Last week and the week before, we contrasted the stories of two widow’s who gave offerings out of dire need. One of these widows experienced a miracle of supernatural provision. The other? Jesus grieved over her oppression.
Have you ever heard a testimony of someone saying “I had a big need and I gave everything I had left. Then I experienced a miracle!” Many Christians have struggled with being able to believe or accept such testimonies, because of how widespread guilt trips and manipulation have become in taking offerings.
What if there’s really something to this “supernatural grace of giving” without all the baggage? I believe there is. The stories of the two widows can help us to understand God’s heart and separate the truth from the abuse. When we remove all compulsion and giving becomes a thing of total freedom, such testimonies of giving out of need become something to be excited about!
So, What Should We Do With Those Testimonies Of “I Gave $5000 And Got A Financial Miracle!”
Do I believe such testimonies? Yes! Is the answer to your need always to do what they did? I don’t think so.
In Exodus 17, the Israelites had a need. They were in the desert and they were thirsty, so they started grumbling against God. They forgot the miracles he had done for them before. (That’s what you don’t want to do when you have a need!)
Moses cried out to God because the people were about to stone him, and God said “Strike that rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Moses hit the rock, water came out, and the people drank. That’s a pretty cool story of supernatural provision.
Well, it wasn’t too long until the Israelites forgot how God provided for them. The story is in Numbers 20. They needed water again. Instead of praying with thanksgiving for God’s deliverance in the past, they turned on Moses again. This time God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come out.
But Moses didn’t speak to the rock. He struck it again, this time twice. Water gushed out. But God wasn’t happy about what Moses did.
Numbers 20:12 (NIV) But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Are You Following Principles Or Following Christ?
Could it be that Moses was attempting to follow a “principle” instead of trusting God and obeying Him? Moses disobeyed God and did “what worked last time.”
Colossians 2:8-10 (NKJV) Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him…
“Principles” aren’t always bad. Yet I think some of the “financial principles” we’ve heard taught are “the basic principles of this world” and not “according to Christ.” Life in Christ is not according to the basic principles of this world. It supersedes them.
“Basic principles of this world” in context refers especially to the law. Grace and life in Christ work differently.
Life in Christ is not about rules or the basic principles of this world, which is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Giving, by definition, cannot have rules, because if it does, it’s not a gift. It’s a tax. And there’s no such thing as a kingdom of heaven tax.
Let’s look at another story of supernatural provision:
He said, “Yes.”
And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.”
Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”
If you read the different stories in scripture of supernatural provision, you’ll find repeatedly that the pattern is of hearing God’s voice. God told the widow of Zarephath to feed Elijah. But here Jesus didn’t tell Peter to give anything, only to go fishing and take a coin from a fish’s mouth.
Hearing God’s Voice
2nd Kings chapter 4 tells the story of a widow who was about to lose her two sons as slaves to a creditor. The prophet Elishah didn’t ask for an offering or tell her to “sow a seed. ” He told her to borrow as many jars as she could, pour oil in them, and sell the oil. The oil multiplied.
We could look at other stories as well, such as the various times that God provided for the Israelites. The provision came through a specific word of God for their situation. I think we are missing the point if we teach these stories as mere “principles” rather than encouragement to have faith in God and live out of trust and relationship with Him. The same with testimonies we hear today about supernatural provision.
Life in Christ is about participating in God’s nature, the tree of life! It’s not about “Do A and B and C will be the result.” It’s about a relationship with God and hearing his voice.
When is it right to give out of your own need? When you have a specific word from God about what to do. Or when your heart moves you to give to meet a dire need, like the Macedonian’s hearts did.
Give To Get?
When it becomes about only “following principles” instead of knowing God, we end up giving out of compulsion. In that case, not only are we violating Paul’s New Testament command, but the motivation for “giving” becomes totally self-centered. It’s no longer “don’t look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It’s “give so you can get blessed and so God can take care of your needs.” It’s no longer grace and mercy, and it’s no longer gospel.
Giving under compulsion often leads us to give towards things that are straw, hay, and stubble, and will be burned up, just as the widow in the New Testament gave her last to adorn a temple that was about to be destroyed.
So how do we treat the testimonies of people giving radically and experiencing miracles of provision? I think that instead of turning them into “principles” of how to get our needs yet, we can take them as encouragement to trust God and to grow in the grace of giving.
If God provided for Jesus with a coin from a fish’s mouth, we can also walk in relationship with the Father so that we hear His voice and experience supernatural provision.
Michael Van Vlyman recently wrote a book on supernatural provision. I was really encouraged to find something that teaches growing in generosity and expecting supernatural provision without the legalism. He encourages you to grow in the grace of giving and take responsibility for where you give. He also has exercises to help you put truth in practice, and amazing testimonies of financial miracles to encourage you. I want to share what he’s put out because I really believe it’s needed and I haven’t found much other material that teaches on this subject like he does, but without the legalism. Here it is: