Word of the Week
October 8, 2022
Haplotēs: How to Give
The one who gives, with generosity.
Why do people give away money?
Many contribute to charities in order to reduce the bite of this year’s income tax. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the donor is doing it for his own benefit.
Another person gives money to help his grown children through a rough time. That can be a mark of love, but it can also be motivated by guilt or pressure from the kids.
Some people toss cash at anyone with a sob story, while others only let go of a dollar when they have thoroughly vetted the recipient.
Gifts come wrapped in all kinds of attitudes and motivations, some more admirable than others.
How can I ensure that my gifts are given in the right way, for the right reasons?
The New Testament sums it up in one word – a Greek word.
The apostle Paul reminded the Roman church that every believer is equipped with at least one spiritual gift, a potential ability to serve God and strengthen others in a particular way. And He expects us to use those gifts. If you gave a power saw to a carpenter, you would expect him to use it to cut boards. And when the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to teach or serve, He intends you to employ it to bless others.
In Romans 12:8, the apostle is moving through a list of instructions on how to use your gift and comes to the gift of giving. His advice is simple and clear: When you give, do it with generosity!
The Greek word for generosity is haplotēs – it occurs 8 times in the New Testament, translated two different ways: simplicity/sincerity or generosity/liberality. Such an interesting combination of meanings deserves a closer look.
The earliest uses of haplotēs in secular Greek meant “single,” the opposite of double. You could use it to describe a physical object, but it soon turned into the description of a character quality. A person who was haplotēs is someone who speaks the straight truth without a hidden meaning. The Old Testament used it to describe the wise man who walks in a single direction because he is wholeheartedly committed to God’s law. David donated huge amounts of silver and gold for the construction of the Temple that Solomon would build, and he did it with “singleness of heart” (1 Chronicles 29:17). His motives were unmixed.
In the New Testament, this word is used to describe the kind of service that slaves are to render to their masters – not just looking busy when the master is watching but working with undivided attention. After all, the ultimate Master is God (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). You’re doing the right thing because you truly want to do right – not just because you’ll get in trouble for not doing it.
Paul also urges the Corinthians not to let anyone distract them from single–minded, pure devotion to Christ. Satan craftily persuaded Eve to divide her loyalty to God, and we can’t afford to follow her lead (2 Corinthians 11:3). The apostle reminded them that he had set an example of ministry with no mixed motives (2 Corinthians 1:12).
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul uses haplotēs as the keynote for a giving project. Jewish believers in Judea were struggling, and their Gentile brothers in Greece were joining to collect funds for these brethren. Paul wanted a big offering, of course. But that’s not all he wanted.
Give with haplotēs, he says – with a single-minded intensity that will overflow in liberality.
- The Macedonian churches of north Greece were overflowing with liberality, even though they were not wealthy (2 Corinthians 8:2).
- The Lord would enrich them in everything because of their liberality (2 Corinthians 9:11).
- Others will glorify God when they observe your liberality (2 Corinthians 9:13).
Pay attention to the twin translations of this word and you will find the key to giving that pleases God. As Romans 12:8 says, when you give, do it with a single–minded devotion to the Lord which results in whole-hearted generosity. Make sure you are giving for the right reasons and the amount will take care of itself.
This word is a noun, but there is a matching adverb haplōs that appears in James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all haplōs and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God sets the pattern for giving: He gives without second thoughts, without reservation, without grudging. It is the single, simple, sincere impulse of His heart. And when the Spirit gives the gift of giving, that’s how we will learn to give.
When Romans 12:8 talks about the spiritual gift of giving, it uses the word metadidōmi, to share or impart. It’s not limited to money. John the Baptist told the crowds to share food and clothing with those in need (Luke 3:11). Paul wanted to impart some spiritual gift with the church at Rome (Romans 1:11). Paul shared both the gospel and his own life with the people in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:8). And he urged the Ephesians to work with their own hands so they would have something to share with others (Ephesians 4:28). The gift of giving can show itself in many ways!
We are going to stay in the same verse next week, moving to the next phrase. We will learn how God wants us to exercise the gift of leadership.
©Ezra Project 2022