One of the hallmark characteristics of God is giving. One of the very first scriptures most people learn makes this clear: For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, John 3:16.
The Kingdom of God is about giving. God is a being of giving.
Interestingly enough, for a company to be successful, research shows that the top employees must be givers. Adam Grant, in his book Givers and Takers, studied 3500 businesses over a period of 7 years and determined three things that make an organization successful. Grant determined businesses must be profitable and growing. He also determined employees had to like working there, that the company must have a culture that employees would recommend to friends. And they had to believe in what they were doing.
Grant also says there are three kinds of people: givers, takers, and observers or matchers. Givers and takers are self-explanatory terms. Observer or matchers are those who sit back and watch what’s going on, only giving when there’s reciprocity. Most people are observers or matchers. But according to Grant, in successful companies most people who work at the top of the company are givers. And most people at the bottom of the company were also givers. Those at the bottom tended to give out of fear. The largest groups are takers and observers, made up the mid-levels of the company. And the givers at the top gave intentionally. And while they are the smallest group, intentional givers make the largest impact on their company.
Interestingly, all of this comes out of a secular book and yet lines up perfectly with what Jesus taught. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and then all these things will be added. Jesus talks about strategic, wise, intentional giving.
Who are the intentional givers in the Bible? The widow who gave her mite. She didn’t give emotionally or to be seen. Phoebe is a giver who Paul thanks In Romans 16 for her support. We don’t know much about her, but we know Paul thanked her first in his list of people, and we know she was intentional in her work as a deaconess in the church. Boaz and his giving to Ruth, and Ruth’s giving to her mother in law are recorded in the Old Testament. And the woman who anointed Jesus with her costly perfume as an act of worship was a giver – she believed Jesus was worthy of the most valuable thing she owned.
And who are the takers? Judas is an obvious example of a taker. He was angered by the woman who anointed Jesus with her perfume, wondering aloud why that wasn’t instead sold and the money given to the poor. Judas actually had no intention of giving to the poor – he was only interested in getting his hands on the value of that perfume. Takers aren’t always straight forward about their motives. Cain was also a taker, taking from Abel because he was jealous. The rich young ruler was unwilling to sell what he had to follow Jesus. He didn’t want to give up his possessions; he was a taker who just wanted to add Jesus to what he already had. Ananias and Saphira were also takers. In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira claimed to give all they had, but they didn’t. They only gave a portion of what they received from the sale of their land while claiming they gave it all.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the best-known stories in scripture. It has a lot to tell us about givers and takers. From the beginning, we see the lawyer who wanted to trap Jesus and justify his own thoughts through a series of tough questions: what is the greatest commandment, and who is my neighbor? Regarding the greatest commandment, Jesus answered as expected. Regarding the neighbor, his answer took a different direction than they expected. Jesus began the story of the Good Samaritan. From the start, we see takers – those who robbed the man. And then we see the priest who passes the man an does nothing. We might expect a priest to be a giver, but in this instance, the priest was an observer. The next person to pass by was the Levite, a man almost certainly from the same tribe the lawyer who asked the question. And the Levite also passes by on the other side. The Levite is also an observer. Finally, a Samaritan is mentioned – that was unexpected. Samaritans weren’t well respected. The Jews hated the Samaritans. There were tremendous prejudice and animosity between the two groups. And the Bible tells us that the Samaritan had compassion on the man. The Samaritan was a giver – givers have a spirit of compassion. He acted on his compassion, bandaging the wounds, placing the wounded man on his animal and walking alongside, taking him to an inn and covering the cost of his care even to the point of sacrifice.
The Samaritan gave at a cost to himself. That’s what givers do. When the gospel takes root in our heart, we quit worrying about how we will “get this back” when we give something. We give because it’s what God leads us to do because we carry the image of God.
Jesus turned the question back to the lawyer, asking which of these men was the neighbor. And the lawyer answered correctly but did do in a way that showed his heart. “The one who showed mercy,” he said, unable to bring himself to even say the word, Samaritan. And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and do likewise. We’re called to give. Not to be a doormat. But to give. That’s the gospel. Jesus looking out for those who are marginalized.
In our life today, how can we check our heart, our attitude, and our actions? Here are a few simple comparisons. Givers are considerate. Takers and observers engage in neglect – just as the priest and Levite did. Givers have a spirit of grace, while takers are legalistic. Givers practice forgiveness. Takers don’t. Givers want to live in peace, while takers create disunity. Givers have an attitude of servanthood. Takers have an attitude of entitlement or privilege – if they give, it’s to receive a position of favor or increased power.
We’re called to model the heart of Christ, the image of God. An intrinsic part is living life as a giver, giving out of an intentional heart. If you’re not sure which you are, ask your friends. And be prepared to ask the Lord to help you make some changes if the answer isn’t one that reflects Christ. His heart is to bring your heart in line with His.