All of us are very familiar with the statement, “Giving till it hurts”. The saying is frequently used by unscrupulous, so called ‘faith healers’, to fleece truck loads of money from vulnerable people. To make their point, they typically distort the story in 2 Samuel 24:21-24 where king David wanted to build an altar to the Lord on a threshing floor. Araunah, the owner, was too happy to offer it free of charge and much more but king David in response to his generous offer replied, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”.

Some say a well-known biblical story in Luke 10:25-37, makes a similar argument. Unlike a priest and Levite, a Samaritan, at great personal cost in terms of his time and finances, nursed a man who was robbed and badly beaten, back to full health. In other words, in being a good neighbour, it cost him something.

King David’s decision is to be commended and so is the action of the Good Samaritan. He put his money where his mouth is. That was the major difference between the priest and Levite on the one hand and the Samaritan on the other. They all saw the beaten-up man but only the Samaritan took pity and took action. I couldn’t agree more with C.T. Studd (1960-1931), an English missionary who served in China, Indian and Africa, when he wrote, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him”.

However, ‘giving till it hurts’ can cut both ways. When we give of ourselves to feel worth, significance and importance, when we do it to the detriment of our spiritual, psychological and physical health, we are actually hurting ourselves. And God, our Heavenly Father is grieved by that, not to mention this kind of giving is not sustainable.

I recently had a student share how she loves serving. Putting the needs of others before her own is second nature to her. However, she also said that she often felt she had to serve twice as much as everyone else to feel worthy of love. Over time, her serving has become burdensome, obligatory and eventually resentful when she received very little by way of appreciation in return. But in 2 Corinthians 9 God tells us our giving is to be characterised by generosity that’s offered freely and cheerfully. What a contrast!

While incredibly challenging, it is doable but only if we remember that God offers himself to us generously, willingly and joyfully. This was the point Jesus made when he said these words to his 12 disciples before he sent them out to meet the needs of others, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:5-8).

In other words, we give of ourselves, even till it hurts, if that’s what God asks of us, not because we owe him but because we are in awe of him. We do what he asks not to get God to love and accept us but rather in Christ, we already have his complete love and acceptance.

Increase our faith in you Lord!

Mark Ng