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When You Give (7): Three Characteristics of an Extravagant Giver

When You Give: Three Characteristics of an Extravagant Giver

Are you an extravagant giver? You might not think so … until you see these three characteristics of an extravagant giver.

We tend to think of extravagant giving as giving a large amount. While this can be true of an extravagant gift, extravagant giving isn’t only giving a large amount. There are three defining characteristics that might categorize your giving as “extravagant”—even though you may not be giving what you consider to be a large amount.

The New Testament contains many powerful examples of believers who gave extravagantly. However, as we tend to do with other passages of the Bible, we gloss over them without allowing them to influence our lives. We tend to dismiss these examples of extravagant giving as something characteristic of only the early church — something barely relevant, if at all, to our lives in modern society. How tragic!

As Jay Link, President of Stewardship Ministries, writes in An Extravagant Giver, there are three important characteristics seen in the extravagant giving stories in the New Testament—three characteristics that are relevant to you and me today. [1]

1. Extravagant Giving Will Exceed What is Expected

Example: Macedonian Believers

One example of extravagant giving in the New Testament is when the poverty-stricken Macedonian believers supported the poor in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul describes their giving:

“…in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that … they begged us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected…”

The Macedonian believers gave so extravagantly that it surprised Paul. They gave more than anyone expected of them.

Example: Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus, the tax collector in Luke 19:1-10, had become wealthy by stealing from others. When he met Jesus, it changed him so dramatically that he decided voluntarily to repay all that he had stolen. The law required him to repay the amount stolen plus an additional 20%. But Zacchaeus chose to return four times what he had stolen. This was over three times more than the law required! Now this was extravagant giving! People didn’t expect any repayment from Zacchaeus, and certainly not such an extravagant amount.

And that’s not all! Zacchaeus told Jesus he was going to give half of everything he had to the poor! When Zacchaeus was converted, he surrendered everything, including all that he possessed.

Example: Jerusalem Believers

During the feast of Pentecost, many people were saved. After the feast, they didn’t go home but instead stayed in Jerusalem in order to grow in their faith. They eventually exhausted their supplies. Affluent believers in the church in Jerusalem saw the need and “began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all….” (Acts 2:44-45).

Jay Link writes:

How often today do we see believers with a surplus selling their homes, farms or rental properties, liquidating their retirement plans or emptying their savings to help those who have a shortfall? I think we would all agree this kind of wholesale asset liquidation to help others is far beyond what anyone would have expected then or even now. Yet, these affluent believers had opened their protected vaults making available considerable additional resources for the Lord’s use. It was so unexpected that Luke felt compelled to make note of it in his account of the church.

May I ask, have you ever given like this, even once? Have you ever opened up your hidden vault to the Lord and made such an extravagant gift that the recipients were speechless, amazed, overwhelmed and/or stunned by the unexpected size of the gift? Believers in the New Testament model this extravagant giving for us time and time again. In fact, in the lives of these New Testament believers this kind of extravagant giving was not the exception, it was the rule. (Tweet this) [2]

2. Extravagant Giving Will Exceed What is Affordable

Paul described the Macedonian believers’ giving, saying:

“For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave…” (2 Cor. 8:3, NASB).

When you give extravagantly, you give more than you can “afford.” Conventional wisdom, advisors, and maybe even those closest to you may tell you you’re giving too much—that you can’t afford it. But they’re speaking from a worldly, temporal mindset.

There is a reason that in many instances the Bible uses the word “sacrifice” to describe our giving.

2 Samuel 24 tells about a time when King David wanted to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Araunah tried to give David everything that was needed for the sacrifice—the land on which to build the altar, oxen for the burnt offering, ox yokes for the wood … everything. But David refused to accept Araunah’s offer. Why? David said,

“I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24).

We cannot separate sacrifice from the Biblical principle of giving.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes about giving more than what is affordable:

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries and amusement, etc. is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. (Tweet this) There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditures exclude them.”

3. Extravagant Giving Will Exceed What is Needed

When we give extravagantly, we not only meet a need, our giving exceeds the need.

Example: The Philippians’ Gift to Paul

Paul gives us an example of this. The Philippians sent him a gift to support his ministry. In response, Paul writes:

“I now have plenty and it is more than enough. I am full to overflowing because I received the gifts that you sent from Epaphroditus…” (Philippians 4:18 CEB).

The Philippian believers’s met Paul’s need—and gave so extravagantly that they exceeded the need.

Example: The Good Samaritan

We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37). The Samaritan met the needs of the injured man — which he could have considered quite significant and exceptional compared to the unwillingness of others. However, he went beyond merely meeting the man’s needs.

The Message says that when the Samaritan “saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him.” He had compassion on the man. He bandaged his wounds, lifted the man on his donkey, took him to an inn, and gave him additional care once there. He had met the need! Could he not have stopped there?

But the Samaritan went even further above and beyond the call of duty. He gave the innkeeper funds to take good care of the injured man’s future needs while he recovered. And then he said, “If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.” (v. 35, MSG). He essentially told the innkeeper, “No matter the cost, take care of this man. There is no limit. If properly taking care of this man costs more than I’ve given you, I will pay when I return.”

When have you found a need, and not just met it, you exceeded it?

Jay Link makes an important distinction when it comes to giving extravagantly beyond the need:

You see in this extravagant giving characteristic it is not the size of the gift that makes it extravagant, it is the size of the gift relative to the size of the need that makes it extravagant. [3]

Give God Unrestricted Access

Did reading these Biblical examples make you want to give extravagantly? To become an extravagant giver, you must give God unrestricted access to everything you own. As Jay Link says, “If we don’t make God Lord of all, He will never be Lord at all.” (Tweet this)

Until giving includes our most hidden and precious treasures, we will not experience the personal life-transformation that comes from this extravagant giving. ~ Jay Link [4]

The personal transformation that comes from extravagant giving helps us take hold of what is truly life.

Give Extravagantly and Take Hold of What is Truly Life

You may feel that you aren’t wealthy enough to give extravagantly. But most of us are rich by many standards. We’re not starving. We have a roof over our head. We have more than $2 a day to live on. As I shared in another post:

  • Nearly half the world’s population, 2.8 billion people, survive on less than $2 a day
  • About 20 percent of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people, live on less than $1 a day

What we may spend during a visit to Starbucks or McDonalds is all that someone else has to live on for an entire week. By comparison, you and I are rich!

2 Timothy 6:17-19 says something important to those who are “rich” like you and me,

“Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, MSG)

When you are extravagantly generous, you store up treasure for yourself “as a good foundation for the future” … and you “take hold of life that is real” (v. 19, ESV and HCSB).

Tweetables

  • For New Testament believers, extravagant giving was not the exception, it was the rule. > Tweet
  • If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. ~ C.S. Lewis > Tweet
  • If we don’t make God Lord of all, He will never be Lord at all.” ~ Jay Link > Tweet
  • “Quit being … so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:17 > Tweet
  • “Go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage… ” ~ 1 Timothy 6:17 > Tweet
  • “Do good … be rich in helping others … be extravagantly generous.” ~ 1 Tim. 6: 18 > Tweet

Questions:

  • Have you given more than what was expected? Have you given such an extravagant gift that the recipients were speechless and overwhelmed by the unexpected size of the gift?
  • Does your current giving “pinch or hamper” you at all? Are you sacrificing something you really need for yourself?
  • Are you aware of a need that someone has? How could you give to not only meet the need but exceed it?
  • Have you made God Lord of all, even Lord of your possessions, bank accounts, and expenditures?

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

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[1] Link, Jay. (2013, March 19). An Extravagant Giver. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://stewardshipministries.org

[2] Link. An Extravagant Giver

[3] Link. An Extravagant Giver

[4] Link. An Extravagant Giver

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Shades of Grace will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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