You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t out-give God.” It sounds good, but is it biblical? Even though the phrase isn’t found in the Bible, it gives us an opportunity to talk about the amazing, life-changing generosity of God.
That quote, “You can’t out-give God”, is what Insight for Living author Steve Johnson calls “bumper sticker theology.” There is a grain of truth there, but there’s so much more to it than that. As Christians, we are called to go beyond the bumper sticker, allowing the reality of God’s grace to change our hearts.
It’s absolutely true that God is the Greatest Giver: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 is the bedrock of our faith. Unfortunately, when it comes to imitating the generosity of God, we always fall short. He does out-give us, every time.
So, does that mean we can skip being generous, because we can’t do it perfectly? Of course not!
Perhaps generous giving seems out of reach for you. You’re afraid you won’t have enough for yourself or your family’s needs if you give too much. Let me reassure you. When God calls you to share what you have with someone in need he is more than able to meet your needs in return. It’s a matter of trust.
So, here’s how God’s generosity changes us. The magnitude of God’s gift is impossible to ignore. God died to save you from the consequences of your sin, not because of anything you did. He did it while you were still a sinner. Romans 5:8 reads, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s generosity beyond anything you or I can imagine, and it deserves a response!
As a Christian, and a child of God, you are on a journey of faith that includes learning to trust God’s faithfulness more and more. According to Galatians 2:20, you have been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. Generosity is one way you can demonstrate your trust in God and your desire to be part of his Kingdom work.
Fear of not having enough is one way you might miss out on the blessings of generosity. There are others. Perhaps you hope to win God’s favor by giving. Or maybe you expect to be rewarded with material success when you’re generous? Unfortunately, neither of these expectations is biblical.
We’re not trying to out-give God. We’re not in competition with the Lord, or with each other.
As for earning God’s favor, we already have it. It’s called grace, and it’s not something we can ever earn. What we can do is offer grace to others. As it says in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
What about those who expect God to reward them for being generous? Do we give to get something from God?
Author Steve Johnson explains it this way: “We are not to give to get earthly reward, expecting God to always give us back in this life what we invest in the Kingdom … [We should] give without care for the earthly reward of financial prosperity. Instead, seek the heavenly reward of God Himself.”
When we understand God’s generosity towards us, it changes the nature of our giving and our attitude about all money and possessions. King David is an example of this right attitude about giving. In 1 Chronicles 29:14, David praises God for his abundant provision to build the Temple, even though the raw materials came from the people’s gifts.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” David demonstrates gratitude, and gives God the glory.
Like a loving Father, God shows us, through Jesus, how to love, give and live the right way. When we follow Christ in our generosity, we experience the blessing of serving others in His name. Sometimes the Lord provides additional material blessings that we can continue giving.
Of course, we can’t out-give God, but we can be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. As you mature in your faith, “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as it says in 2 Peter 3:8, the Holy Spirit makes changes in your heart. You’ll want to respond to God’s grace by being generous in turn. Best of all, when we serve and give generously, we experience a closer walk with the Giver Himself.
You can also listen to the related podcast on this topic.