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 Christian’s Offerings

I’m struck by how many sacrifices people offered to God in the Old Testament. It wasn’t just the sin offerings and blood sacrifices we know pointed to Christ. There were also burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings given for thanks or as part of a vow, or voluntarily in worship and devotion to God (Lev. 1:1-3:17; 6:14-23; 7:11-36).

The book of Hebrews makes it very clear that Jesus fully filled all the offerings for sin, trespass, and atonement. This High Priest “does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). But how are the other offerings fulfilled today?click to read article, "A Christian's Offerings" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I think most churches encourage monetary offerings and/or tithing, even if they don’t use those exact words. That’s not the only thing we have to offer though. In fact, it’s not even the primary sacrifice God expects from His people today.

Offering Ourselves

We’re to follow Jesus Christ’s example in all things, including offering ourselves. We won’t be the same type of sacrifice nor operate at nearly the same level, but in the most general sense that is what we’re expected to do.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)

God has everything He could ever need, yet He wants us.  We are a sacrifice that we offer to God with nothing held back as we fulfill the first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Read more

Why I Sponsor Children

“I’d like to help, but …”

photo from Unbound.org

We fill-in-the-blank with a wide variety of things for a whole host of reasons, but today I want to talk about giving to charities. I saw a discussion on an INFJ Facebook group several months ago asking which charities other INFJs support. INFJs are considered one of the “save the world” personality types, as evidenced by the fact that two of the most famous INFJs were Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Many of the INFJ profiles you’ll read online talk about how INFJs often find work in non-profits and support charities. But even among a group of INFJs, there were plenty of people talking about the fact that they never donate to anything.

Now, there are perfectly understandable reasons for not giving money and I would never suggest you donate money that you don’t have. But if you have the means and desire to help, excuses like “I don’t trust charities” or “I don’t have the time” don’t hold up well in my mind. You can donate your time and money within your own community so you can see exactly what effects your efforts are having. There are also charities with good reputations who use their money wisely — you just have to look for them. And after that initial time-outlay of finding a charity you like, getting online to send money takes about a minute.

Personally, I like to sponsor children. I use Unbound, but as far as I know Compassion International is a great option as well. This is the perfect fit for me for several reasons:

  • I’m making a difference now, on an individual level for this child and their family
  • I’m affecting the future, because children become the adults that shape their countries
  • I get to build a relationship with the people I’m helping, through letter-writing

I guess the main thing I want to do today is encourage you to think about the impact you’re having on this world for good. It can be in any number of ways — serving in our church groups, going out of your way to make someone smile, donating money or food stuffs, volunteering your time, sponsoring a child … the list just goes on and on. I want to leave you with a quote from C.S. Lewis that convicted me to start finding more ways to give, though I still think I fall short by these standards.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Spared No Expense

When I hear the phrase “spared no expense,” the first thing that comes to mind is John Hammond advertizing his Jurassic Park. But recently I heard it twice in a completely different context — in two different sermons just a couple Sabbaths ago. In one message, the speaker was talking about showing hospitality, and in the other the subject was David’s generous offering when he welcomed the Ark in to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 16:1-18).

But anything humans can come up with when we “spare no expense” can’t begin to compare with what God can accomplish when He “spares no expense.”

With One Sacrifice

We all know John 3:16 — probably have it memorized. But please take the time to read it again with me.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Talk about sparing no expense! God delivered up His only Son to die in our places. Let’s think about this for a moment. We believe that God and the Word are Eternal and didn’t have a beginning point — They’ve always been there. It follows, then, that God the Father had never been alone before. Imagine how long those three days that Jesus spent dead in the grave must have seemed!

And now think of it from Christ’s perspective. He was the Word who “was with God, and the Word was God. … All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1, 3). He had equality with God and the power needed to make all things. And what did He do with that power?

made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

Christ gave up all this power, and risked His eternal life (for if He had failed there was no one else to sacrifice for sin), all to save us. That sacrifice was so valuable that “by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). His life was so precious — so “expensive,” if you will — that it could cancel out forever the debts of the whole world. Christ and the Father truly “spared no expense” in freeing us from captivity.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32)

Given All Things

What does “all things” in Romans 8:32 include? Well, having given the most valuable thing they could — Jesus Christ Himself — the Father and Son continue to “spare no expense” in blessing us. We touched on this last week when talking about god rewarding prayer, and promising “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11). Eternal life is one of these gifts, and a direct result of Christ’s sacrifice.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

Another extremely important gift that God gives through Jesus is His Holly Spirit. Peter calls it “the gift of God” in Acts 8:20, and John 7:39 notes that the Holy Spirit was only given after Christ was glorified, tying it directly to the greatest gift.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13)

You can finds lists of some spiritual gifts which God gives in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Romans 12:6-8. Jesus told His disciples, “it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” so all His teaching to us are also a gift (Matt. 13:11). James says we can ask God for anything we lack, like wisdom, with faith because God “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5). We don’t have to worry about God thinking our requests are silly or not worth His time. He wants to give us things.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  (James 1:17)

God is happy to pour good things our on us. Having already given us the most valuable gift ever — eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice for sin — He just keeps giving us more and more of the good things we want and need.

Present Yourselves

Our response to God’s generosity should involve following His example of giving. With this context, the following verse takes on some additional significance, I think.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

This is typically read in the context of monetary giving. But God is not focused on giving us physical prosperity (though that does happen sometimes), so why should we only focus on giving God physical things?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Paul describes sacrificing ourselves as “reasonable.” Knowing God has freely given us “all things,” it does seem reasonable that we should freely give Him all that we are and have, particularly since He promises to increase His generosity to us as our generosity increases toward others.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

We see a perfect example of this in Matthew 25, where Christ tells us how He will divide the sheep from the goats. The people who gave food to those who were hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothing to those who needed it, who took in strangers and gave up their time to visit prisoners — those are the people Christ will have in His kingdom. Giving sacrificially of our time and resources to any of Christ’s brethren counts as giving it directly to Him.