I have to admit, we tend to think of “sharing” as something that we tell children to do as they rip toys out of each other’s hands. But, if we are being honest, the instruction to “share” seems to disappear with our tea sets, tater tots, and superman sheets. The entire notion that it is a virtuous quality to share what we have seems to go out with the tide of youth. Think about it. When was the last time you heard an adult being told they needed to share their “toys”? What does the Bible have to say about our practice of “aging out” of the necessity to share?
As I was reading some of Randy Alcorn’s work, I was challenged by some of his ideas and dug deeper into the scripture regarding the simple word “share”. I have to confess, I have always considered the word “share” to be synonymous with the word “give”. Essentially, sharing meant giving in any and all translations, and there are many verses that encourage believers to share what they have. In several of them, I think we could simply walk away from the verses equating sharing with giving and more or less be correct (Luke 3:11, Eph. 4:28, Heb. 13:16, NIV, for example).
However, while it might sound like I am splitting hairs (I’ll get to why this all matters in just a moment), I think there are several verses that depict sharing as a separate and different act of generosity. Consider the following:
“Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Tim. 6:18, NASB)
“The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.” (Gal. 6:6, NASB)
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom. 12:13, NIV)
These verses present sharing as something different than giving. Paul tells the rich to be generous AND ready to share. In the passage from Galatians, if share means give, then we are called to give all good things we have to our teachers of the word. This doesn’t seem quite right. Hospitality implies inviting people into our lives…not giving them our home.
In all of this, I present a different layer of Christian Generosity: Sharing. The simple act of allowing our resources to be used by others (willingly) is a biblical strand of a believer’s call to give. I think that sharing has at least four impacts on a Christian’s life.
1. It creates another layer by which to reach the world with our generosity. In some ways it’s easier and certainly more affordable! Maybe we can’t buy/give a car to a ministry that operates primarily on Saturdays, but we could “share” our vehicle. Opening up our minds to sharing greatly expands our capacity for generosity, and in many ways, stretches us differently than giving does.
2. It frees us of being owned by our possessions. The Bible speaks strongly on the subject of not holding tightly to the things of this world. What Alcorn calls “possessiveness”, we tend to be tenaciously protective of possessions we have convinced ourselves we hold loosely. Essentially, if we aren’t willing to share a possession, it has an unhealthy grip on our hearts. Sharing keeps us from putting too much priority on a worldly possession. Letting someone else use our stuff forces us to loosen our grip (or get ulcers!).
3. It testifies that God is the owner of all things. If we honestly believe that God owns all of us and all we have (all the world for that matter), then sharing is rather easy. If we believe we own what we have, sharing is very difficult. Christian sharing can be a strong testimony to a world that craves ownership.
4. It shows that God’s kingdom is our first priority. If we share all we have for God’s glory, it shows that our possessions are not our purpose. When everything we own is out on the table to be used as God sees fit, we can be assured that His kingdom is first in our hearts. Sharing is the product of a mindset focused on God’s purposes for our lives, our house, our car, our lawn mower, our ladder…
I think room remains for us to be inspired by the earliest days of the church: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32, NIV) There is something liberating about extending our generosity beyond giving. Sharing stretches us to consider that even ”our” possessions are not really our possessions–they are God’s, fully available to serve His purposes. It requires a different type of generosity. We can’t stay uninvolved when we share. It requires communication, trust, and a perspective that puts God’s purposes above possessions, dings, dents, scratches, rips, tears, and maybe, even losing the item we are sharing.
When we tell children they must share, they often protest, “But this is mine!” Will we respond in the same manner when God asks this of us?