Jesus made a distinction between the way He gives and the way the world gives. In John 14:27, when referring to the Holy Spirit, he says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” I want to use this article to describe the manner in which the world gives, particularly in reference to our relationships with others.
In my last two articles I have emphasized that each of us attempts to control the world around us, including our relationships, to have positive feelings and avoid negative ones. This is our worldly, fleshly nature. Thus, when discussing how the world gives it only makes sense that “giving” is due to our having positive emotions or stopping negative feelings when doing so. In this sense, giving is a selfish act. Please remember, I am not making a value judgment, only stating facts. I am in no way telling you not to give, only recognize what the Bible emphasizes: Not one of us is righteous. Therefore, none of us can come close to the perfection needed to exist in the presence of a perfect God. We require “Grace” to have eternal life with God.
I have referred to those individuals who experience positive feelings by giving in relationships as Givers, or Type-G individuals. In this case “G” does not mean they are “Good” people (cf., my last article discussing only God is good), it only describes the motives for the worldly behavior of these individuals. Therefore, when I describe givers, I am using the term “give” in the worldly sense. There are predictable patterns of behavior shown by givers, some of which people generally find positive and some that are generally viewed negatively.
Givers have two primary motives: They want to be seen by others as being a good person and never want to be viewed as a bad person. In their earlier years, this means that givers attempt to please and avoid displeasing everyone. Obviously, this is not always possible to do. For those who continue to follow this basic rule as adults, they are viewed as very agreeable people who find it virtually impossible to say “no” to others. Unfortunately, they pay a heavy price in relation to internal turmoil. Other givers develop rules that define for them what it means to be a good person and a bad person. These givers are often viewed as being very strong-willed, but uncompromising, individuals. By following their rules, they find it possible to displease others and still maintain their self-image of being a good person.
Not surprisingly, Givers who believe they are Christians usually turn toward their particular denomination and/or the Bible to develop the rules used to define being a good person. They truly attempt to live their lives by those rules, experiencing guilt when they fail to measure up. In this case it is turning off the guilt that leads to their behavior and is based on their worldly nature. I am in no way saying that is not reasonable or acceptable, only that they are behaving in their natural, human fashion. These individuals are typically those that work a great deal and look for little in return. They often fail to get credit for everything they do. They do not feel comfortable being the center of attention. If they commit to doing something, they do their best to do it.
The take away message I hope those reading this article is simple: Every human, including givers, is a worldly, corrupt creature and the only manner one can have eternal life with God is though faith in Jesus Christ. For grace to exist, the relationship with Christ must be more important than any other relationship. Grace is the aspect that separates Christianity from all other religions.
Prior to discussing a particular giver in the Bible, let’s first look at what this take away message means in relation to what Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount. I have heard some say that Christ brought a new message and new requirements during His physical existence in the world. I sharply disagree with this conclusion. He starts the Sermon by clearly saying He did not come to negate the law, but to complete it. If someone could complete the law, then they are righteous on the basis of their behavior and motivations for those behaviors. By being righteous, that individual has earned the right to exist in the presence of a perfect God for eternity. Jesus then goes on to discuss that the law goes beyond one’s behavior, but at its core has to do with a person’s motivation in his or her heart. He says that the law demands not only that we not murder, but we cannot have resentment and still be righteous. He says that we should not only avoid adultery, but we also have to avoid any lust if we are to be righteous. In his discourse I do not believe that Jesus was telling us as humans what we are expected to do, I believe He is telling us why we are incapable of fulfilling the law based on the behavior we show in the world. He is explaining why we need to have faith in Him as the only one who could complete the full demands of the Mosaic Laws if we can have an eternity with God.
One of the most apparent givers in the Bible is the apostle Paul. Notice that he always followed rules that defined being a good person. Initially, he persecuted the Church. It is clear that he truly believed that he was doing the Lord God’s will since he viewed Christians as misleading God’s people. I hope you can see that the behavior of a giver may not necessarily be consistent with God’s will and that givers can commit some pretty nasty actions when their rules are consistent with those actions.
Paul then had his conversion and later would openly admit he was wrong in those actions. Please note that givers can take responsibility for their own behavior; they can change that behavior if new rules defining what it means to be a good and not a bad person are learned. Even though Paul clearly claimed that he followed the rules for a Pharisee to the fullest extent possible, he later admitted he lacked righteousness. It was his faith in Jesus Christ that was credited as righteousness. Paul clearly admitted that his human nature continued to exist despite his being a new creature in Christ. His behavior as a giver continued to be reflected in the things he did. He pointed out how he continued to support himself financially, not wanting to be a drain on anyone. He obviously took issue with those he felt were manipulating the message of grace for their own gain. In doing so he noted all the things he had endured for Christ. I do not see this as his consciously seeking his own glory, but simply explaining why others should not be mislead by those claiming their own glory since he exceeded what they had done. In other words, he was not seeking praise and others less qualified should not seek praise. Only God deserved the glory. However, it certainly comes across sounding like Paul is tooting his own horn. Givers have positive feelings about their accomplishments and want to have the purpose of their work known. However, when doing so they do not want others to see them as self-serving and bragging.
Givers can alienate many people by following their rules, and desiring others to follow those same rules. Over the past 40 years I have heard many a woman take issue with Paul’s “sexist” rules about how men and women should behave in the church. I say this not to say who is right or who is wrong. I say it to point out just how fast a giver can be viewed negatively despite that person believing he or she is being truthful and fair.
In closing, please remember the original intent of the past few articles. It has been to emphasize that we humans are worldly creatures and lack righteousness. We do only what we are capable of doing based on our minds and hearts. Only God is good, thus making us all bad. Our relationship with Christ is the only way we can become righteous. If any one of us truly accepts these points, then we are moving toward accomplishing what Jesus said about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This was an article I did several years ago for Rejoice magazine.