Many of you have probably heard the quote the Jesus talked more about money than heaven and hell. I am not sure that is particularly helpful but I think the point intended is to remind us that the stewardship of our financial resources is both reflective and symbolic of our obedience.
1Tim. 6:17-19 is an exhortation to those of us with the means to give, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Giving generously is a matter of discipleship.
Through our giving, we participate in the ministry to which we give and we as givers are the ones who are blessed! Paul praises the Philippians because of their generosity in Phil. 4:14-17,”Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” This verse has made it so much easier (note I did not say easy) to raise funds as a missionary!
Paul says as we sow generously, we will reap generously in 2 Cor 9:6 and following. Why then do Christians not give generously? Matt Bell in a blog post on Sound Mind Investing wrote a blog post today, “Why are we more generous?” He is reviewing the book Passing the Plate and quotes the author as saying that 77% of Protestants who regularly attend church give less than 10% Why is that? Here are four reasons Christians are not generous with their giving from Passing the Plate that Bells cites. I place them here with my own words describing what these reasons mean
- Objective resource constraints—we lack the means to give generously
- Subjective resource constraints—we think we lack the means to give generously (need to save more, build up our retirement, pay off debt etc.).
- Unperceived Needs—we are unaware of legitimate needs.
- Normative ignorance—we do not understand that giving generously is a key element in our life with God.
Next Monday, I will redo a post on how generosity is an antidote to envy.
After reading Luke 6:17-45 yesterday, I pulled out the massive first volume on Luke by Darrell Bock. Following are some nuggets I discovered:
- Luke 6:21a The consequence of being among the poor is “hunger and sadness.” Darrell Bock 575
- Quote from Goppelt, “The hungry are men who both outwardly and inwardly are painfully deficient in the things essential to life as God meant it to be, and who since they cannot help themselves, turn to God on the basis of His promise.”
- Bock’s summary of the verse: “Blessed are you who sense your lack and depend on God, for God shall accept and reward you in the consummation.” 576
- Luke 6:22 from Bock, “Blessed are you who suffer scorn and pain as you identify with God and depend on him, for you shall be fully welcomed by him at his table and shall rejoice.” 577
- Luke 6:22-23 “The disciple is treated as evil, unclean, and thus as a person with whom one does not associate.” Total rejection. 579
- Luke 6:24-26 Warning about trusting “too greatly in wealth, comfort, popularity and possessions.” 582
- “An attitude of independence from God is the road to destruction. Its reward is fleeting, limited to the present.” 582
- Luke 6:24 “What is condemned is a misplaced focus that zeroes in on this life and its possessions without concern for God’s desires or fellow humans. The danger of succumbing to things of only temporal value is all too real and deceptive.” 583
- Luke 6:25 “The joy of possessions now will become the pain of what is lost forever.” 585 Darrell Bock
- Luke 6:26 Warning “not to fall into the trap of courting acceptance for one’s message at the expense of truthfulness. . . Popularity at the expense of being God’s faithful representative is disastrous.” 585
- Luke 6:27-38
- Mercy should produce a hesitation to judge others. Luke 6:27-38
- Mercy and generosity belong together
- The disciples are to “make clear what the justice of God would mean for one who steadfastly refused to listen to God; but they were to seek to benefit their enemies as much as possible.” 591
- Luke 6:28 supernatural love being discussed here since it reverses “all natural instincts.” 590
- Luke 6:29a “Love is available, vulnerable, and subject to repeated abuse.”
- Turning the other cheek “is not so much an active pursuit as it is a natural exposure when one reaches out to those who have contempt.” In other words, we continue “to minister at the risk of further persecution.” 591
- Luke 6:30b “To commit to a radical love, one must see that God honors such a commitment to reflect his grace (6:35-36).”
- Luke 6:31 “not simply a command to avoid unfair treatment that one might not wish for oneself. Rather, it is a command to give the same sensitive consideration to others that one might want others to give.” 596
- “treat others with the respect and sensitivity that one would wish from them.” 597
- “As you wish to be treated with sensitivity to your preferences, so treat others with sensitivity to their preferences.” 598 (“this does not involve moral areas where God’s desire is clear”)
- Luke 6:34 “One should give without strings attached.” 601
- Luke 6:37-38 When we are merciful, we are hesitant to condemn and quick to forgive. 605 (my summary of his words)
- Luke 6:37 Jesus warns against a harshness that holds onto an unforgiving attitude and ceases to hold out hope. 607 (my summary again)
After hearing a sermon about money this money, I decided to do a re-post from 2007.
I once made the mistake of calling friends frugal when they intentionally reducing the amount of food they served our group in order to save money. I think our friends did not understand the cultural value of celebration around a meal and how generosity would have communicated so much love.
Our friends were insulted and thought I was calling them stingy. Thanks to my wife, we managed to work it out. And, perhaps, providing them with a gift of a simple ride to the airport helped as well.
Mark Buchanan’s eloquent words in The Rest of God express my heart, “Generous people generate things.” He continues on pages 83-84:
And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful.They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.
Not so the stingy. Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. . . Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. . . . Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.
This all relates to Sabbath-keeping. Generous people have more time. That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away–who treat time as gift and not possession–have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. . . .
I don’t think my friends were stingy when I called them frugal. It was clearly a cultural misunderstanding. But, I guess in the matter we were discussing, I don’t think they were being generous either. My daughter, a server at a local restaurant, once picked up the bill for three friends who came in to eat a few weeks ago. She paid the full amount and received no discount or complimentary meal for them. She felt like being generous. Why? Well, according to my friend, she said that she had learned it from her dad. Wow, what a compliment! By the way, she did get the biggest tip of her young career from the friends!
Buchanan says, “The taproot of generosity is spiritual”, and cites the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5. He makes the following suggestion:
Give yourself first to God. Stop, now, and give yourself–your breath, your health or sickness, your thoughts, your intents, all of who you are–to him. And your time, that too. Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God’s sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God to know the difference). Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” Proverbs says, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it.
Give yourself first to God.
Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own–indeed that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is a such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself–your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness?
In God’s economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some.
Try this for a week, giving of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with time.
See if your world isn’t larger by this time next week.
May I practice generosity this week! I need to begin by letting go of . . . and giving . . .
Terry Austin suggests that we should evaluate stewardship on the basis of a generous heart as opposed to how much money a person gives. His definition of generosity: “To be generous means that we care more about others than we care about ourselves.” Sounds like it could have come out of Philippians 2?
Austin does acknowledge that there are times in our life when we may require the majority of our money to meet our own needs. But, hopefully, we understand this as a temporary situation and when the blessing of God comes, we give generously because we care about others more than ourselves.
Again here is Terry, It is the temptation to store up and hoard for a rainy day that keeps us from being generous. When we care for others more than we care for ourselves, we are free to open our hands to release stuff to those who have needs.
Makes me wonder who are the truly generous people–generosity shouldn’t really be measured on the basis of how much people give or even on the percentage people give. Yet, if we truly care, our resources will become available. . . for others.
Found these on Michael Hyatt’s blog but he pointed the way to the original source, Kent M. Keith. Here they are from his web site which includes an explanation on why these were associated with Mother Theresa. Keith wrote these when he was 19! You can also check out his universal moral code.
The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001
People are in need all around us. This is an issue for all of us, not just those of us who live in Asia. I can still see the homeless people living under the bridges in Houston. If I am honest, I sometimes avoid those places in which I may encounter those most in need, encounter those begging. My lack of compassion is troubling. Two very challenging posts from John Piper on “Giving to the one who begs from you,” out of Matthew 5:42 do not make me feel any better.
Piper discusses reasons why we would not want to give to beggars: maybe they are being dishonest, use drugs or involved in other sinful behavior; we may not be sure if there is a real need; will we create dependency?
He tests my heart with such radical love. And in my heart I see my selfish, unloving impulses that do not want to part with my money, possessions, time, or convenience for needy or evil people.
Piper points out that He asks us to do this not because of what good may happen in the lives of the people we help but simply because we are sons of our Father in heaven (Mtt 5:45). As Piper says, we show that we are God’s children by “the stunning—some would call foolish—way we show generous kindness toward undeserving evil people—the very kindness we’ve received.”
I am afraid that I too often fail miserably in this call to “radical, gospel generosity.” Pray for me that I might give freely just as I have freely received. Picture below is from buhaypinoy
Started reading Psalm 31 this week and verse 19 seemed to jump out at me. Reading from the New Living Translation,
“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.”
Why overwhelmed by his goodness? Because it is undeserved. Because there is no reason that I should experience the goodness that comes regularly into my life! I have heard some say (and I suspect that many others think) that they have earned all (ok, most of) the good things that are in their life. But James 1:17, says that whatever is good comes down from God above. The generous, overwhelming, extravagant love of God toward us is the only reason to explain why we have what we have and others do not. Because He is good and Jesus tells us that no one is truly good except God (Luke 18:19), Because He delights to gives good gifts to his children (Mtt 7:11) and indeed to the whole world (Acts 14:17). And so overwhelmed by (His) goodness, we are full of thanks and are generous toward others, sharing the good that He has graciously given to us. And because He is Good, how could we ever think to boast or flaunt what we have? A couple of attempts trying to depict goodness in a photo
Looked up goodness in Grudem’s Theology and he says, “‘Good’ is what God approves.” Not a particularly useful definition to me. But I do like his last sentence where he helps me understand how goodness relates to his mercy, patience and grace, “Thus God’s mercy is his goodness toward those in distress; his grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment; and his patience is his goodness toward those who continue to sin over a period of time.” (198, italics original) Now, I even more overwhelmed by his goodness!
More Lenten reflections from Catherine Larson out of James 4:17 at Breakpoint. Some of us are better than others at “avoiding the wrong things” but how do we measure up in “doing the right things”? I didn’t say express those hurtful words last week to my sister but I withheld love and encouragement!!
“Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” is what James 4:17 says. Actually, when you read Jesus, even avoiding the bad is not as easy as I previously thought. Jesus says, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have already committed adultery with her (Mtt 5:28)
Sin is both omitting goodness as well as committing evil. Larson writes,
“It reminds me what a huge gap there is between me and the perfect standard God requires. I have committed sins. But I have also omitted goodness. I have neglected the words of praise someone needed; I’ve idled away my talents; I’ve not been generous when God has prompted.
Larson also writes about repentance; that is “a good place to begin before we ever come close to thinking about the wrongs others have done to us.”
C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. ” (italics original in Christian Behaviour) Why? Because says Lewis, “When we behave as if we love someone, we will come to love him.”
Ok then, here are some ways I could do this
- listen to their stories
- join them in their world when possible
- express interest in their family
- support them when possible
- show them all the five languages of love
- show them respect and honor
- do what they want
- speak the truth to them
- walk with them
- don’t judge or criticize or slander them
- think the best of them
“I am afraid that I have fallen back into being negative,” someone commented the other day. How easy it is to do–I should know, Mr. Glass half-empty! After being warned a number of years ago by the elders of my church about my negativity in response to a decision, I have tried to work hard on being positive, what I have called the spiritual discipline of gratefulness. I would like to think there has been some improvement but how easy it is to slip back into negative patterns.
I thought about this as I read Psalm 103 and 1 Peter 2 this morning. Psalm 103:2 tells me to never forget the good things he does for me–and they are abundant, even in the hard times. Then verse 5 says, “He fills my life with good things!” (NLT) One of the questions that I enjoy asking people is “What are the good things God is doing in your life?” I think if we begin with a focus on his goodness, the hardships of life become tolerable.
In fact, I think a focus on his goodness to us allows us to practice the goodness of 1 Peter 2:21-25. God calls us to do goodness, even if it costs us and our expression of goodness is to be shown to those who are unjust, unfair, insult us and cause us to suffer. Verse 21 is pretty clear here, “He is your example and you must follow in his steps. Of course, we know God defines and is the source of all that is good (Luke 18:19; James 5:17). Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology says God’s goodness is related to his love as he “eternally gives himself to others.” Relating his goodness to other attributes, Grudem says,
“Thus, God’s mercy is his goodness toward those in distress his grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment and his patience is his goodness toward those who continue to sin over a period of time.”
Did a search for a picture of goodness on google–not a profitable search–how goodness has been perverted and misunderstood in today’s world. How about this picture to represent goodness.
Thanks to Austin Pryor at Sound Mind Investing, where I found this challenging article on stewardship–Terry Austin suggests, an understanding of stewardship from God’s perspective, would turn the world upside down again.
It is a totally new way of thinking to assume that God is just as concerned about our comfort as we are. If we are not careful we will find ourselves believing that the world revolves around us and our needs. This leads to a Gospel of success instead of sacrifice; it is the broad way that leads to destruction rather than the narrow way that leads to life.
This notion that God’s purpose is to help me have a better life is especially prevalent in the way we do stewardship. When you read much of what is taught as stewardship today, you come away with the idea that the goal of stewardship is to become a debt-free member of the middle class with a well funded retirement account. In other words, the goal of stewardship is our comfort.
In reality, the goal of stewardship is to bring glory to God. With that purpose in mind, many of our decisions about the way we handle the world will radically change. If enough of God’s people could grasp this concept, we might see the world turned upside down once again.
Last year, a friend of mine was putting together a seminar on “what makes people happy.” I never heard how her project ended up but thanks again to Austin Pryor, I found the following article in which “research” has discovered that people receive more happiness when they spend their money on others than on themselves. And, like exercise, giving to others over a longer period of time, “could make a lasting difference.”
I think they have discovered what the Bible has been teaching us for a long time, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35; Mtt 5:42; 19:21; 25:31ff
The Lord started something last week and is is so interesting to see how He wraps everything around so that both ends start touching. I finished reading Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz over the weekend and his two chapters on Love were outstanding. The first one was Love: How to Really Love Others and the next one was Love: How to Really Love Yourself.
Very interesting that at the same time the Lord was gently crushing me concerning my pride, He was doing the same thing with my wife. About her pride, of course, not about my pride! The Lord brought us to the same point but used different means to do so. We had a great talk over the weekend about it and resolved to repent–somehow that does not sound right–resolve to repent??? Well, we confessed our pride to the Lord and declared our desire to do it His way not ours. And then my wife wrote a beautiful letter of repentance to someone to whom she felt that she had expressed pride.
Oh, yes, back to Miller’s book. Two things that Miller discovered that he had to repent from. One, he had to repent from using love as a commodity. He discovered, “The church used love like money. With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did.” 218 I think Miller is on to something. Why does it often not feel safe within the church to share our struggles or weaknesses? Is it because too often our love is conditional and is withheld in order to get people to do what we think they should do? A generalization here but something worth thinking about.
In any case, here is how Miller repented (and repent is the word he used). I replaced economic metaphor, in my mind, with something different, a free gift metaphor or a magnet metaphor. that is, instead of withholding love to change somebody, I poured it on, lavishly. I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people away from the mire and toward healing. I knew this was the way God loved me. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson. 220
Miller discovered the following, “Nobody will listen to you unless they sense that you like them. . .I love the fact that it wasn’t my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God’s, that my part was just to communicate love and approval.” 220-21 It will be interesting to see if anyone reacts to this at some point. It is also interesting that I read the following from C.S. Lewis over the weekend, and he is on the same track in his small book, Christian Behavior. He talks about Christians abstaining from various activities (drinking for example). Lewis writes
But the whole point is that he is abstaining for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. 13
One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he can’t give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That isn’t the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons . . . but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turn. 14
I am off a bit from loving others but I think the point of Lewis matches up with Millers and may help us explain why so many people I have met dislike or are disillusioned with the church.
Read Luke 17:1-6 this morning. After hearing Jesus’ words, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. I don’t know to what they were reacting–the warning against causing others to sin or the command to forgive others, even if they sin against me seven times in a day. Certainly both are challenging, no impossible apart from a Spirit-led life. Ties in with my reading earlier in the week in Luke 6:27-42. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (27,28) I don’t know about you but this is not how I live very often. But, in v36, Jesus tells us we will be rewarded and will be sons of the Most High God if only we do what He says. What is that? Only that we “love (y)our enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” (35) I find myself shaking my head and I realize how much growth is needed in my relationship with God when I read these verses. Luke says, God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Therefore, we are to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (36)
“Kind to the ungrateful and wicked”, “merciful”, “loving my enemies”, “doing good to those who hate me”, “blessing those who curse me”, “praying for those who mistreat me”. Lord, increase my faith!!