The 'Secret' of Generous Giving
The Duty and Blessing of Stewardship
September 1, 2008 - Why do so many Christians bristle at messages about giving, while a few give generously—and love it? Are these joyful givers all wealthy? What do they know that others don't? Decision spoke with several faithful BGEA supporters to find out what God has taught them about giving. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy and, in the words of one, the "lovely secret" of their generosity.
by Bob Paulson
Jan Becker never expected to become a "major giver." After all, she wasn't rich. A recent retiree, she had worked most of her life for minimum wage at her family’s old-fashioned department store in southern California. But when she determined to obey God’s leading to sell her house and give away the proceeds for ministry it opened up a world of opportunities.
It started last October, when Becker began to read a book about stewardship. In the past, she had heard plenty of sermons on giving—none of them particularly interesting to her.
"But this book was unlike anything I’d ever put my hands on," she says. "As I began to read, I felt God speaking to me in definite ways."
In order to be sure about what she was learning, she kept a Bible handy to look up the Scriptures discussed in the book, and she also kept a journal of her thoughts. She took the book with her when she visited her grown daughter in Michigan. As she read on Nov. 4, a startling thought went through her mind: Give away your house to God’s ministry.
"I felt shock, fear, greed, selfishness," Becker says. "And I didn’t want to act impulsively; I needed to be sure that this was what God was saying." So she continued to read and pray in the following weeks after she returned to California.
It was not an easy decision. With the economy sagging, she was afraid she would not have enough to live on. Then she remembered the Scripture, "The just will live by faith" (Romans 1:17). On Feb. 6, she took a step of faith, asking her pastor to witness her signature on a "transfer of title" that states in part, "I hereby acknowledge God's ownership of me and all my money and possessions, and everything else I've ever imagined belonged to me."
That day, she told a friend she was putting her house up for sale.
It sold in less than a week, and she purchased a small condominium near her daughter. With the remaining proceeds, Becker began to give. She started with a gift to the Billy Graham Library in honor of her father and grandfather. Other gifts have followed—to many different recipients.
"Now I'm in my little condo here in Michigan, disbursing those things God has asked me to disburse, so that those in affliction and those working in evangelism will be covered," she says.
Her favorite thing is to wake up each morning and pray, "Whom do I get to meet today, Lord? Who are you working with? How can I help?" God has brought opportunities for her to care for hurting people, runaways and others—not only by helping financially but also by talking, listening and praying with them.
"It's my lifestyle," she says. "If I couldn't serve God this way, I would feel lost."
Selling one's house to give to a ministry may be unusual, but Becker’s obedience to God is similar to that of the other givers Decision interviewed. Some, like Carrie Raymond, learned about giving as a child, watching her parents faithfully write checks each month not only to their church but also to BGEA and other ministries.
Others, like Jack Sanford, came to Christ as an adult and gradually realized what the Bible teaches about giving. But both Carrie and Jack know the importance of regular giving, even when economic conditions aren’t ideal.
"This has been a very expensive year for me because of several major, unexpected expenses," Raymond said. "But I'm still in my job, I'm still making the same amount, so I'm determined that I'm not going to change the amount of my giving. It's an area of obedience for me—I just have to do it."
Some people find it easier than others to become a generous giver. For Jack Sanford and his wife, Kim, their children were grown and established when Jack and Kim gave several rental properties to BGEA in order to fund annuities that will help support the work of evangelism.
"We’ve let [our children] know that there probably won’t be much left for them after we’re gone," Jack said. "But we want them to be able to strive, work and plan as we have." He added, "When we found we could give appreciated property to BGEA and get a return, it was such a neat thing to be able to do—to realize an income and yet leave the principal to BGEA. Whatever we muster up during our lifetime will go to support BGEA after we’re gone."
Art Elder, on the other hand, had a tough choice when he began to tithe 10 years ago. Two of his three children were in college, and by his calculations, he couldn’t really afford to tithe. "You think, 'How is this going to work?'" he said. "There's no way—it’s not going to add up. But if you have your heart right, it does."
Darlene Peters agrees. When she was a child, during the Great Depression, her father once placed his last $3 in the offering plate at church. When Darlene’s mother expressed concern, Darlene’s father said, "God gave us that money, and I’m sure He will supply us with more." He did, and when Darlene grew up and married, she and her husband found God just as faithful to provide.
Givers consistently emphasized two points as they talked. First, we are stewards—not owners—of the resources God provides. If it belongs to Him, we must use it as He desires. Second, although we are not to give in order to receive a blessing, God does bless faithful givers.
"We’re in awe of what God has allowed us to do," said Kim Sanford. "It is such a joy and pleasure to give to those who go out with the Gospel and with physical help to hurting people." Jack added, "We feel blessed by it all, and we pray that every dollar we send will be a blessing to someone else."