The other day my daughters each received a small toy. Within a short few hours, the youngest of them had lost hers. When she realized it, she began to cry. Her sister then said something to her that left me pleasantly shocked: “That’s okay—you can have mine.”
Such spontaneous generosity is not habitual in this child. But I watched as she handed over the toy, and she was genuinely happy to give it—even more than her sister was to receive it.
Why do we give gifts? Why give to our children, or spouse, or other family member or friends, or someone in need? Generally it is not to try to get something in return—to secure some right to the other person’s gratitude. We give simply for the pleasure of giving. It is, after all, more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Living the give way simply makes us happy.
But giving also does something else to us—something more specific. That’s because of a remarkable dynamic set in motion when we obey God’s law.
Jesus Christ instructed us to lay up treasures not on Earth, but in heaven. He explained the profound reason: “For where your treasure is,” He said, “there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).
This is an extraordinary truth. Our heart tends to follow our treasure. Wherever we give some physical thing—and not just our money, but even our time or energy—we tend also to commit simultaneously something more precious: a little piece of ourselves.
We see this rule in action with tithes and offerings. God doesn’t need our money; He could provide for His work any number of miraculous ways. But He instructs us to commit our treasure to that work. Not only does this instill in us a habit of generosity that develops our character and makes us more like Him, the great Giver (James 1:17)—but it also draws our hearts into His work. We take on a more committed mindset toward God’s plans and ambitions, His activities today, and how they are preparing for the future.
If you think about it, that act of giving actually helps us to love God more. That is what God desires most of all.
In ancient Israel, God sought to lay claim to the hearts of His people the same way. He commanded that the Israelites offer regular sacrifices. There were daily, weekly, monthly and annual offerings, and others for certain special occasions. Obviously God didn’t have any practical use for the animals and other food and drink offered to Him. His goal in having the Israelites give was to change their thinking—to turn their hearts toward Himself.
There is a clue to this truth even in the word sacrifice. In Hebrew, one word for sacrifice is korban. It is usually translated “offering” in the Old Testament, and appears extensively throughout the books of Leviticus and Numbers referring to the Israelites’ sacrifices.
As Daniel Lapin brings out in his book Buried Treasure, the root of korban (Strong’s 07133) is the Hebrew word karab (07126)—meaning to approach, or bring near or close. Karab is variously translated “come near,” “draw near,” “be at hand” and “join.” What a lovely word, referring to a sacrifice for God! The similar word karob (07138) actually refers to a personal relationship or kinship.
When an Israelite brought an offering to God, it was intended to bring him closer to God. Surely God was pleased with the act, but that wasn’t the primary reason He commanded it. Presenting korban to God—the act of giving—was meant to make the giver feel closer to his Creator, more than the other way around. He was committing his treasure to God, and so his heart followed.
Note how this law plays out in your life. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If you invest your money, time and energy into your family, your heart will follow. If you give to and sacrifice for your marriage—even if you don’t “feel like it”—then you’ll find that physical act actually leading your heart into a deeper love. Your obedience to the way of give, even in a physical sense, will set in motion the wheels of love.
Anciently, when an Israelite made a sacrifice to God, it was to teach him the lesson to love God more. Likewise, when a husband gives to his wife or sacrifices for her, it helps him love her more.
By the same principle, if you are constantly making sacrifices for your employer, that doesn’t make him feel closer to you nearly as much as it makes you feel closer to him. Your heart follows your treasure. Over time you may then find yourself making greater and still greater sacrifices for your work. This may or may not be a good thing.
So consider this practical wisdom. If you want to make your love toward someone grow a little, give that person a gift. If you want to make your love grow a lot,sacrifice for him or her.
Maybe there’s someone you are thrust into regular contact with whom you have a hard time relating to. Perhaps one of your co-workers really gets under your skin. Try it out: Give him something; make a sacrifice for him. Not to turn his heart to you—but yours to him! Give, and see if it doesn’t draw you nearer to him. It may not solve the problem completely, but you can be sure it will improve your attitude.
If you had an argument with your spouse in the morning and you’re feeling resentful, do the counterintuitive thing. Pick up a bouquet of flowers on your way home from work. The next time you see her, rather than giving her the lecture you’ve been rehearsing all day, give her a gift she may actually appreciate. Whether or not she does, you’ll find that your sacrifice has done a lot to dissolve your own hostility. Now you are in a far better position to restore harmony to your marriage than you otherwise would have been.
Commit your treasure, and your heart will follow. Don’t wait until you “feel love” before you give or sacrifice. Give and sacrifice—and love will grow