Giving (Necessarily) Shapes Our Hearts

I haven’t written anything here in a bit, but this week I would like to unpack some thoughts specifically concerning the area of financial stewardship and giving. This is primarily for my faith family at the local church where I am a member, Westwood. We just wrapped up a brief series that had this issue in focus, and I simply want to offer some further thoughts as a follow up to that this week. I certainly have all followers of Christ in mind, though, as I post. So feel free to follow along and interact! This is an important conversation, especially for us who live in a very affluent part of the world in which the gospel can become so easily skewed and wherein discipleship is so often redefined to fit our own desires.

Part 1: Giving (Necessarily) Shapes our Hearts

I often hear pastors lament the need to address this issue in their churches, mostly as a response to how church members react to hearing this issue addressed. Let’s just be honest together. We can become very sensitive when challenged with our stewardship in all areas (time, talent, and treasure), but especially so in this area of finances. I believe this is due in large part to the way our specific culture has shaped our view toward our finances. But I also believe that this could very well be attributed to a disconnect between stewardship and discipleship. In other words, we too often focus on the HOW without sufficiently anchoring that in the WHY. This often leads to messages weighted with shame and focusing on renewed commitment to the act of giving rather than connecting that act with how the Lord uses it to grow us as his disciples. Answering that WHY question is where I want to begin to explore this topic in the coming days.

Several years back I had the privilege of preaching the portion from Matthew 9 that recounts Jesus’ calling of Matthew and the subsequent dinner party that occurs. The message was entitled “The King Defines True Discipleship,” and highlighted the simplicity of both Jesus’ call to Matthew and Matthew’s response. I love the simplicity of the text when it says,

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 9:9

It doesn’t get any more simple than that. In my mind I see Matthew sitting in the tax booth. After Jesus calls him to follow, Matthew simply rises from his seat and leaves it in order to follow Jesus. As simple as that seems, though, I also shared about the unseen complexity cloaked within the simplicity. That simple act represented the life-altering transaction that takes place for the genuine disciple in answering God’s call. For Matthew this subtle act reflects a completely new direction that begins in this definitive break with life as it used to be. For Matthew here, as well as for every person who truly experiences the regenerating work of the Spirit, one thing is abundantly clear per the entirety of the New Testament:

Choosing to rise and follow Jesus while at the same time remaining at all seated in our old pattern of life is not an option. To rise and follow Jesus is to rise from the reality of a crucifixion of the old man shaped by his old ways to follow him as the Way, the Truth, and the (new) Life.

For all of us, this is just as simple and just as complex as it was for Matthew the Tax Collector. As we rise to follow Jesus we have a new focus, a new affection, a new aim. From that point forward disciples look to Jesus as the treasure, as the (new) point of reference for life. However, if we are not careful, and we allow the focus of our hearts to drift, we can so easily be persuaded to go back and sit again. This is why discipleship is so very vital in the life of a new believer, and why I submit that this area of giving is absolutely crucial to experiencing that break with the old patterns of life in order to follow Jesus as Lord and King. This is what I wrote and presented at this point of my message that Sunday morning:

Giving is a consistent proclamation to our own hearts that neither self nor stuff is or will be supreme.

Giving is a consistent proclamation to our own hearts that neither self nor stuff is or will be supreme.

The truth is, giving (specifically speaking about consistent financial giving to the local church here) is a deeply spiritual issue. Our hearts are so easily divided, and we are so easily blinded to the double-hearted-ness that likes to creep in. This makes tithing a discipleship issue primarily, as well as a matter of obedience. Consider these reasons:

First, financial giving conditions our hearts, as does other forms of spiritual discipline. Every time I tithe I am proclaiming something that my sin-sick, self-centered heart desperately needs to hear: “Money, stuff, and selfish ambition are not supreme in my heart. Materialism will not be the condition of my heart. Nor can it become my hope. I must not begin to look to anything material to be life-giving. My treasure is not found in this world. My greatest need is not found in this world. God is good, and he is enough.”

Our hearts need to hear that. They need to be disciplined in that way. But often we get that backwards. We need the things we believe we need (or better yet, feel entitled to), and we will give when we have enough left over to give. Yet, as we all know, if that is our attitude, no matter how much more we bring in, we will never have enough left over to give. This is idolatry, plain and simple. And it conditions our hearts to embrace–and justify–that idolatry. And it renders contentment to be a virtual impossibility within our hearts. This makes tithing (routine sacrificial financial giving) a spiritual issue, not just a means issue. We are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus in this matter, our level of income notwithstanding. This teaches us to trust. It teaches us to be dependent. It teaches us to be content. It teaches us to worship the only object worthy of it–Jesus. And it weeds out other unworthy objects constantly vying for our attention.

Second, Jesus is King! Part of our allegiance to him as the rightful King is shown in our giving. We give because our King has commanded us to. And we give because our King has given so graciously first. We give because we are captivated by his generosity and want to reflect the heart of our King. But we also give because we desire to express his worth and his worthiness in all aspects of our lives! And the area of financial giving absolutely reflects the worth that our King and his Kingdom are ascribed in our hearts. Consider this question:

Can we truly proclaim that Jesus is King while at the same time not participate in consistent giving, or give only what is marginal or cost-less?

Third…our joy in giving is in part realized in the way that God multiplies that giving through the advancement of his Kingdom all around the world! We get to be a part of that! But if you are not giving consistently, our [church’s] participation in that work, and therefore that joy, can be hindered. More often than not, it can be replaced with the burden of caring for more stuff–and often the multiplied burden of being shackled by more debt. Remember that the one body is made up of many parts, and the vitality and health of each part has a profound impact on the vitality and health of the whole body.

To that third point, God has not, does not, and will not ever need anything that we have to give. We do not give because he needs it to complete his mission. God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). He is utterly sufficient in himself, and completely without need of any kind. Giving is not about fulfilling God’s need (or even the church’s need), but about him producing a work in us that we need.

Giving is not about fulfilling God’s need, but about him producing a work in us that we need.

Do you understand this connection between giving and discipleship? Does your giving reflect your (true) identity as a disciple, or follower of Christ? How is your giving, or your lack of giving shaping your own heart?

Let me close with this summary: When we rise to follow Jesus, it is life changing–necessarily so. It changes the focus, passion, and agenda of our lives. Period. And that will be reflected in how we view and approach our finances. We cannot choose to rise to follow Jesus, yet remain seated in old patters concerning our finances. And if we find ourselves striving for a both/and in that respect, then something is wrong and we need to invite the Spirit to help us address it on a heart level.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: