I have run across many people in my life who were natural givers. They gave of their time, their money, their talents and abilities, all for the purpose of blessing others. They never thought anything about it. Giving was simply part of the fabric of their lives.
I’ve noticed these givers all have something in common – people love them.
Think about the people in your circle who are like this. Don’t you enjoy being around those with a giving spirit?
Their personalities are more attractive than others. We feel encouraged in their presence. The more we learn about them the more we are amazed how little they think about themselves. These givers are always tough to get to as a crowd seemingly follows them everywhere they go.
Jesus Was The Ultimate Giver
We see this scenario play out in the life of Jesus. His whole ministry was about giving to and serving others. What do we see routinely happening as he preached and healed the sick? Crowds flocked to him and followed his every move. They were drawn to what he offered for their soul.
It reminds me of what Solomon said in Proverbs 19:6,
“Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.”
When I first ran across this verse I thought, “Sure, that makes sense.” People are drawn to those who give. There have been times in my life where I’ve been blessed by the generosity of another. My respect and admiration for them went to new levels because they gave out of a heart-felt desire to bless me.
You and I both know though there are two sides to every coin. What if we read this proverb as a warning? Sure there are natural friendships that develop when we give with pure motives. But the flip side is that giving can be abused to get “friendship.” I put friendships in quotes because, as you’ll see, giving for the following reasons does not produce true friendship at all.
The Abuse of Giving
There is great power in giving and friendships can result from it. But we can take advantage of giving for ulterior motives. For example:
There are those who seek out the wealthy and pretend to be their friend in the hopes they will receive something in return. They ingratiate themselves to the giver by using flattering words or trying to please them. This may have been what Solomon referred to in the proverb when he said, “Many entreat the favor of the nobility…” He probably had seen these self-seekers show up in his royal court before.
Then there are those who give selfishly for the sole purpose of getting friends. They use giving as the hook to draw people in. I once “dated” a girl in elementary school because she promised to give me candy each day for a week. Guess how long that relationship lasted? You guessed it…one week.
Similarly, people use giving as a way to receive payback from their friends. This is the classic, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” If I give you something, then you are obligated to pay me back in kind.
Perhaps the most outrageous form of giving occurs when we use it to manipulate or control relationships. These type of givers know people rely on their generosity and use that as a means to get what they want. Think major college donor who wants the football coach fired. Giving can easily be used to treat people like pawns, not friends. Sadly, this happens in all areas of life including business, families, friendships and yes, even in churches.
What Type of Giver Should I Be?
I would never encourage you to give just to get friends. Friendships may develop as the proverb said as you demonstrate a giving spirit. But those personal connections should blossom naturally, free from any ulterior motives.
When I think about the type of giver I should be, I’m drawn to the example of the wise men who visited Jesus shortly after his birth. These were wealthy men who had gone through considerable time and effort to track him down. And when they finally located Jesus’ family, the Bible says they came into the house and “…saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
Notice what’s missing here: any type of hidden agenda. They came specifically to worship Jesus and bless his family with gifts. Their expectation was to give generously and receive nothing in return.
That’s the type of giver we all should be. No strings attached…no hidden motives…no pretenses. Simply giving to encourage and bless others.
Questions: How have you seen friendships develop because someone chose to give? How have you seen giving backfire or be misused?