Three Reasons to Give to Others
Some people seem to be naturally giving – one of our kids will happily give away most of his bank account if he thinks it’s for a good cause. But for others it is more of a struggle.
I was brought up to be frugal, which I appreciate, but it also means that I have a tendency to hold on to things rather than give them away!
As I was reading my Bible the other day, I came across three good reasons that Jacob used to make a gift, and thought that we could apply these to our own circumstances as well.
After Jacob had deceived Esau out of his father’s blessing (Genesis 27), Esau wanted to kill him. So Jacob understandably went off to live somewhere far away. When he eventually returned many years later, and Esau came to meet him, he was still afraid so it says he ‘took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother.’
What has always amused me is not only the sheer volume of his gift that ‘came to his hand’ – two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals – but also the way he gave it.
He sent each drove of animals in front of him with distance between each one. Then he put a servant with each drove and told them:
‘When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.’ (Genesis 32:17)
I can just imagine that if Esau still had intentions to kill him, each successive load of animals might have gone a long way towards changing his mind!
When I was reading it the other day I noticed that there were a few reasons he gave this enormous gift. One was obviously fear of what Esau might do to him and his family, but there were some other reasons which I think we could do well to apply to our lives too:
To Make Peace
Jacob had done a lot to cause a rift with his brother by taking away his birthright and then on top of that his blessing, which meant a big deal in those days. By giving a gift he hoped that he could make peace and be would be accepted by him.
The Bible says we should seek to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ:
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23,24
Also, even if the other person is the one who has done something wrong we should still seek to be reconciled, and giving something to them is a good way to do that:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21,22
If there is a rift between you and someone else, think about giving them a gift (if that’s appropriate), as it can do a lot to heal bad feelings.
Once I was mad at my husband (yes it happens!) and realised that I shouldn’t be. So I decided to force myself to do something nice for him and made him a chef salad (he was on a diet at the time so loved salads). The strange thing is that the process of making that salad changed my feelings toward him so that by the time I gave it to him I felt a lot more loving, and it healed the division between us as well.
Because God had Dealt Graciously With Him
When Jacob had left his family he had nothing, but when he came back he had wives, children and lots of animals – he had become very wealthy, and acknowledged that God had given it to him and been with him.
Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me… Genesis 33:11
If God has dealt graciously with us that is a good reason to give to others – as we can follow His example, and also make use of what He has given us by doing what pleases Him by loving one another.
Because He Had Enough
Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. Genesis 33:11
Sometimes we just have enough! The Bible says‘And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content..’ 1 Timothy 6:8 – so anything more than that is an extra J John the Baptist said that if you have two coats, you should give one to the man who has none.
“Let the man who has two coats,” he answered, “give one to the man who has none; and let the man who has food share it with others.” Luke 3:11 (WNT)
Once someone came to our house and didn’t have a coat. I remember thinking, ‘Well, I could give her mine, but I like it!’ But then I remembered this verse – I had at least two coats, probably more like three or four, so could definitely spare one for someone who had nothing!
To me these verses are a challenge not to hang on too tightly to my wordly goods, but remember that if we love others we should also be willing to share what God has graciously given us.