Our goal in our work with affluent Christians is to expand their vision, to give them enhanced clarity on what could be done, to show them ways to increase the leverage of the wealth they have and to gain the confidence that they can actually carry out their vision.

The second thing I have learned about giving is both simple and profound. Jesus said it is more blessed to give, but He never says why. Here is my why behind his statement. When you keep what you have, you will be blessed. The more you keep the more you have the more you have the more you can spend on yourself, etc. If you give, on the other hand, two people will be blessed by “your” money—you and the recipient. Keeping blesses one—giving blesses two. Hence it is more blessed to give than to receive (keep). People never discover the second blessing until they actually do it, and I have learned the more they do it the more addictive giving becomes.

I think this is why Paul says for wealthy people (almost everyone in America compared to the rest of the world) in I Timothy 6:17-19, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” Notice, it is in the giving that we gain “life indeed.” Life indeed is not found in what we keep, it is found in what we give.

b) How has your giving affected your life, your marriage and family, and/or your walk with God?

The essence of the gospel is giving. “For God so loved the world, He gave...” And since we have been given so great a gift, we are motivated to share it with others. I think the real life-changing focus though is not on the teachings about giving: I think it is much more on the teachings about
stewardship. It is stewardship that lays the groundwork for giving. It is hard to give what belongs to you to someone else. It is much easier to give away something that doesn’t belong to you to others. Stewardship loosens our grip on the “things” that we possess. And stewardship goes way beyond money as well. That is why my two adult daughters are on their way to the mission field. They want to give to others what has been entrusted to them. That is why I fly around the country trying to help show families why and how to turn loose of their possessions for the good of the cause of Christ. That is why my wife is teaching Sunday school and youth group and visits the nursing homes each week and leads a youth Bible study. That is why we regularly go on short-term mission trips. Our remaining time, our unique talents, and our accumulated treasures all belong to God and it is His to do with as He directs.

c) Have you experienced real joy in your giving? If so, what does the joy come from? How would you describe the joy of giving?

The greatest joy in giving in my opinion is seeing the fruit of the gift. Seeing people blessed, seeing Bibles printed and distributed to unbelievers, seeing missionaries going to the field. This is true in all aspects of stewardship as well. The giving is a blessing, but the deepest levels of joy come when you see the fruit of your giving. As often as we possibly can, we also like to give anonymously because we want people to give God the glory and the credit and the thanks for the gift and not us. Since it is all rightfully His, He should be the one to get all the attention, not us.
Thanking us would be like thanking the envelope and the postage stamp for the check that came to you in the mail. The envelope and the postage stamp were just vehicles to get the check to you. The thanks comes from the giver of the check, not the vehicles that delivered it.

d) As you have seen other Christians in their giving pilgrimages, what have you learned about how generous giving changes lives?

As I mentioned above, giving is a progressive process. People cannot and will not give beyond what they can see or imagine. They must have both their hearts and their visions changed. One without the other will not free them to experience giving at its highest and deepest levels. I have met many people who would love to give, they simply do not have anyone or group they are excited about giving to. They have the heart, but they do not have the vision. Often these people when they do attempt to give are disillusioned by the result.

I know of one man who gave the pastor of his church a sizeable sum of money for one project in the church and the pastor used it for another one. The donor said he will never trust him with that kind of a gift again. A less obvious, but equally debilitating example is when people give a large gift to some national ministry and their gift gets lost in the general fund never to be seen or heard from again. People get no satisfaction from the gift because they have not seen the fruit of the gift.

We have seen that once people catch the vision for giving and their hearts are opened and they find projects or missions that are big enough to capture their biggest dreams, they become almost possessed with philanthropy.

I am working with a man right now who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He has now almost single-handedly underwritten the creation of a Christian elementary school and high school. These experiences have changed his life forever. He has now decided that he wants to transition out of his business life and spend the rest of this life giving away most of his wealth to help Christian schools be established all over America. He has caught the fever. He has seen the fruit of his labor and the lives that have been changed; and he has received the double blessing of giving.

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