Being a missionary, I have seen some extravagant displays of generosity over the years. We’ve had churches of all sizes give thousands of dollars in offerings to our ministry. We’ve had individuals pledge monthly support that we knew was a truly sacrificial amount. We’ve had people press cash into our hands with tears in their eyes as they respond to the Spirit’s leading to give, and we’ve seen the Lord abundantly bless and multiply what has been given as we labor to make His name known among the nations. Seeing people step out in faith and obedience to give will never cease to move me.
Why does giving to missions matter? Why isn’t prayer enough? I am reminded of King David in 1 Chronicles 21 when he is building an altar to sacrifice to the Lord after committing a sin that led to 70,000 people dying in a plague. David was guilty of sinning against the Lord, but the people of Israel were paying the price for his sin. He called upon God to have mercy on His people, and God instructed David to go build an altar on the threshing floor belonging to Araunah the Jebusite. When David went to do this, Araunah generously offered to give the land and the animals for the sacrifice to David. David replied, “I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” (vs. 24) Following David’s sacrifice and repentance, the plague ceased and the Israelites were spared.
There’s something wrong with the fact that it’s been over 2,000 years since Jesus walked this earth and yet there are billions of people who remain without access to the Good News. We can’t live with the incorrect belief that the sin, darkness, and death in those people groups has nothing to do with us. On the contrary, they are paying a steep price for our neglect of the Great Commission. Like David and the Israelites, the plague of sin and death will only relent when we as God’s people decide to repent and make a sacrificial offering to the Lord- an offering that costs us something.
The reality is, God can bring salvation to people with or without our money. There is no power in the money itself to change a soul, the power is in our sacrifice, in the posture of our hearts shifting from desiring control to choosing surrender. When we give sacrificially, the Lord not only blesses and uses our financial gift for the cause of the Kingdom being advanced, but we are changed to more accurately reflect the Father’s heart for the world. We learn that every resource we have access to is not ours to own, but to steward. When we steward what we’ve been given with eternity in mind, eternity for others is changed.
Living in Southeast Asia for seven years has given me a much different perspective on our American culture. While I grew up being taught to celebrate individualism, capitalism, and the American dream, our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are embracing community, cooperative living, and sacrifice. I love the freedom I have as an American, but I wonder if somehow that freedom to pursue our individual happiness has also created a freedom from the obligation to our brothers and sisters around the world in need of both spiritual and physical help. I see the command of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” lived out by my brothers and sisters here in Asia in a very real, beautiful way. Though they don’t have much to give, they give freely at every opportunity. Generosity here often opens doors to relationship that lead to the Gospel being shared with the unreached. The local believers I know understand that refusing to be generous is a refusal of Christ. Jesus stated very clearly in Matthew 25 that “when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” (v. 45)
When you have the opportunity to give to missions, it is an invitation into the kind of sacrificial life that Christ calls us to- one where we consider others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), share each other’s burdens (Ga. 6:2), and show our love through our actions (1 John 3:18). We are admonished to become like Christ in our attitude who:
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8)
Jesus’s life epitomizes sacrificial giving. He gave up everything including his own life in order that we might have access to the restoring power of salvation through grace alone. If Jesus lived like this, and we are called to live like Jesus, isn’t it the very least we can do to live a bit less comfortably so that people can be given access to the same salvation that we have received? The unreached will remain so if we are unwilling to release the resources God has given us as a sacrificial offering to Him for the salvation of others.
I want to challenge you today, take a careful look at your finances and prayerfully surrender them to the Lord. Ask Him if there is any area where He is calling you to choose compassion over comfort, sacrifice over security. Find a missionary to support or a missions project to give to, and give in accordance with what will truly be sacrificial for you. May the desire of David to not give an offering that cost him nothing challenge us to do the same- to give so much that it costs us greatly. We are the undeserving recipients of the most sacrificial gift ever given; Christ is calling us to both live in and live out that sacrifice for the sake of the nations and the glory of God.
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