Matel Dawson, Jr. is an ordinary man who accomplished something extraordinary. At 76, he still worked for Ford Motor Company — the company that hired him out of high school — operating a forklift. It is unusual to work for one company for more than 57 years. Yet even more remarkably, over six years beginning in 1991, Dawson gave away more than $800,000 to colleges, churches and charities — all from money gained, saved and invested from his $23 an hour job. How? He always saved something — even when making only $7.50 a week. And he invested wisely. Why did he do it? “Somebody had to help me one day. Why shouldn’t I return that help to someone else?”
That same principle applies even more to believers in Christ. We give to God not to curry favor from Him, but because we have been recipients of such magnificent gifts from Him in our salvation. But God desires more than our money. He longs for us to give with gratitude and joy. We will cultivate attitudes of the heart that result in joyful giving we submit ourselves to biblical principles of giving. What are some of these?
The giver receives more than the receiver. It really is true (should we doubt it when it is in Scripture, and Jesus Himself said it? Acts 20:35). The recipient may have a physical need met by the gift, but the donor has a spiritual need fulfilled through the giving. In giving we lean the joy of self-sacrifice. We learn that there is a satisfaction to be found in putting others ahead of self.
You don’t have to be wealthy to give. Those in poverty — even in deep poverty can abound in giving, as the Philippians demonstrated (2 Cor. 8:1ff). As you might well surmise, it is not the amount which denotes the abundance of their gift (2 Cor. 8:2), but in the amount of the sacrifice involved in the giving.
When hard times come, it is still possible to give. The churches in Macedonia did. They were poor to begin with, and when persecution for their faith arrived and they began to lose their jobs, their poverty only deepened. Yet they continued to give. Lavishly. The tendency is to give to God out of the meager leftovers — and after the tax bill or the orthodontist’s bill or the unexpected car repair arises. But God gets the first checks of the month, not the last (1 Cor. 16:2). He receives the first fruits of our crop, when we cannot yet see how we will meet our obligations. Give freely, trusting that He will meet the needs (and in our culture, we could use a serious reconsideration of the definition of “need”) of our day (Phil. 4:12, 19).
You or I may not be able to give with the quantity of a Matel Dawson. But we can give with a liberal heart of generosity. We can give with an attitude of giving that reflects the giving heart of God.
Chuck Swindoll was exactly right when he wrote, “How and why we give is of far greater significance to God than what we give. Attitude and motive are always more important than amount. Furthermore, once a person cultivates a taste for grace in giving, the amount becomes virtually immaterial.…Giving at that point becomes wonderfully addictive.” [Grace Awakening.]