I realize that the title sounds oxymoronic, but it made me think of it when I read an anecdote.
Once upon a time, there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. So he took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”
The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all.” And the gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.
But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this. And he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot—what if you gave the king something better?” So the next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”
But the king discerned his heart and said thank you, and took the horse and merely dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.” (Keller, Timothy. The prodigal God: recovering the heart of the Christian faith. NY, NY: Penguin Books, 2016. Kindle)
Reading the anecdote, it made me think that it’s actually possible to give either for the glory of God or the credit of self. I can give with the purpose of personal satisfaction that I may feel good about myself.
In 2 Corinthians 8:2 -5, Paul described the generosity of the church in Corinth. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord…”
They gave first to the Lord. Our motive and the object of our giving has to be first the Lord. This will keep our generous hearts from being selfish.