In this final blog on the topic of almsgiving, I want to address the difficult topic of equity in almsgiving and how this godly grace (2 Corinthians 8:1) may be protected from unfair exploitation.
In our first two articles, we clearly established that the grace of almsgiving was not optional for believers. To be like our pattern, Jesus Christ, and like our Heavenly Father, we must be those who have been convinced by the written Word of God, and influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit, to such a degree that this topic is now settled in our hearts. Benevolence to those in need is a personal choice, yes, but, as we already discussed, it is so much more! It is a charis, a grace from God, a divine influence upon our hearts and a liberality that is reflected in our lives.
How then may we be liberal in our almsgiving and not be unfairly exploited? Does the Scripture address this at all? I believe it does.
Let’s look briefly at three safeguards: (1) give out of what you have; (2) equity in almsgiving; and (3) give willingly, not from compulsion.
Safeguard 1: Give out of what you have
2 Corinthians 8:11-12 “…so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”
2 Corinthians 8:13 “For I do not mean that others should be eased, and you burdened…”
The Greek word “thlipsis” translated ‘burdened’ carries the idea that we should not come under undue pressure, be troubled in spirit, or find ourselves in dire straits because of our giving to others.
Acts 11:29-30 “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.”
The Greek word here translated ‘ability’ is defined as having pecuniary means. These believers gave to meet the needs of their brethren out of the financial means they had at the time.
In application then, our financial giving of alms should be according to that which we have, not what we don’t have.
Safeguard 2: Equity in almsgiving
2 Corinthians 8:13-14 “… but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.”
To maintain equity in our almsgiving, we must realize that the tables may turn. Circumstances may change, and those now giving alms may come upon a time when they need to be able to receive themselves.
Safeguard 3: Give willingly, not from compulsion
2 Corinthians 9:7 “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The Amplified Bible Classic version states this same verse like this: “Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, ‘prompt to do it’) giver [whose heart is in his giving].”
2 Corinthians 8:11
“…there was a readiness to desire it….”
This ready desire to give alms is a predisposition, a readiness of mind, zeal, and eagerness to give. It implies volition and purpose. It follows then, that our giving into needs should not be in response to compulsion or pressure, but out of a willingness of mind and a heart influenced by divine love. This readiness delights the heart of the Lord who intensely loves the poor, the needy, the orphan, and the widow. (See Deuteronomy 15:11 & 24:19; Psalm 146:9; Proverbs 31:20; Isaiah 58; 2 Corinthians 8:8-9; Galatians 2:10; and James 1:27).
In conclusion, whether giving toward the need of others as a corporate expression of love (as depicted in the example of the Corinthian church ministering to the needs of the Judean brothers and sisters facing famine), or helping an individual, practicing the grace of almsgiving has great promise of reward. One such promise is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Paul finishes this thought in verse 9 by quoting from Psalm 112, a song of praise that speaks of the great blessings bestowed upon those who honor the LORD, delight greatly in His commandments, and display His goodness and compassion through their deeds of righteousness to those in need. For it written of that one:
He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn (strength) will be exalted with honor.
“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness!” 2 Corinthians 9:10