No Such Thing As a Free Lunch

Lots of us like the feeling of getting a bargain, or even getting something for nothing. The Internet is a great place for free software, free e-books and all manner of free gifts. But is anything really free? Whatever it is, it costs someone somewhere something.

A reader recently wrote, “I’ve been receiving free magazines from you for more than a year now. I kind of feel guilty because the articles are so well written and well thought out, not to mention the graphics, but it’s for . . . well, free. You know what they say about nothing’s ever free in this world anymore. I don’t know about that. Perhaps by doing this for free, you’re also helping to set humankind free?”

It got me thinking about giving. If we ask ourselves, “What does the Bible say about the subject?” we find lots to consider. Giving is very different from getting and causes a different response in us. The apostle Paul recorded that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This is not to say that receiving is wrong; someone has to receive what is given. But in so saying, Paul was pointing out our responsibility to help others less favored. This accords with an account in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus sent out His disciples to share what they had learned. There He said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). He had given His followers much by way of teaching and exemplary living and now expected them to generously share this knowledge with others.

When we ask if only wealthier people have the duty of giving, we come across an interesting example in Mark’s Gospel. He tells of Jesus sitting by the temple treasury, observing people give offerings. The rich come by and give much, and a widow comes by and gives two small copper coins. Jesus’ conclusion is that she gave more than all the others, “for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44, English Standard Version). He was not suggesting that the poor should give all; His point was simply that the underlying attitude is what counts in giving.

We find other related principles of giving in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8).

In the widow’s case, her giving was not only cheerful and generous but sacrificial. She was willing to go without so that others would benefit. She was following Jesus’ example, who “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). And as we just saw, God is perfectly capable of blessing a person who gives from the heart, with far more than they have given.

The Vision reader who got me thinking about this went on to ask about how to donate to help others receive Vision and related publications free of charge. We do have a donation form on this website. Everything does cost something, and although we will not contact our readers to solicit donations, we do appreciate hearing from those who want to help others receive priceless knowledge that can change lives for good.