I now work in the field of philanthropy. An examination of the word reveals a simple definition. The word comes from 2 Greek words, phileo and anthropos. Phileo is brotherly love and is a reason we refer to Philadelphia as the city of brotherly love. Anthropos is mankind. Think about the word anthropology meaning the study of mankind. Thus the word philanthropy simply means love of mankind.
We usually associate philanthropy with giving. We read of wealthy philanthropists donating huge sums of money to a charitable cause. But in reality, most of us are philanthropists in one sense or another. We love mankind and we want to give. There is an unmistakable connection between giving and loving. A wise man once said, “You can give and not love but you can’t love and not give.” If you love, the giving will follow.
We associate philanthropy with giving financially. However, it is not limited to just money. Any nonprofit organization will tell you they not only have to have the finances to survive but also depend on the volunteers and their time and abilities. So giving covers a broad spectrum of areas.
Apart from finances, as I consider giving, what comes to my mind first is the marriage relationship. A strong marriage is built on selflessness. One partner should always be concerned with what is in the best interest of the other person. Ephesians 5:25 describes the love a husband is to have for his wife as a sacrificial love. Men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. And that was enough to give Himself for her. Sacrificial love is not limited to being willing to give your life. It is being willing to live every day of your life sacrificing your selfish desires for her best interest. Giving.
Actually the Bible teaches us that this should be an attitude in all our relationships. Philippians 2: 3-4 reminds us to be considerate of others and beware of selfish actions. Let nothing be done through selfishness but always looking out for the interest of others. Giving.
What normally comes to mind when we consider giving is our financial contribution to church or charity. And certainly our premise, you can’t love and not give, is true when we consider the church. GOD has richly blessed us. He gives us all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). His greatest gift was His Son (John 3:16) without which we have no chance at eternal life (John 14:6). When we comprehend this, we love Him. And when we love Him we have no problem with our giving.
But again I think we miss a point if we limit giving to materialistic means. 2 Corinthians 8 is a lesson in giving. In verses 1 – 8 Paul makes 7 points concerning the giving of the Macedonian churches. I have these points underlined in my Bible along with a one word characteristic of their giving.
- The churches of Macedonia (v.1) – Anonymous – He did not specifically identify any of the individual congregations. When we give it should not be for show (Matthew 6:1).
- Their liberality (v.2) – Generous – Even though in poverty themselves, they gave generously.
- According to their ability (v.3) – Proportionate – 1 Corinthians 16:2 notes we are to give as we have been prospered.
- Beyond their ability (v.3) – Sacrificial – The widow’s two mites was a sacrifice (Mark 12:42).
- Freely willing (v.3) – Voluntary – One’s giving cannot be coerced. 1 Corinthians 16:2 has a phrase sometimes overlooked, “let him…”
- First gave themselves (v.5) – Personal – One’s giving is personal.
- I am testing the sincerity of your love (v.8) – Proof – See verse 24 of the chapter to emphasize our focus; one can give and not love but cannot love and not give.
Now I want to note number 6 on the list above. When self is sacrificed, when my desires become secondary, giving will not be an issue.
If philanthropy, giving, is a problem, particularly toward the church, I suggest one examine self. When the Macedonians first (emphasis on rank, priority) gave themselves, all else followed. If we do this sacrificial giving will follow.
Giving is not limited to finances. Giving begins with self. If we would put this into practice, our relationships at home, among friends, and more importantly with our GOD, would improve.