Part 1 – Satan’s Strategy for Getting
Are you aware of Satan’s deception regarding giving and receiving? Here are six of his unscriptural ploys.
SOME months ago while I was visiting Mexico on a business trip, my two hosts insisted on taking me to see Mexico City. After a full day of work, we drove for more than an hour to the beautiful city of almost 14 million people.
Before we arrived, night had fallen, and my hosts explained it was important that I see Mexico City “from the top.” They suggested we go to Mexico’s tallest building where we could see the city lights from a 32-story perspective.
On our way to the skyscraper, we made a quick stop at a famous church built in memory of Francis of Assisi. Even though close to 1,000 people were worshiping in the church, my hosts insisted that I look at the murals, for which the church is famous. I was awed as I viewed at least 10 enormous paintings hung around the building depicting Francis’ life.
To the Mexican people, Francis of Assisi represents just the opposite of what the materialistic world offers them today. His well-known prayer sums up the spirit of this man:
O divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
As we left the church and continued our journey to Mexico’s tallest building, my mind continued to play back Francis prayer. Then, as my hosts and I stood atop the tall structure looking at Mexico’s vast expanse of lights, one of them said quietly, “It was while standing here over-looking my city that God called me to help take His gospel to every person in my country. I gave Him my life, asking Him to use me in any way He saw fit.”
Within a 30-minute time span, I had encountered two examples of a greatly misunderstood biblical principle – the principle of giving and receiving. Francis of Assisi prayed that he would seek to give of himself rather than to take from others. My host gave his life to help others find salvation in Christ.
In our fast-moving automated society, “giving” has become a stock term familiar in Christian circles. It has become identified solely with money and, by and large, has a bad reputation. The reason? Many Christians simply don’t understand the scriptural basis for giving and consequently are locked into practicing “getting” principles that feed their frustrations and starve them of fulfillment. And it’s no wonder. The spiritual adversary of our souls – Satan – has enlisted a host of unscriptural ploys to paralyze believers’ roles in God’s plan for giving and receiving.
From the beginning, God implemented a dynamic plan of giving. The first classic example of this system is found in Genesis 1. Most people think this chapter deals with creation alone. But if you look closer, the chapter is packed with the very expression of God giving of Himself.
When God began to create the heavens and earth, His raw material was a chaotic mass with no shape or form. Then the Spirit of God began to move over the surface of the water. He said, “Let there be light,” and light appeared. “And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
You may be thinking, “That sounds like creation to me. How is this related to giving?” Certainly it is creation, but God gave from His very nature because He created the world from nothingness. God gave from Himself to make Genesis happen.
God’s giving character furthermore is expressed throughout the Scriptures with the greatest example found in John 3:16. Jesus explained giving to Nicodemus by saying, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
God’s plan for man is to give, and it’s not merely a plan for a select group of people who are “spiritual” or for those who have been blessed with material wealth. Giving is fundamental to experiencing all God has in store for His children. But unfortunately, a majority of Christians follow God’s plan for giving in a rather haphazard fashion, and oftentimes their giving is associated only with their ability to give financially.
To fully comprehend God’s vital plan of giving, it is first necessary to understand the enemy’s counter plan: Satan’s strategy for getting.
Since the day God removed Satan from heaven, our enemy has endeavored to turn our needs to greed.
First, in Satan’s economy, everything is relative in order to meet the “greed” objective. He stimulates this kind of thinking: “If it’s good to do it this way today – great. But tomorrow, if I need to change my plan to meet my desires, I’ll do it.”
Second, Satan’s underlying rules are built on the basis of temporal reality – whatever appears on the surface to be true is true.
Satan uses the changing circumstances in our temporal setting to distort reality.
This is especially true in our age of “new” morals. Many people adhere to unbiblical moral codes – and consider them ethical – simply because “times have changed.” Satan sabotages people into believing they can change their moral practices to fit a time span.
Third, and probably the strongest base for Satan’s treacherous plan, is the exaggerated importance he causes people to place on what they see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Satan’s bottom-line goal is to take our minds off the things of God, and he’ll use whatever he can to accomplish this.
Thus, our adversary has made excellent use of innocent marketing phrases like:
“If it feels good, do it,” “You deserve the best” and “Go ahead, enjoy yourself.” This technique causes people to focus on themselves. Selfish attitudes and competitive spirits develop as people endeavor to outdo one another materialistically.
Four principles seem to characterize Satan’s plan for getting.
1. God helps those who help themselves.
As I’ve taught biblical giving principles, I’ve been amazed to learn that many people believe this statement is from the Scriptures. It isn’t. Inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin first coined the phrase. Satan takes full advantage of the thought and has planted the idea in people’s minds that they must help out God with situations they face. People have the tendency to think, “I’ll work hard enough, then I won’t need to bother God.” With this mindset, the adversary has people where he wants them – depending on their own efforts instead of the Lord!
2. Material prosperity equals happiness.
“If you can get just a little more, you’ll be happy,” Satan lies. One of the saddest stories I’ve heard is about a well-known breakfast cereal maker whose wife wanted him to become a Christian. He put her off with the excuse that he would ask the Lord into his life after he made his first million dollars. He earned his first million and made the same promise with each successive million. Finally, he committed suicide and left a note that read, “I’ve gained everything the world has to offer, but nothing has satisfied my need.”
3. You are number one. Look out for yourself.
“Watch out,” Satan warns. “Someone may take advantage of you. You’ve got to fight to protect yourself.” This attitude tends to make a person more greedy – exactly what Satan wants.
4. Get what you can while you can.
Satan’s philosophy results in this mindset: Work hard and don’t give your possessions or money away. You’ll never be younger. Save and someday you can spend it. In other words, hoard all you can. (Of course, Satan wouldn’t use the word “hoard.” It’s much too negative!)
Satan uses these 4 principles daily to get your attention. He has become a master in using the media, education and the entertainment field to proclaim his worldly philosophies. After constantly being bombarded with this type of thinking, people begin to adopt it as part of their life-styles. The results are dangerous. For the non-Christian, Satan’s plan feeds his selfish desires, and for the Christian, the plan short-circuits God’s ability to provide according to His riches.
Satan causes us to confuse needs with desires. What a person needs he often doesn’t get, and what he thinks he needs he automatically purchases. Thus, feelings alone govern his decisions.
A few years ago, I learned of a man in his mid-70’s who was the heir to one of the greatest fortunes in America. Although worth millions of dollars, the man lived alone on a massive estate. Guarded by a trained security force, he never left his secure environment fearing someone would kill or kidnap him. He lived a miserable existence. What a contrast to Jesus’ offer in John 10:10 to give life abundantly to all who will trust Him.
But Satan has used man’s greed – his insatiable desire to accumulate money and possessions – and selfishness – his obsession to look out only for himself – to put the world in bondage. This limits us from experiencing God’s supply and leads to poverty, defeat and fear.
God Has a Better Plan
In direct opposition to Satan’s plan for getting, God has a plan for giving that follows these rules:
1. God’s plan is timeless.
When God defines a plan, He is committed to seeing its completion. God doesn’t play games with us as Satan does. What God says in His Word is as true today as the day He spoke it to men of old. Every one of the more than 600 Bible passages that refer to giving is relevant today.
2. God’s plan is built on eternal truths.
God’s definition of reality is based on His character and His eternal plan. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 Paul wrote, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
3. God’s plan is based on agape love.
The world’s definition of love is based on sensual response that pleases the ego. God, however, loves us unconditionally. His love for us and His resulting belief in us are the same, despite the circumstances. God’s love wants to meet our needs. God wants to give us hope, encouragement, material blessings, peace, joy and happiness.
4. God’s plan is built on a spirit of unity and peace.
Jesus Christ is the greatest exemplification of this. Through God’s gift of His Son, we can be reconciled and have peace with the Father.
Is your current perspective on giving and receiving consistent with the adversary’s game plan or that of your heavenly Father?
If you’ve fallen prey to the enemy and are wondering how you can free yourself from his game plan, begin to implement God’s giving principles. Here are a few suggestions:
First, as you watch television, listen to the radio and look at billboards, become aware of how Satan is duping you through the media. Realize that you don’t have to respond to the enemy’s ploys that encourage greed.
Examine your life-style. Do you find that most of your giving is done out of duty rather than joy? Do you enjoy hoarding your time, talents and possessions more than giving these commodities away?
As you notice the areas of your life colored by Satan’s deception, confess them to the Lord and claim His forgiveness according to 1 John 1:9. Ask God to replace your “getting” spirit with one that desires to give. Walk by faith and become sensitive to God’s leading as He directs you to give to certain needs.
Finally, look for ways to give yourself to someone else. After you’ve read this article, don’t do anything until you’ve given something to another person. Make a phone call to encourage a friend, give your spouse a hug or take some cookies to a neighbor.
God in His love and concern for you has provided an adventurous plan of giving that allows victorious living as you trust Him to empower you with His Holy Spirit and ask Him to allow you to be a channel in giving His wealth away to others. If by faith you choose to implement God’s plan for giving, your life will yield confidence, joy, peace and the ability to give in a way you never thought possible.
Part 2 – God’s Dynamic Plan for Giving
You may have more to give than you realize. God’s program calls for circulating your time and talents as well as your possessions.
A FEW years ago I heard the story of a young couple who had saved $900 toward a down payment on a house. After both the husband and wife spent a time alone in prayer, each came to an identical conclusion — they would use the money to fulfill a faith promise they had made to a missions organization. They paid their faith promise and trusted God to meet their financial need if He wanted them to own a house.
A week later the couple received a phone call from relatives who were particularly interested in knowing if the couple had made the down payment. The couple explained what they had done, and after a long pause, the couple’s relatives joyfully told them they had saved $1,800 to help with the house payment.
This couple experienced not only God’s meeting their needs, but also His abundant blessings. God wants to bless you in the same way. But before you can begin to fully experience His blessings, it is important to understand and practice the basic principles of giving.
1. God, our Father, owns an infinite supply of everything that I, or anyone, could ever need, want or desire.
Although most Christians will acknowledge this principle as true, they are not experiencing its reality in their lives. Somehow, God doesn’t seem able to release enough to them. But Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” This fact is eternal and unchanging.
2. God thoroughly enjoys circulating His wealth and resources, and He wants us to share in this pleasure.
A well-known verse, 2 Corinthians 9:7, says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” The Greek word translated “cheerful” is “hilaros”, from which we get the word “hilarious.” Supernatural, Spirit-directed giving is giving with anticipation, excitement, joy, praise – and even laughter. A hilarious giver has discovered the truth of Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
3. God is pleased when His children ask for and then diligently seek some of their inheritance so that they can give to others.
Wealth, in its true sense, comes in three forms: time, talents and possessions. Of the three, only the latter gives the illusion that it can be stored. Just as God has given us abilities to preach, teach, encourage or administrate – which we can use only while we are alive – so He wants us to use the resources of time and money while we are still living. God desires all to be maximized here on earth as a contribution to the fulfillment of His purpose – that all may have a chance to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, most people do not realize this principle is true concerning finances. God planned for all of His wealth to be utilized by His children, and He has sufficient wealth to meet all our needs.
In fact, everything that God owns legally belongs to His children. The Bible tells us that God’s wealth is our inheritance. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”
So along with the privilege of legally owning God’s wealth, we also have the responsibility of being good stewards of what He has given us. A steward is one put in charge of the affairs of a large household or estate to manage the accounts and property for another person. An effective steward recognizes the value of the wealth that is put in his care. He manages in a way that brings glory and honor to the owner and maximizes the use of the resources.
We see this responsibility illustrated in the parable of the stewards in Matthew 25:14-29. A man gave his slaves a certain number of talents (one talent equals about $1,000) and then went on a journey. When he returned, he called his slaves together to see what they had done with the money he entrusted to them. Those who were faithful in investing and multiplying their finances received even more. The unfaithful slave – the one who hoarded his money – lost all that he had.
God doesn’t want His children to be like the unfaithful slave. Rather than hoard what little we have on earth, God desires for us to claim our inheritance, depending on Him to meet not only our needs and desires, but also the needs and desires of others. As we are faithful to do this, He will likewise bestow additional blessings.
4. If we’ve sown according to God’s principles, we will reap and we will have an abundance to help others and to meet our own needs.
We were created in the context of a giving universe. The world’s extreme emphasis on receiving, however, is in direct contradiction to this principle. No wonder that, when man chooses a contradiction to God’s design, he suffers the consequences: greed, competitiveness, gross shortages, and imbalances of wealth distribution and security.
Needs should trigger giving.
God has called us to give, even as He gave that which was most precious to Him – His Son. Rather than causing insecurity and worry, giving will allow us to experience God’s goodness.
Again and again we find evidence of this in Scripture: “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”1
According to 2 Corinthians 9:6, 10-11, what you sow you shall reap, and you shall reap more than you sow. This principle works both positively and negatively. If you sow discord and strife, you will reap more discord and strife. If you sow happiness and joy, you will reap more happiness and joy.
One warning: One should not give in order to get something in return. God desires us to give so that we will meet needs and bring glory to Him.
Now, you may be asking, “What steps can I take to begin to implement God’s giving principles?” Consider these suggestions:
1. Give yourself and all of your possessions to God. Romans 12:1-2 admonishes us to present ourselves to the Lord as living and holy sacrifices. In 2 Corinthians 8:5 we are told that the Christians in the churches of Macedonia first gave themselves to God; then they liberally shared their wealth with others. When we do the same, we are recognizing that everything has been created by God and belongs to Him.
2. Recognize that God is your total and final supplier of everything you need. “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”2
3. Count on God to empower and control you by faith. “Be filled with the Spirit.”3
4. Begin to give according to His direction.
One obvious question is, “Where should I invest my resources – including my time, my skills and special talents, my possessions and my money?”
First, you must meet your financial obligations (i.e., bills you need to pay).
Second, you must help meet the needs of the family of believers – your church. Be available to give whatever you can to edify the church.
Third, you should concentrate your giving toward helping nonbelievers see the life-changing power of Jesus Christ and come to know Him personally as their Lord and Savior. For example, you might invite people for dinner so that they may see the positive difference Christ has made in your life. Give them Christian books to read. Make yourself available to do whatever the Lord impresses you to do to help reach those around you for Christ. Buy and give out gospel booklets.
Next, you should give of your time, your prayers and other resources to Christian organizations or causes that are consistent with your life objectives. It is vital that God’s people maintain God’s work.
1. Prov. 3:9-10; 2. Phil. 4:19; 3. Eph. 5:18
Larry O’Nan with Priscilla Jaenicke