What Does It Really Mean To Give? (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

Christmas time is always a time of giving and blessings, a time during which I always see the truth in what Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  To really give to someone requires that you put them before yourself.  This is a big part of what Christianity is all about: giving, putting yourself on the back burner.  Christians must consciously choose to glorify God in everything they do or say.  This requires doing nothing that would offend anyone in or out of the church.  Christians must determine with every word and every action: “Is this going to help others go to heaven, or is this only about pleasing me?”

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write us about these priorities that he had before telling us to imitate him, just as he imitated Christ who always had this mindset.  Read over Paul’s letters in the New Testament and you’ll see that all he cared about was that everyone be saved (cf. Colossians 1:28-29).  The reason Paul was obsessed with saving souls was because he allowed Jesus to live in him.  He wrote, “…It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20).  He wanted to be like Jesus in every way, and Jesus cared about lost souls (Matthew 9:36-38).

So when Paul was out and about and was with people, his Christ-like passion for the spiritual welfare of others motivated him to “not seek my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).  He would not allow his own personal preferences, scruples, idiosyncrasies, opinions, or feelings hinder helping anyone in any way get closer to heaven.

This is illustrated beautifully in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  When Paul was with Jews, he would observe their customs and preferences as long as doing so did not cause him to violate Christ’s laws.  When he was with non-Jews – Gentiles, “those outside the law (of Moses)” – he observed their customs and preferences as long as it did not require him to sin.  He became “all things to all people”…for what purpose?  “…that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Later he wrote that while “all things are lawful,” not all things “are helpful” or “build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  God then moved him to write, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (v. 24).  In other words, it is not enough that something we say or do is technically not a sin and therefore allowed by God.  Does it help others get closer to Jesus?  Does it spiritually make them stronger?  If it doesn’t, then put their needs and well-being before your own.

Christians must live this same way.  All who profess to follow Jesus must have the same obsession which Paul had: saving the souls of those who are lost and those who are saved but spiritually immature.  If any disciple of Christ does not have that passion, they will not be motivated to sacrifice their own personal preferences.  They’ll care more about sharing their opinions and feelings on matters, even if doing so turns people off to the message of Christ.  They’ll care only about their own freedoms because they don’t care enough to save and serve others.

All within the church must prayerfully evaluate themselves and judge their own motives honestly (2 Corinthians 13:5) regarding the impact each have in their daily contact with others.  All actions of all who follow Jesus must never keep anyone from becoming a Christian or hinder anyone from growing closer to Christ.  That is the giving spirit that Christ wants most of all to be in us: the recognition that we bring more blessings through giving for the benefit of others over receiving what we ourselves want.