God’s Generosity With His Wealth

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).

A Closer Look at God’s Promise to Give Us All Things

There are some big promises in the Bible for those who seek God. Jesus even says you’ll receive “all things” you pray for if you believe (Matt. 21:22; Mark 11:24). “All things” seems quite a big promise. And at times, it seems like one God doesn’t live-up to. If He really meant we’d get “all things” we pray for, then why don’t I have the miracle cure, the new yacht, or the publishing deal I asked for?

“All things” must not cover whatever physical blessings we want, else there wouldn’t be so few wealthy Christians. It must not cover perfect health and physical safety, else there wouldn’t be so many Christians fighting illness or being killed for their faith. The problem isn’t just that we lack faith — even people in the faith chapter were sold into slavery, sawed in two, and wandered around homeless (see Hebrews 11).

Maybe “all things” means something different than we assume at first glance. And maybe it’s even better than we realized or expected.

Seeking the One Who Made All Things

God is not a vending machine that spits out blessings when you put in prayers. He wants to give us good things of course, but even more than that He wants to connect with our hearts.

This is the boldness which we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15, WEB)

It’s okay to pray big prayers and expect results when we ask within God’s will. The part of these verses that really captures my attention, though, is that we know God listens to us when we pray. Have you ever thought about that? Listening is so important in relationships. You can’t get close to someone unless you’re both listening to each other. When we seek God, we can have confidence that He is a listener who wants to get to know us.

You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:12-13, WEB)

When we seek God, our goal shouldn’t be to get things from Him. It should be to find Him. If you want “all things,” then seek a relationship with God the Father and with Jesus, “for whom are all things and through whom are all things” (Heb. 2:10, see also Col. 1:16-20).

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Do You Value The Gifts From Your Bridegroom?

God has invited us to become part of the greatest love story ever told. As Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man — a king — who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Matt. 22:2), LEB). That’s what God the Father is doing. He’s inviting us to be part of the marriage He’s planing for His son in the key role of the bride.

The people listening as Jesus spoke this parable would have known about all the wedding customs implied by this comparison. If you want to learn more about what was involved in a father planning his son’s marriage, I recommend “The Ancient Jewish Wedding” by Jamie Lash (click to read). There’s a lot of incredible things in these traditions that point to Jesus, but we’ll just focus on one for today.

A Jewish bridegroom would give his bride gifts as part of the betrothal process. He’d seal the betrothal agreement and then go away for a while to prepare their new home, leaving a gift along with his pledge to return. The gift(s) were meant to remind the bride of her groom. Think of it like an engagement ring. It’s no surprise, then, that our bridegroom Jesus Christ also “gave gifts to people” (Eph. 4:7-8, WEB).

Gift Of the Spirit

As we talked about in my Pentecost post earlier this year, the holy spirit is the chief of our bridal gifts.

in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [which] is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14, WEB with “who” corrected to “which.” See article, “What Is The Holy Spirit?”)

The holy spirit wasn’t given until after Jesus was glorified and had fulfilled the other parts of establishing the marriage covenant (John 7:39). Only then did He and His father give “the gift of the holy spirit” (Acts 2:38). Each time God gives the holy spirit to a new believer, He’s marking us as belonging to the Bridegroom and pledging that He will come back and fulfill all His promises. Read more

Instructions To Teachers

In June, I’ll be giving my first seminar at a church-sponsored young adult retreat. The last time I spoke in front of an audience was in a college class five years ago, so I’m a bit nervous. On top of that, teaching the Lord’s people is a serious responsibility. But it’s also one I’m grateful to have an opportunity for here on this blog and soon in-person as well.

While the Bible does talk about female prophets, it’s a bit fuzzy on the subject of women teaching. On the one hand, we have examples of prophetesses advising and instructing and women like Priscilla going out and teaching God’s truth. On the other, we have Paul’s admonitions for women to keep silent in the churches. So if I am going to teach in writing or speech, I want to be particularly careful I go about it in the way God intends.

The New Testament contains several instructions, as well as warnings, for teachers. Many are aimed at people in ministry, but I think in most cases we can apply them to anyone teaching God’s way of life. And to a certain extent, that includes every one of us in the church. Even if we’re not a “teacher,” we’re still serving as examples of God’s way and have a responsibility to faithfully represent Him to others.Instructions To Teachers | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Teach Only Truth

The bulk of the instructions to teachers concerns what they teach. They’re given the responsibility to faithfully share God’s words without straying from His truth. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that their worship was “in vain” because they taught human traditions instead of sound doctrine (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7). That’s a trap we mustn’t fall into.

Jesus’ parting command to His disciples, which we now call the Great Commission, tells them to teach the nations “to observe all things that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20, WEB). The early disciples followed that command by teaching in Jesus’ name the same things He taught (Acts 4:18; 5:42; 15:35; 28:31).

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he spends quite a bit of time warning him not to get distracted from sound doctrine. There will be people people who teach other doctrines, who get distracted from God’s message, who pollute Christ’s teachings with their own ideas. But that’s not what a teacher of God does. They stick to the scriptures, use the law lawfully, and faithfully practice righteousness (1 Tim. 1:3-11; 4:1-12; 6:3-6). Read more

The Gift of Prophecy

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses a variety of spiritual gifts. But there’s one in particular that he specifically tells them to “earnestly desire.” That gift is prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1, 39, WEB).

A basic definition for this word is to “speak forth by divine inspiration” (Thayer, G4395). Usually when we think of people prophesying, we think about the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. We think of men God used to foretell future events, confront sinful Israel, and write books of the Bible. We probably don’t think about prophets in the modern age.Why did Paul tell the New Covenant church that they should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

And yet, Paul wrote that the New Covenant church should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy. He said you should want it and if God gives it to you you should use it. But how do we recognize a gift of prophecy (in ourselves or others), and how should it be used? Read more

Be The “Anyone”

There are 3,310 pairs of socks in the men’s homeless shelter.

This past weekend, I attended a young adult service and enrichment weekend. After a Friday evening and Saturday of discussion questions, seminars, Shabbat services, and good fellowship we spent Sunday on a service project. Nearly 100 of us descended on a homeless shelter to help tackle some of their needs, including wall painting, deep cleaning, window washing, and sorting the donations room.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what my gifts are and how to use them effectively. That interest in personal growth and development is, in part, why this blog exists. But somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), this weekend’s focus on filling your role in the body of Christ barely touched on spiritual gifts and individual talents. Rather, the take-away was finding your identity as a servant of Christ and then following His example no matter what.

Photo: “Helping Hands” by Valerie Everett, CC BY-SA via Flickr

While I’m a staunch advocate for finding, developing, and using your gifts (that’s why you have them, after all), it doesn’t really take any particular gift to count socks. Perhaps someone with a gift for math could have worked more quickly, or a person with a gift for organization sorted them more efficiently. But really the only thing absolutely essential was showing up and doing the work.

In focusing on where we fit best, perhaps we sometimes close ourselves off to areas where anyone could serve. Maybe we think, “Anyone could do that, so I’ll focus on what I do best.” But that doesn’t mean “anyone” will actually step-up and do it.

During your quest to find the best way to use your gifts, don’t overlook the importance of being the “anyone” who will step in and fill needs. Move from theory to practice. Whether it’s in your family, your church, or your community, let’s look for opportunities to help and then actually take them.