If you really wanted to make an impression on God, to get His attention, to do something that would genuinely please Him, what would you do?
Perhaps your first step should be caring for the poor.
When we study scripture, we find that God cares deeply for the poor, and He wants His people to be about the business of taking care of them. There are all sorts of reasons to do this: It was mandated by Christ, and it is evidence of a living faith. If the love of God lives inside us, it compels us to give.
But in the book of Acts, we find another benefit of charitable giving: It gets God’s attention.
More than Love
Before we proceed into the text, though, let me address a concern you may have: “Doesn’t God love us all equally? Doesn’t He already see everything we do? How could we do anything to ‘get His attention’ any more?”
Yes, it’s true, God sees everything that you do. And you’re incapable of making Him love you any more (or any less) based on good works. But when we look at the Bible, we see plenty of examples of people doing things that elicit a response from God. Abraham was a friend of God; Enoch was taken up into heaven without dying because he walked so closely with the Lord. And God was so impressed with Job’s character and integrity that He bragged about Job to the devil.
God sees everything we do, but some of our actions and attitudes really stand out in His mind. Giving is one of them.
Living Like Cornelius
For evidence of this, we’re going to turn to the book of Acts. In Acts 10, we’re introduced to Cornelius, a well respected Roman who becomes the first Gentile to accept Jesus and join the young church. Let’s examine what verses 2-4 have to say about him:
2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
This passage is the introduction to the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius, which culminates in Cornelius’ household getting saved and Peter learning an important lesson about God’s love of the Gentiles. For our purposes today, though, what matters is the fact that Cornelius was a great giver.
When we first meet Cornelius in verse two, the writer says that “he gave generously to those in need.” Later, in verse four, the angel explains to Cornelius that his giving has made an impression on heaven: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
Cornelius’ faithfulness and generosity aren’t just credited to him as good works — they actually got God’s attention. God saw this man’s heart for the poor and responded to it. Because Cornelius gave so much, God blessed him with an incredible legacy of salvation.
When we care for the poor, we’re not just giving money to people or organizations. Rather, we’re offering up sacrifices to heaven. Those gifts get God’s attention, and move His heart.
Giving in Your Life
So what does this mean for you?
First of all, if you’re still struggling with the idea of giving, this story should help to motivate you. We know that God wants us to take care of the poor; now we also know that He rewards those who do it.
But here’s another thing we can take away: If you’re in the midst of a desperate situation, where you’re praying earnestly for something and you really need God to move on your behalf, perhaps you should consider doing something to help someone else.
I’m not trying to promote works-based salvation here, or to say that we can manipulate God into doing our will. What I am saying is that sometimes, when we are tangled up in really difficult situations, we tend to become so fixated on our own problems that we forget about the problems of others. When we intentionally give to and serve other people, though, it changes something in our attitudes and widens the scope of our vision.
Sometimes, helping others is the key to heart change that leads to breakthrough in our own lives. Giving gets God’s attention because it changes us.
If you really need God to show up and help you in your life, try showing up to help someone else.
Photo by PWRDF. Used under Creative Commons License.