The Choice of Giving

                Just like most things in life, giving is a choice. For the believer and for members of the local church, giving is an expectation, however, we still have the choice as to whether or not we fulfill that expectation. We give, not because it is expected of us, rather, because our heart is aligned with God’s heart. When your heart is aligned with God’s heart then you make right choices. As we consider the choice of giving it is important that we come to an understanding of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.

                The Sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is one of those tension points in theology. I don’t think that any true student of the Bible would deny that God is sovereign. However, an explanation of the sovereignty of God does vary depending on who you talk to. The SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD is the Biblical teaching that God possesses all power and is the ruler of all things (Ps. 135:6; Dan. 4:34–35).[1] There are really two parts or ideas to the sovereignty of God. There is a direct sovereignty and there is an over-arching sovereignty.

Direct Sovereignty can be defined as God having direct control of all things. The idea here is that there is nothing that transpires that God does not directly control. Now, this sounds good and even sounds very academic. However, an elementary example of this would be that God controls every movement you make including every decision you make. When you get out of bed in the morning it is not a decision you make, rather, it is God reaching down and directly and forcefully picking you up out of the bed. So it is with every other movement and action we take. In other words, everything is completely and directly controlled by God. Such direct sovereignty is certainly possible since God can do all things, however, such a view of the sovereignty of God is both distorted and unbiblical.

Over-arching Sovereignty can be defined as God having an over-arching control of all things though not directly orchestrating every detail and decision. The Lexham Theological Workbook says, “Divine sovereignty is viewed both in the ot and nt as God’s all-encompassing rule (מָשַׁל, māšal; Psa 103:19; βασιλεύς, basileus; 1 Tim 6:15).”[2] God’s overall plan for this world will be accomplished. However, the details of how that plan is played out may be adjusted according to the workings and decisions of man. One can be in control without directly orchestrating every decision and every movement. Can God intervene and take more direct control? Absolutely. Does God, at times, intervene in such a way? Sure. However, this may not always be the case. Just because God does not directly intervene does not in any way cheapen of lessen His sovereignty. God is still in control no matter what man does and however directly or indirectly God chooses to be involved.

The Free Will of Man. The subject of the free will of man is one that has plagued the church for centuries. There are many different views regarding the free will of man. According to the Dictionary of Theological terms there are three ways in which free will has been defined throughout church history.
1. It has been called the freedom of indeterminacy, which holds that man’s will is independent of all previous conditions. This is the claim that free will in man is a total freedom, unaffected by anything that occurred in the past, such as the fall.[3] 2. Free will in man has also been called the freedom of self-determination, or spontaneity. That is, man’s free will consists in his ability to choose according to the disposition, inclination, or bias of his own will.[4] This is the view of Reformed theologians. 3. A third definition of free will, held by Arminian theologians, goes beyond self-determination to include what is called the power of contrary choice. It is argued that to say that a sinner freely chooses to reject Christ and remain in sin implies that he has the native capability of choosing to receive Christ.[5]

The first of these explanations of free will, we can concur, as being false and unbiblical. Man is not totally free from any influence. The choices we make are certainly affected by various events and circumstances in our history. The second definition of free will is held by most reformed scholars who essentially believe that man lost one particular part of his will at the fall and that is the ability to choose to accept Christ as Savior. Man is free in making choices and decisions of his own will however, he is so depraved and affected by the fall that he has lost his ability to freely choose Christ. It is important to note that there are some, though few, who hold to reform theology; that take the idea of man losing free will at the fall to an extreme. They will go to the extreme of saying that man has lost all free will. He has lost any ability to choose for himself whatsoever. Therefore, even his choice to sin is somehow orchestrated by God’s plan, because; man has no ‘free will.’ Those who hold to this view also holds to the view of direct sovereignty.

I believe in a view of free will that is somewhere in the middle of the Reformed and the Arminian view. I believe that free will is a gift given to us by a sovereign God. In God’s sovereignty and out of His great love for us, He created us with the ability to choose whether or not we will love and serve Him. This free will was certainly affected by the fall but not totally dismissed. Sin has a strong influence on our lives.  It is unnatural for us to choose Christ over sin. However, God has not totally taken away our ability to choose Christ. This freedom of choice is a gift given to us by God. This can be proven through a number of scriptures that clearly calls us to make a choice to follow and obey God. If an invitation to choose is given throughout the Bible, then obviously, free will has not been completely diminished and man certainly does have the ability (given to Him by God) to decide whether or not he will repent and believe. (Deuteronomy 30:19 ; Joshua 24:15 ; 1 Kings 18:21 ; Romans 10:13 ; John 3:16)

What does the sovereignty of God and the free will of man have to do with our giving? God is Lord of all. The commands He gives us in scripture are commands coming from our sovereign king. His commands are expected to be obeyed. However, in God’s sovereignty He has gifted us with a free will. We are not forced to obey Him. We are given the option to obey Him or disobey Him. The choice we make is not void of consequences. If we choose to disobey God we will essential relinquish God’s control of our lives and we must then fend for ourselves which will ultimately lead to heartache and despair. However, if we choose to obey Him, we will be blessed beyond measure. God, in His word, has taught us the importance of giving and how we are to give. He has given us clear commands to invest in His Kingdom through the act of giving. Are we forced to give? No. Are we expected to give? Yes. As we align our hearts with God’s heart, we will learn of the heart of God which is a giving heart. Therefore, the closer we are to Him, the more obedient we are to Him, and the more apt we are to make the right choice to give. There are promises in scripture that are directly tied to our choice to obey. This also applies to the area of giving. Consider Malachi 3:10. There is a promise of blessing from God that is directly tied to our obedience to bring our tithes into the storehouse. Jesus Himself connected giving with God’s blessings. Luke 6:38 tells us that when we give, it will be given to us in return. Is such giving forced upon us by a God who has taken away our free will? Of course not! Giving is commanded of us by a sovereign God who has gifted us with a free will and our choice to give or not to give affects blessings received or denied. You have a choice to make. Your sovereign king has commanded you to give of your time, talents, and treasure as an investment in His kingdom. Obedience to that command will bring blessing beyond compare. Disobedience will bring heartache and despair. It’s up to you. What will you do? Will you choose to give?

[1] Pearce, T. P. (2003). Sovereignty of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1523). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[2] Crutchfield, J. A. (2014). Divine Sovereignty. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 185). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

[4] Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 186). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

[5] Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 186). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

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