How Giving is a Spiritual Discipline


“Stewardship is God’s way of raising people, not man’s way of raising money” (Willmer, Smith. 2002.)1

In Romans 12:8 we learn that some excel in the gift of giving, but what about everyone else?  We’ve all heard of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, Bible study and fasting, but what about giving?

In Romans 12:1 the Lord calls us to a life of complete commitment to Him by urging each of us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  The idea here is that we are, “all in”, so it’s important that we ask ourselves if there are any areas of our life that are not completely surrendered to, and under, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In other words, have you only given the Lord part of your life as a sacrifice?  Are there areas in your life that are currently off limits or that have not been fully surrendered to Him?  Oftentimes, this area is how we steward the time, talent and treasure entrusted to us by God.  We see an example of this separation in Luke 18:18-23 when a certain ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life.  Unfortunately, while he was a good person, his possessions owned him vs. the other way around and we are left with a sad ending.

This causes us to look deep within our day-to-day habits and routines and ensure that every area of our life is affected by our walk with Christ.  After all, our walk with the Lord is comprised of much more than a spiritual high during a Sunday morning worship service or simply listening to the word of God and not doing what it says.  We are called to be 24/7/365 Christians and our role as stewards is an essential part of the equation.  Or, as Dr. Wesley Wilmer and Martyn Smith (2002) state in, God & Your Stuff, “God is not indifferent to our daily financial choices, but is interested in transforming all of our lives” (p.23).

What Scripture says about Possessions

“Possessions are mentioned 2,172 times in Scripture—three times more than love, seven times more than prayer and eight times more than belief.  About 15 percent of God’s Word deals with possessions—treasures hidden in a field, pearls, talents, pounds, stables, and so on.  Obviously God understood that believers would find this a difficult area of their lives to turn over to Him” (Willmer and Smith, 2002, p. 9).

There are four key points the Lord brings forth in Scripture regarding our possessions:

  1. God owns everything and has provided us all that we have (Psalm 50:10-12, Psalm 115:16)
  2. We are stewards of what God has provided, which involves management not ownership (1 Pet. 4:10)
  3. Everyone human being was created to give (Gen. 4:4, Lev. 27:30, Prov. 3:9)
  4. Each one of us will give an account of how we manage the resources God has given us (Rom. 14:12, 2 Cor. 5:10)

So how do we integrate giving into our entire Christian life?  Because giving is a spiritual discipline it requires a long-term commitment as well as the day-to-day steps that will help ensure we are fully surrendered to God as stewards.  Here are three tips that will help exercise the spiritual discipline of giving:

  1. Declaring Jesus Christ as Lord and Live out that Declaration – This is the first step on the road of biblical stewardship and living a life of generosity.  How we handle our possessions is a reflection of Christ and His Lordship over our lives.  If He is Lord, then we realize we are merely stewards of the time, talent and treasure God has entrusted to us.  If He is not Lord, then we will continue to see it as our money, our time and our abilities and live accordingly.  It’s a choice between two masters and the Lord makes it clear that none of us can serve two masters.  You may find it helpful to wake up and pray, “Lord Jesus, today I choose to pick up my cross and follow you.  May every aspect of my life be fully surrendered to you today”.
  2. Understand God’s Word as it Relates to Stewardship- Take time read and study passages such as Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 16:1-9, as well as reading books about biblical stewardship.  Click here to access 250 verses about money.  You can also sign up for an RSS feed that provides one stewardship verse for every day of the year to help cultivate the spiritual discipline of giving.  There’s too much at stake to not understand and grow spiritually in this area of our lives.
  3. Give to the Lord first no matter what the circumstances – This is another step each of us can take to become more like Christ in the area of stewardship.  Rather than paying all the bills and seeing what’s left for God, practice giving God the first fruits of what He has given you.  Each one of us should practice consistently giving according to our means and not robbing God when times get tough.  Don’t wait to get out of debt before taking the first steps of obedience.  Start now, and demonstrate to the Lord that you will no longer let worldly debt compete with your devotion and commitment to Him.

Readers: How do you exercise the spiritual gift of giving?  What steps have you taken to exercise this discipline on regular basis? 

1 – (Willmer, Smith. God and Your Stuff. NavPress 2002. p.9).

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  1. XJ

    I think it’s a bad witness to default on rent and electricity just because you’ve given first and have no money left over. It tells non-Christians that Christians are the sort who break promises and skip out on payments.

    Some people simply don’t make enough to be able to give consistently, and I think challenges like “Give no matter what” puts an unfair burden on those who are really truly struggling and are living well under the poverty line. You should give according to what God lays on your heart. Does He want you to give first, and then not have enough money to even be able to pay the rent? What sort of witness does that provide others with?

    • ST from Lansdowne,PA

      “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity” by Edwene Gaines.
      (Copyright 2005)
      Ms. Gaines states that “money is like love: The more you give away, the more you have.” “You cannot outgive GOD.”
      “Do not allow your fear to paralyze you and keep you stuck in being less than you are.” “Tithe first and trust GOD to assist you in paying the bills.”
      Malachi 3:10 (from The Message)
      Ms. Gaines makes a point of reminding her readers to “read the above verse over and over and make a new choice to believe.”
      8-11″Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.
      “You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
      “The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse —the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
      “Tithing is the beginning of giving, not the end.”
      “GOD is your source….GOD is in charge.”

    • XJ

      Thanks for answering, I appreciate it.

      Your answer makes sense in theory, but not always in practice. I and my friends have never made very much money to begin with. Many of us are out of work (with no benefits), or are working extremely-low-paying retail jobs. A lot of my Christian friends make just enough to be able to pay rent on room (not even their own apartment, just a room in someone else’s apartment), gas, food and utilities. They’re not out spending money on frivolous stuff, and they’ve barely got enough to eat on. They don’t have electronic toys, or nice cars (one of my friends is driving *my* 20-year old Nissan pick-up, while I myself do not have a car at all, since I gave it to him) It’s not that they’re “holding back”, there simply isn’t enough money to provide for them. And they’re faithful Christians who love God with all their heart. But God doesn’t just bless them with loads of cash. In fact, in some cases, there often isn’t quite enough.

      I’ve noticed that a lot of Christians in these forums seem to financially well off…they have good-paying jobs, stability, savings accounts, etc. They can sit back in their comfortable houses (I bet many of you actually have a home!) and say “Ah, you can never outgive God”, without really knowing what it’s like to live *extended* periods of time in poverty (as in years and years, not just a year or two where times are rough, but decades, with things never getting better due to low earning power, and other problems, such as health problems).

      It’s true, you can’t outgive God, but it doesn’t always mean God wants you to skip out on your bills or give away all your money to where you’ll be in debt to the electric company. My friends ARE the poor! So I suppose paying their bills and putting food on the table is “giving.” It seems cruel to tell them (or me) that we need to tithe to the church first, and then just “hope” we can pay our basic necessities. God did give us a brain and the ability to do math.

  2. Jason Cabler

    When you are a giver, God will provide for your needs. When you give in faith, he promises that not only will your needs be met, but that you will receive it back “with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure that you use it will be measured back to you.”

    When someone comes to me and is struggling with debt, the first thing they ask is how do I get out of debt? One of the first things I tell them is to become a giver. You WILL NOT succeed in a lasting way if you don’t give. I know to most people this sounds counterintuitive. God made us in His image and in order to reflect Him properly we must give, and do it with the right attitude.

    I teach this in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course, and I’ve seen that when people really “get it”, their lives always change for the better.

  3. ST from Lansdowne,PA

    “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity” by Edwene Gaines.
    I picked up this book at Barnes and Nobles in the bargain section. I read a few pages and bought it. In the book she states “tithing was not an option but a necessity.”
    I have only read “Part One: The First Law : Tithing.”
    I have parts highlighted to refresh my memory when I think that “I know best.”
    The first time I gave 10% of my GROSS (NOT NET) to my church, I received a phone call (the same day) that I had won a beauty treatment (approximate cost: $100.00). I promptly gave another 10% to a charity.
    I have been a witness to God’s goodness.
    Tithing works… it….believe it !

    • XJ

      Winning a beauty treatment.
      This reminds me of a devotional that one of my friends had read years ago. He was so disgusted over it. The whole premise was about how some Christian woman was SO WORRIED because she couldn’t figure out which dress to wear to some church function, but PRAISE GOD, she “found” the perfect dress in her (already huge) wardrobe, and the day was saved! God came through with showing her what dress to wear!!

      Ugh. Get back to me with some real problems, like when your teeth are falling out because you can’t afford to go to the dentist to get them filled, or you can’t afford the depression medication you need to keep the chemical in your brain stable enough to get through life (yet, because you’re not married with kids, you don’t qualify for any gov. help).

    • Mark

      XJ – I can relate to the lack of money, and the pressing weight that accompanies it. There was a time in my life when I was riding my bike around town and scrounging under vending machines to find loose change. I was usually able to find enough each day to buy one or two packs of ramen noodles (10 cents, at the time). Some days I found enough change to buy a can of veggies to go with the noodles. Some days I was invited to a friend’s for dinner. Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience. My sister is also in the same situation you and/or your friends are in. She barely makes enough to get by. So… I am one who understands the frustration of the lack of money and physical security. From personal experience, I learned that I could be bitter, or I could praise God regardless of my circumstances. I wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of times when I questioned what God was doing, but all in all, I tried my best to choose to praise Him. So now I present you with two challenges. First, if you don’t feel led to give money, are you giving your time and talent? Giving is only a little about money. It’s also about giving God your time and your talent. Second, I would challenge you to pick an amount that is more than you are currently giving. And I mean ANY amount ($1 a week, or even five cents a week). Give this amount to help the poor. You and I can relate to the poor, so it’s only natural that we would have compassion for them. Trust God and see how he blesses you over time. From personal experience in recent years, I can say that God has blessed me beyond my imagination.

    • XJ

      Yeah, it’s been bad, financially, lately. More for my good friend John, than for me. It’s bad for me too, don’t get me wrong, but he’s the one who barely has any money at all, and is doing everything he can to get by. He goes to church every Sunday (Calvary Chapel Tucson), as well as attends a home-bible study, and is struggling to get by with a low-paying job at an auto-parts store. Often, he doesn’t have enough money to even eat correctly. He rents a room from a friend (A christian friend, who himself is struggling with a low-paying job). Their Christian friends, Jan and Cathy, who run the home Bible study that John goes to, are barely getting by on their disability. Yet, they give 10% of that every week, and can barely afford to eat because of it. The people in the Bible study (John and Clark) can’t afford to give them anything, because they themselves are struggling. All four are super-Godly people. Yet, they struggle horribly just trying to scrape together enough money to survive with the very basic of necessities.

      Like I said earlier, John already has my truck. He needs it far more than I do right now. I give when I can, and I usually give to one of them (I just gave John some money tonight, because he had no money left over after paying basic bills for groceries this week, due to having his hours cut drastically at work because of the slow season in Tucson).

      Yes, I give time when I can as well. I’m frustrated because despite giving and giving, and my friends giving and giving, nothing gets better. God does not magically drop a living wage in our laps. Right now, I’m going back to college for an Accounting degree, in hopes that I can earn enough to be able to help myself and others. I make under $5,000 a year, due to being in school and not having a job (I freelance graphic design, when I can find work). The only reason I’m not homeless right now is due to the charity of my parents. If not for their giving me a place to stay, I’d literally be on the streets. Not a great place to be when you’re middle-aged.

      I didn’t used to be bitter, and I hope I’m not now, but I am frustrated with continually being told that “God Will Bless Us for Giving”, yet, I see my Christian friends and I struggle for literally *decades*, financially. I think God’s blessings will come to us after we’ve gone to Heaven. I’m not sure if they’re meant to be financial here on earth, because I’ve seen way too many really Godly Christians who love Jesus go through decades of hardships with not too many blessings in between.

      Again: We’re not out there running up credit card debt for toys, like most Americans do. I don’t even have any debt other than school debt (otherwise, I couldn’t afford to go back to college for a better degree). John has debt due to having to put things like gas and food on his credit card when he had no other money.

      Thanks for letting me vent.

    • DW


      I don’t usually respond to these kinds of things, but I’ve really appreciated your honesty, and I agree with you that the promise that “God will bless us for giving” is NOT guaranteed to occur in this life. Giving – whether or money, time, or emotional energy is an act of faith. Its a way of saying that the kingdom of heaven is more real to us than the earthly kingdom. I think most Christians would agree with that. What Christians forget, though, is that what we see here on earth as a result of our faith varies widely. According to Hebrews 11, the very same quality of faith can “result” in some people shutting the mouths of lions and bringing back the dead, while in other lives, the earthly reward for faith is getting sawn in two or living lives of destitution, dressed in skins and living in caves.

      This is as true of faithful giving, as of any other expression of faith. When I was a child, I was nurtured by an elderly couple who believed in laying up treasure in heaven. They gave and gave, as God lead them, and then they ran out of money, lived in absolute poverty the last few years of their lives, and died destitute. Faith is what assures me that what did they did was wise and smart, since it is by faith I’m convinced they have a mansion now. I know of others for whom the “formula” didn’t work, as well.

      I agree with Chris that our giving shouldn’t be the first thing to go when our finances tighten, just as our volunteering shouldn’t be the first to go when time gets tight. Nor should we quit loving the needy just because we’re feeling emotionally drained. The basis for this, however, isn’t a blithe confidence that God will always expand my money, time, and emotional strength to make me richer ON earth because I gave. Often he does refill our coffers. When he doesn’t, we continue to give, even when it hurts, because our hearts are where God’s is, and our purpose for living is to do his work, as he allows.

      The point I’m making is not that we shouldn’t give – as believers, we find great joy in giving. I agree with you, however that its wrong to assume God will bless us financially here on earth as a reward for our generousity. Often he does, but sometimes, for his own reasons, he does not. We dare not put God in any kind of box.

      Many of scripture’s “promises” are actually principles, I believe, the promises that God will heal our diseases, or “train up a child in the way he should go.” Sometimes, in spite of Godly parents who train up their children as prayerfully and carefully as they can, the children do depart from the Way. And too often, the people whose children who did fine assume that those other parents must have been doing something wrong, thus adding insult to injury. Christians for whom the principles of giving work out perfectly often offer the same insult to those whose acts of faithful giving have not resulted in earthly blessing.

      The Jerusalem church in the first part of Acts is a model of generous giving (chapters 2 and 4) and yet, at the end of Acts, the Jerusalem church is starving, and Paul is taking them an offering from the Gentile churches. God’s plan are frequently more complex and convoluted that Christians are comfortable with.

      I have no idea why you and your fellowship of believers is suffering,, but I know that God redeems our sufferings. My encouragement to you, even though I can tell you already know this, is that the heavenly bank account is the one we can count on. Any benefits we see here on earth are bonus. We give time, money, and love because the kingdom of heaven is more real and permanent than this physical life. We give because God invites us to invest in a specific aspect of his work, a need that we see that we can meet. Often, we long to give more than we can. That’s when we trust him to do miracles with our widow’s mites.

    • XJ

      DW – I’m so glad you responded. Your message is exactly what I needed to hear, and you’ve been the first one to answer so honestly and give examples of real situations where Christians gave and gave and where Godly, but weren’t blessed through the nose with earthly wealth. You’ve been the first to say that perhaps the blessings will come later, in Heaven. And you know what? That all makes sense. It makes sense to give and give on that basis. You’re the first one to make me feel like a normal Christian, and not some anomaly or outcast.

      Thank you, I appreciate it. Thanks for your insight, and God bless you!

    • William

      XJ, I agree with what you said in your first post that we should give according to what God lays on our hearts. When Paul wrote this instruction to the people of Corinth, he was encouraging them to give generously—but not so there would be relief for others and suffering for them. Instead, Paul felt this was a matter of equality and sharing. As he states in 2 Corinthians 8:14 “At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need.”

      From your posting, it sounds like times have been and are tough. I really commend you for honoring your existing obligations such as rent and other payments. As a Christian, I consider these obligations somewhat like Old Testament vows and something we definitely need to honor. (Whether one should have made the “vow” in the first place is a topic for another discussion.) And it sounds like you have found creative ways to “give” as well, since you mention in a later post that one of your friends is driving your pickup. I would encourage you to find other ways, as the Lord leads, to give of your time and talent. While giving money is certainly convenient, it isn’t the only way one can further the Lord’s work on earth.

    • ST from Lansdowne,PA


      I will keep you and your friends in prayer.

      I have come to that time in my life where I am fully understanding what it means to be a Christian.

      Congratulations for going back to school. I wish you well on your studies.

  4. mark l vincent

    Just a thought on the four principles: God is the owner of all, etc.

    I do not disagree with them but I do not think they yet answer the question why adequately. God created and owns everything for a purpose, and any accountability I have ties to that purpose, not just the fact that God owns. In fact, the bible is pretty clear that God who owns is also the God who gives and shares so that I can participate in that purpose.

    I wish the iteration of principles would include this purpose and become more inviting as opposed to simply stating my obligation to avoid getting in trouble with God.

    My favorite passage that shows how God participates in the economy and to what end is Is 65:17-25..

    Thanks for sparking these conversations.

  5. steve

    Before I read the article… A few comments:

    Many grouse for funds in the name of Jesus; like our Lord is some needy beggar and his Church a poor house for destitute losers. You see them on the corner grocery with the name of their church platted on placards, thinking that the guilt of the American propensity for generosity will out weigh the objections a person would have ordinarily. The TV preacher who spends 10 to 20 minutes displaying the worst of those overtaken by their governments failed policies. Or the fellow that hawks prayer cloths if you just send in your $50 for a healing rag.

    Sound cynical?! Yes. Such is a travesty. It is an insult to the G-D who created even those things we even value you as ‘money’.

    The Lord is glorious and Holy and worthy of better things than our insulting methods.

    I believe that is why the Master put in that 66 book volume called the Bible, the principles we should follow when it comes to supporting Kingdom business.

    I remember a tract written by John Calvin (orone of those fellows) on the use of money and the good sense to make a profit to benefit the kingdom of God. Sound business principles WITHOUT using the name of Jesus. The standard of stewardship never diminishes if followed with regulation, rigor, and sound judgment listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit to encourage not only to give forth the tithe, but the discretionary offering of our stewardship of His property at the Lord’s promptings.

    And to the work!? Many Christians in ‘full time Christian service’ or ministry fail to understand the necessity of G-d as their sole source as they commit to full time employment by the Lord. That can be a daunting test; a test to see indeed if you are TRULY called of God. But in that test, thr principle of labor and sound judgement in the field of souls can only be guided by the Holy Spirit. And how does this manifest itself? Not only by the voice of desire in the human heart God puts there, but by the circumstance of economic guidence.

    I submit two great men of faith whose work outlasted even them as examples; George Mueller and Hudson Taylor. BOTH made it a point NEVER to ask of man what God pays so generously through prayer. That provision comes through many forms and means as something that became common place to them.

    I am reminded that many times WE make OUR plans before inquireing of God to see if they are truly God’s desires or our wanton self promotion. We embark on our plan praying God’s blessing. When finances do not come, we borrow and plead from man. To reverse this approach never seems to enter our mind. Through much prayer and fasting, we seek the mind of God and begin ONLY with what we have in plan praying that IF it be of God, then God would endorse it.

    And endorse it God does if our will be in total submission.

    But even in our error, God is merciful. I recollect 3 years ago, a faithful servant and pastor friend from India who weekly baptizes converts and evangelizes villages, felt God’s prompt to come to America. The prompt was strong but the funds were not. A young man of 34, he took a loan of $2500 to make the trip. His inexperience exacted an air fare far above market. And the next thing I knew, he was calling saying he was here. But God was merciful. Through the unknowing utterance of a Pastor who had no idea what the deal was, we were reassured that God would ‘fix’ the error. After hours of prayer (mostly him) repenting of his assumption to ‘go on faith and borrow’ coupled with the prophetic utterence from my pastor friend that God would ‘correct the Kings business’, that at a gas station, a stranger came up to us and without provocation or knowledge handed me 36 one hundred dollar bills and guided us to our speaking engagement (we were lost and thought we would miss it).

    Such merciful lessons would seem to some a confirmation that his assumption was truly a step of faith in spite of the Bible’s exortations and instructions about the peril of indebtedness. G-d is merciful but warns us of blaspheming by presuming all we do is truly His will.

    IF we are to raise funds, let us NOT use the name of Jesus as leverage to do such things. LET US recieve inspiration of the Lord to construct businesses in our name so WE can give to the work of God. That we lean on the Lord alone for our inspiration and invention in conducting business. This glorifies G-d without the aspect of appearing to be beggars.

    As workers at a trade or full time ministers (ready as sideline tentmakers), our aim is to glorify God with regard to our industry and the funds entrusted to us. Let every moment when a coin passes through our hand be the question, “what would you have me to do, Lord!?”

    That is the spirit by which we do our commerce with the fruit of labor for the Kingdom.


    P.S. Oh yeah… Good Article…

  6. kristi

    I’m really glad I decided to click on the link to this post. My family has been struggling finanically since before it began. Without getting into a lot of unnecessary back story detail let me just say that there isn’t enough to make ends meet as it is. I’ve finally made a solid decision to give what to me is a significant anount to my church this Sunday because that is what I feel led to give. It means I won’t have enough to make my car payment this month but I am going to come up short anyway. Might as well take what I have and give it to He who has blessed me with the ability to drive the car in the first place! I’m not sure how its all going to turn out but I have faith that God will provide. Whether its the ability to make the car payment anyway or an answer to some other prayer He will provide what I need. I’ve really been trying to get a handle on our financial situation and I think my problem is that I have been trying too hard to control it, which is why I think a financial gift is what is necessary. I think giving to God needs to be whatever it is you are holding on too tightly to. For me, it’s the budget. I pray God’s blessing over it and whaen I come up short I say, God I give it to you. But there I am the very next day obsessing over it. I know, I know – struggling to make a car payment would be considered a luxury to some. But God has put everyone perfectly where they belong (a lesson learned from a recent Veggie Tales viewing lol!) The question I would ask your readers is: where has He put you and how are you going to use that place to glorify Him? That is where the root of giving begins.