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August 13, 2007

“GIVE”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38)

How do you normally respond when you are greeted enthusiastically with a smile and encouraging words? What message is communicated by such a greeting, even if it is from a stranger or someone you hardly know? It is really not the words that communicate the message, but it is the attitude or spirit of the greeting that makes all the difference. Such a greeting communicates acceptance, appreciation, and love. It demonstrates an open spirit toward the other person and a lack of self-centeredness. The person who gives such a greeting is not thinking of himself, but is focused on the value of the other person. Such a greeting gives energy to the other person and the greeter experiences the joy of giving to others.

This is a present application of what Jesus meant when He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). If we take up our “cross daily” and reckon ourselves “dead to sin” [self-centeredness] “but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” by giving of ourselves to God and to others, we will experience the “life” Jesus promised. Remember “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) and one way to obey the command “Give” is to be a messenger of life and grace by what we say. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). 

The command “Give” operates according to a key law of the kingdom of God: the law of sowing and reaping. The Apostle Paul summed it up this way, “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Jesus illustrated this law in the parable of the sower and the seed with respect to the “word of the kingdom” (see Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23) and other parables emphasizing that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of growth and multiplication. In fact, Jesus said of the parable of the sower and the seed that unless you understand the law and truth within this parable, you will not understand any of the other parables. “An he said unto them [His disciples], Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13).

Inherent within the law of sowing and reaping are certain characteristics or principles that help us understand the command “Give” and its associated promises. First, a seed produces its own kind. If you plant corn you will get a corn stalk with 1-3 ears of corn on each stalk that can be harvested. If you plant soybeans, you do not get corn. If you plant an apple seed, you do not get an orange tree. God established that you reap of the same kind as you sow. 

Second, you reap in a different season than when you sow. Corn is planted in April or in the beginning of May, but the new ears of corn are not harvested until September or October. The law of sowing and reaping involves time, and the harvest will only come after the time for maturity has passed.

Third, you reap more than you sow. One or two kernels of corn produce a stalk of corn that will bear one, two, maybe three ears of corn. The more ears on a stalk of corn the fewer kernels will be on each ear. The number of kernels per ear can vary from 500 to about 1,200, but a typical ear would have 800 kernels. Jesus clearly said that the fruit or harvest is always much greater than the seed sown. “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).

When considering the law of sowing and reaping, I am reminded of the often quoted words of Charles Reader: “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

Understanding the law of sowing and reaping helps us grasp the tremendous power and potential in Jesus’ command “Give.” “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” With respect to relationships, if you give of yourself and minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of others, you will be blessed emotionally and spiritually. The Apostle Paul exhorted the elders of the church in Ephesus in this way by recounting the words of Jesus, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

The command “Give” also has material blessings and promises associated with it. In fact, the command is in the context of receiving back grain that is “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” the container holding it. Jesus also said, “shall men give into your bosom” indicating that you will be blessed through others in the same manner that you bless or give to them. If you minister to the financial needs of others, the promise associated with the command is that you will be blessed financially. It will be in a different season of time, but the promise is that the blessing will be greater than the giving.

BUT I MUST emphasize that Satan’s goal is to deceive and distort God’s Word. The command “Give” and the associated promises do not mean that we should “give to get” or have the attitude that “if I give, I expect God to bless me.” Who is the focus of such a mindset and attitude? It is SELF. Satan will always try to tempt one to exalt and satisfy self, and he will even use God’s Word to deceive people into believing that it is God’s will to believe and act with self-centered motivation. If Satan used Scripture to tempt Jesus in this way (see Matthew 4:4-7), we can expect him try to distort Scripture to deceive and tempt us. But just as Jesus refuted Satan with the Scriptures, so can we. All the Scriptures mentioned here, as well as others, make it clear that God looks at the motives of the heart and He will not bless pride, selfishness, greed, and covetousness, even if we give to others!

James makes it very clear that God does not bless actions or even prayers motivated by lust, envy, and pride, but that He does bless those who humble themselves and give to the needs of others.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:1-10)

Paul also said with respect to giving that we are to give out of beneficence or bounty, not out of covetousness.

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:5-7)

Yes, Jesus’ command is not just to be a giver; it is to be a cheerful giver who is motivated by love for God and for others. Giving follows love, “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” (John 3:16) and joy follows giving, “Looking unto Jesus …; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Next time we will consider a command of Jesus that is an opposite of giving: “Judge not” (Luke 6:37).

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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