Bet small, win small.
“Bet small, win small.” That was the mantra of one of my friends with whom I used to play poker. Bet small, win small. If you’re going to be cautious with your chips, you may successfully avoid some big losses. At the same time, you will certainly miss out on some large windfalls. There are advantages to playing it safe, but there is also a cost. There is a risk to pushing all your chips to the middle of the table, but there is also a risk to folding your cards. The question is always, “Which gamble would you like to take?”
In 2 Corinthians 9:6 the apostle Paul makes this exact point about Christian giving. He says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” When he speaks of sowing, he is speaking about generously giving to the work of Jesus’ gospel. When he speaks of reaping, he is not simply speaking about material rewards, but about the fact that God will ultimately make our sacrifices worth our while. When it comes to Christian giving, Paul says, “Bet small, win small. Bet big, win big.”
We have just finished a two-week series at LBF Church called The Cost of Giving. We talked about the fact that our generosity is meant to cost us. We give out of love for God and out of faith in God. In this article, I am going to give a few thoughts on how we can practically approach our giving and “bet big” on God.
Right after Paul encourages believers to bet big on God, he says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul assumes that Christian giving is not simply a spontaneous activity. He encourages us to plan in advance how much we believe God is calling us to give. He tells us to plan ahead in our giving.
Most people don’t lose weight, get out of debt, or save for retirement without advanced planning. In the same way, most people don’t give generously unless they plan in advance. Unless we budget our money, we aren’t likely to stumble into extra money that we can give. Instead, give what you have decided in your heart to give. Think and pray about your giving in advance, and plan accordingly.
Give Where God Has Placed You
Generosity is not confined to the local church. Give to missionaries, to local charities, and to personal friends in need. But the local church to which you belong ought to be a giving priority. The New Testament authors teach us that we each belong not only to the universal body of believers but to our local church bodies. When we belong to one another we use our spiritual gifts and our financial resources to share with the local church.
Since I am a pastor, it could seem self-interested for me to encourage people to give to their local churches. That said, one of the reasons why I became a pastor is that I believe that the local church is at the center of what God is doing in the world. This is why Paul went around starting local churches all over Asia. This is why Christians consistently plant churches around the world. This is why Paul says in Ephesians 3:10-11, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The church is worth your investment because it is through the church that God is making his manifold wisdom known in the world!
At LBF Church we don’t believe that God requires any specific giving amount from Christians. While many people assume that God asks for 10%, this figure has to do with the nation of Israel and it isn’t found in the New Testament. That said, I want to encourage you to think of 10% as a good place to start. Randy Alcorn—who happens to be my father-in-law—has written extensively on Christian giving. He brings the reminder that since the poorest Jew in Israel was required to give 10%, it seems odd that those of us living in the richest nation in world history would give less, especially because we now live on the other side of God’s great work of grace through Jesus Christ. Because of this, I do want to encourage you to consider the figure of 10% as a good principle for Christian giving.
Still, as I said above, we don’t believe that there is any magic percentage for Christian giving. But Paul did challenge believers to sow generously. If you’re currently giving 10%, consider whether or not God is calling you to stretch yourself and give more. If you’re giving nothing, stretch yourself and begin to give something. If you’re giving a little, stretch yourself and give more. God is worth the gamble. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”