In Isaiah, God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9,WEB). There are many examples we could use to illustrate this truth by contrasting God’s take on something with the typical human ways of seeing things. One example is how God taking justice to the next level turns into mercy. Where people might typically be inclined to administer justice more strictly, God calls us to follow His example of reconciliation and mercy.
Another key way that God’s thoughts are higher and different than ours shows up in how He handles the question of what to do with the wealth that He has. “The world and all it contains belong to me,” God says (Ps. 50:9-12); He’s the wealthiest being in the universe. And what does He do as the One who has everything? He gives.
Parable of the Rich Fool
Jesus spoke several times about wealth. He’s living proof that God views abundance as something to share (and what greater proof could there be than Him wanting to share eternal life with us?). He also tells us what sort of “wealth” we ought to prioritize. One example is found in this parable:
He then told them a parable: “The land of a certain rich man produced an abundant crop, so he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of goods stored up for many years; relax, eat, drink, celebrate!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”Luke 12:16-21, NET
True riches are located with God in heaven. If we’re more focused on building up wealth here on earth than on being “rich toward God,” then we’re not in a stable place from an eternal perspective. The notion of building larger storehouses to hoard abundance when you have more than enough is a very different attitude than the one God displays.
Open the Storehouse of Heaven
Let’s say you do have a proper view of wealth and prioritize treasures in heaven far more than treasures on earth. Even so, God often blesses His people with more than enough in a physical sense. Just because we’re not supposed to prioritize wealth doesn’t mean we won’t be blessed with more than enough physical things. What do you do then? Do you lay it up for yourself, or is there a different model that God shows?
“Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out blessing for you until there is no room for it all.”Malachi 3:10, NET
God doesn’t invite us to test Him often, but He does in this matter of His generosity. It seems counter-intuitive that we could give Him 10% of our income and that He’d give us even more back, but that’s who He is. Just look at the blessings promised in Deut. 28:1-14 if you’re skeptical about His willingness to provide for us physically as well as spiritually. Those blessings were offered to ancient Israel in particular, but God hasn’t changed since then; He still “gives to all generously” (James 1:5, NET).
All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.James 1:17, NET
This attitude is a sharp contrast to that of the rich person in Jesus’s parable, whose first thought when he had more than enough was to heap it up for himself. God doesn’t do that. He does give us the power to do what we want with the things we have (Matt. 20:15), but He also watches closely to see how we react when He blesses us. The choices we make for how to handle our abundance (whatever is over and above the things we need to live) help show God where our priorities lie.
Will we be dishonest as Ananias and Sapphira were, trying to fool people into thinking we give more than we really do (Acts 5:1-5)? Or will giving be so much a part of our walk in Jesus’s footsteps that we don’t bother to keep track of our kindnesses (Matt. 6:2-4)? Will we be selfish with our blessings, or will we be generous like God is with us?
A Guide for our Generosity
I’m not saying that we need to divest ourselves of possessions and live in poverty, having given everything we have away. That’s not the call God gives to most of us. And generosity isn’t only specific to money; it can also involve giving of our time, our hospitality, and our attention. That said, we do need to be aware of our attitude toward the blessings God gives us and be sure that our choice of what to do with our “more than enough” is a godly one.
I often think of this quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity : “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. … If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small” (click here for full quote). God’s people should be above-average generous because we serve a God who’s been beyond imagination generous toward us. Psalms and Proverbs make it clear: the righteous are generous and will be blessed (Psalm 37:21; 112:5, 9; Prov. 11:16, 24-25;22:9). Similarly, Paul weighs in on this question by saying,
My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. Just as it is written, “He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.” Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God,2 Corinthians 9:6-11, NET
Walking with God involves a change in the way our minds work. We are supposed to become like Him, and the way He thinks is very different than the way human beings think, especially before His spirit begins transforming us (1 Cor. 2:6-16). There is great value in shifting our mindset from one that sees blessings as something we need to hoard for ourselves and one that sees abundance as something to share generously. Psychology research backs this up, too–it’s far healthier to have an “abundance mindset” (i.e. there’s enough for everyone) than a “scarcity mindset” (i.e. resources are limited so I need to guard mine) (see “5 Ways To Go From A Scarcity To Abundance Mindset” and “Abundance Vs. Scarcity — Which Mindset Is Yours?”).
Ultimately, God doesn’t want us to worry about things we might lack now or which we have but could possibly lose. He wants us to focus on His provision and His goodness, storing up treasures in heaven rather than temporary things here on earth. He wants us to care for other people, desire to see them blessed, and be a blessing to them when it’s in our power to do so. Just as those who receive God’s mercy should be inspired to show others mercy, so should those who benefit from God’s generosity be inspired to have a generous, giving attitude. As Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver,” and Jesus showed that even the tiniest amount of sharing is enough to catch His eye (Mark 12:41-44). It’s not really about how much you can give, but about the attitude that prompts you giving of your time, attention, money, and/or other things you have the potential to be generous with.
Featured image by TanteTati from Pixabay
Song Recommendation: “Let it Rain” (sometimes this song seems way too repetitive to me, but it’s been playing through my head off-and-on all week since I started writing this post so here it is).