Friday, January 25, 2013

Bartering and Blessing

If you want to read the first part of this post go here. I am now going to address two objections to the idea that we should not give to get and then end with some ways to have a more biblical mindset when giving, whether it is time, energy, or possessions.

But Doesn’t God Promise Blessing to Those Who Obey?
                It could appear that what I said previously contradicts the idea the God blesses us for obedience. If we give to God won’t we get back from God? God does promise blessing if we obey and we should strive after those blessings. And we should seek to obey everything God has commanded. But this is not the same thing as trading with God so he will give us what we want. And while the difference is not always easy to discern it is real and important. Paul knew he had fought the good fight and had a crown of glory laid up for him. But he also knew that God owed him nothing.  Paul did not treat God like a puppet.
                The trick here is the definition of blessing.  Usually for us blessing means I get what I want when I want it. In the Scriptures there are blessings in this life that come with obedience. So yes the man who avoids sinners and meditates on God’s Word will be blessed (Psalm 1).  But those blessings are not defined by us. We don’t get to say, “Lord, I will trade you a good prayer life for a new wife.”  “Lord I will read my Bible every day and you will make sure my job doesn’t fall through.” (Remember these trades are usually unspoken.) You could read God’s Word and meditate on God’s Word and get fired for obeying it. Even in Psalm 1 the ultimate blessing is in the end when we stand with God’s people after the wicked have been driven away (verses 4-5).  The problem with a bartering mindset is that we set the rules. We say, “I will trade you this for that.” That is not the same thing as saying, “I know God blesses obedience, so I am going to obey him and he will bless when and how he sees fit.”  The first views God as if we are a consumer. The second views God as if we are his sons and heirs.
                And of course, the greatest blessing is God himself.

But Shouldn’t Relationships Have Some Give and Take?
                One person commented on my post by asking about friendships.  They said, “Shouldn’t friendships be built on a give and take type relationship?”  The answer to this is, “No.” Friendships should be built on giving. We should pour ourselves out for those around us, whether it is family or friends or our brothers and sisters at church.  Of course, we will benefit from most friendships when we pour ourselves out for others. This is seen clearly in passages like Ephesians 5:28 where it is said that the man who loves his wife loves himself.  Throughout Proverbs there is the idea that a man who disciplines his son benefits with the son giving honor to the father.  In other words, the Bible teaches  that we are blessed when we give.
                But this is not the same thing as giving so we will get. The question is not do we receive blessing when we give to others. We do. The question is do we think we deserve it. Do we believe that if we give x they must give y? And as with God, we often trade for a specific thing. If I am nice to her she will help me with my children. If I serve at church in this way, then the leaders will give me more responsibility later. We should not have this mindset. We should not be giving so others will give to us now or in the future. We should give freely to our friends and family and let God bring blessings through them when he sees fit.

Learning to Give Not Trade
                First, learn to give in circumstances where there is no immediate benefit.  Care for a child when the child cannot give anything back to you.  Show respect to someone who doesn’t respect you.  Do a good deed that no one else will see.
                Second, drink deep of God’s many kindnesses to you.  The more we meditate on God’s kindness the easier it will be for us to express that same undeserved kindness to others.
                Third, do things for people secretly. This does not mean every gift must be a secret. But doing things secretly can show us the state of our heart.  If it is hard then we know we give because we like praise.
                Fourth, learn to say thank you instead of trying to pay someone back for a gift.
                Fifth, strive whenever you do something for your children or spouse to do it for their good and their good alone. Our hearts are very deceitful here. We can often do something that appears to be the right thing, say teaching our children to do chores, but instead of doing it for the good of our children we are doing it for our good. We are trading, bartering with them instead of giving to them. 

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8