Giving Helps Us Overcome Fear

Fear of the Unknown

Somewhere in the back of your mind or the pit of your stomach is a gnawing fear: What if someday everything falls apart? What if you run out of money? What if you can’t feed your family? What if you go broke?

For some people, this is a very clear and imminent fear — if you live paycheck to paycheck, you’re always one small emergency away from financial ruin. But having a little bit of money doesn’t make this fear go away. It only makes it seem a little bit more distant. No matter how much money you accumulate, you can’t escape that little voice inside your head that says “this might all go wrong.”

There are two ways that we can react to this fear: One is to hold on to as much money as we can, hoping that a big pile of cash will act as a buffer between us and a disastrous end. The other reaction — and the better reaction — is to give your money away freely.

Can you trust your money?

How does giving away our money help us overcome this fear? Because it teaches us to trust in the only thing in this world that is truly safe. When we trust God to provide for our needs, instead of trusting money to protect us from our fears, we find a kind of peace and comfort that riches can never buy.

Here’s how it works: Money is a pesky, sneaky thing, and it can trick us to believe that if we have enough of it, we can buy our way out of any problem in life. This is a lie, though. Trusting in your money only leads to ruin. Check out what Prov. 11:28 has to say about the subject:

Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

There’s a reason that hoarding money doesn’t ever really make your fear go away: No matter how much you have, it can never really protect you from ruin. If you trust your money to provide for your needs, it’s going to let you down.

The generous are fearless.

So, what does all of this have to do with giving? If you study scripture, you’ll find that people who are described as generous are also described as having great peace. The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31 is both generous and fearless:

20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

The same is true of the righteous people described Psalms 112. Verse 9 says that “they have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,” and verses 7-8 tell us:

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear….

And lest you think that these people are fearless only because they have money, look at what Job says about the issue in Job 31:

24 If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained….

28 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

(Job, by the way, was also a generous man — Job 29:11-17 goes into detail about the things that he did to care for the poor and the oppressed.)

So, there seems to be a correlation between spiritual peace and financial generosity. The people that were big givers in scripture were fearless about the future. But is there also causation? Does giving cause you to become fearless?

I think it does, and I think it works like this: Giving our money away breaks our dependence on material things and  forces us to depend on God. And depending on God helps us to overcome fear.

We can’t have it both ways.

You see, money tries to tell us that it is our source of security in life. God, however, wants us to trust supremely in Him. He asks us to give generously to the poor, and He also promises to meet (and exceed) all of our needs when we do. The lie of money, on the other hand, tells us to hold on to as much cash as we can, because some day we may need it to rescue us from calamity.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t fully trust God and also trust our wealth. We can’t give generously while also hoarding selfishly. God has given us a choice to make. We either follow Him, or we follow the material world. We cannot serve to masters.

How do we choose between these two forces that seem to be pulling at our hearts in opposite directions? We choose with our pocketbooks. We vote with our money. Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.

When you choose to give your money the way God has commanded you, it brings your financial life into alignment with His will. And, since you’ve just given away the security blanket that the world encourages you to keep, it forces you to depend totally on Him. After all, you can’t put your trust in money that you’ve just given away to somebody else.

A generous person has given up the right to trust in her money, and has chosen to trust in God instead. And here’s where the miracle happens: The more that we trust in God, the more peace we have, because God provides for us and protects us in a much fuller, deeper and more meaningful way than our wealth ever could.

Now I’m not saying that we should be careless about giving our money away — the Bible is also clear that God wants us to save for emergencies, to budget well, to care for our families and to invest for the future. But if you struggle with deep fear about your financial future, hoarding money won’t save you.

Giving money, on the other hand, will put you squarely in the hands of the One who can.

——

Photo by Ian Brown. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Comments

  1. It is becoming downright creepy, Brian, the number of times one of your blog posts comes along at just the moment I had something in my mind already. I swear you must be following me around.

    Anyway, great article. Follow-up question: How do you determine the balance between saving wisely (building an emergency fund and an income buffer to avoid living paycheck to paycheck) and giving away that which you have? Where do you draw the line between hoarding and wisely saving? Thanks!

    • Great to hear that this article resonated with you, Josh! That’s a great question, and here’s the way that I look at it:

      In scripture, we see that God wants us to be active in preparing for expenses that we can reasonably foresee. In fact, I use the story of Joseph in Israel in teaching about emergency savings: Joseph foresaw that a famine was coming to the land, and he began saving resources so that he and his nation could be prepared to endure it. So, the question is whether you’re putting money aside for a reasonable, foreseeable expense, or whether you’re holding on to your cash because you enjoy the way that it feels in your hands (figuratively speaking).

      There are plenty of examples in everyday life: I know that I’ll have to pay annual expenses such as taxes at the end of this year, so I’m saving some money to be able to cover that expense. I know that my family is going to have some medical bills. I know that the home that I live in will require some repairs at some point, as will my car (because all homes and all cars eventually do). I may not know when these things will happen, but wisdom tells me that they will happen eventually. Emergency savings allows me to prepare in advance so that I don’t have to be stressed out when these small things happen.

      There are also some mid-term and long-term expenses that we can see coming. I know that my kids will want to go to college. I know that someday I will retire. And I know that an unforeseen disaster could leave me with big medical expenses or personal liabilities. So I save and invest for the future, and carry good insurance to protect me from emergencies in my family’s health, cars or home.

      Where does this cross the line into hoarding? I would say that it happens when you continue to save money beyond what you need to take care of your own family. Each person’s situation is different, but many experts suggest an emergency fund of 3-6 months of household expenses, as well as investing 10-15% of your income. If you’re doing much more than that without a specific spending goal in mind, you may need to question why it is you’re hoarding so much money.

      We can’t all give as generously as we would like all the time. But if you have enough to take care of your foreseeable needs, giving is the next right thing to do.

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