GENEROSITY – THE MEASURE OF ETERNAL LIFE
It’s not only important that we give. It’s also about why we give.
God condemns giving to be honoured for our sake but giving to honour God brings glory to Him and gives others encouragement to follow suit.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you, their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. (2 Cor. 9: 13-14)
Our generosity should be based squarely on who God is. We give because He has freely given to us.
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matt. 10: 8b)
When we give out of the motivation of mercy, God promises to meet all our needs and the light of our good works will reflect back on Him.
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise you Father in heaven. (Matt. 5: 14)
Jesus took the issue of generosity to an even deeper level than giving simply because we are obliged to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Everything we do for others is a reflection of how much we value God’s mercy towards us. Generosity is not about giving to others because we are being benevolent towards them. Generosity is our duty because God is generous towards us. Withholding our money and possessions when we can meet the needs of others, from God’s perspective is the same as stealing.
Jesus told a parable to illustrate what our duty is all about.
Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Would you say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would you rather not say ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would you thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ (Luke 17: 7-10)
Why is it that we want accolades from people and rewards from God when we do what is expected of us? We treat God as though He owes us something because we have obeyed Him! Generosity is not about earning Brownie points. It’s about showing how deeply we value God’s mercy to us that He has rescued us from our self-destructive greed and changed our hearts towards Him and towards the people around us. We show it by the way we treat people who have wronged us or who are less fortunate than we are.
Jesus taught something about stewardship which we either tend not to notice or to ignore because it seems to out of keeping with who He is.
Jesus told the story about a manager who was about to be fired for mismanaging his master’s finances (Luke 16: 1-9). The man quickly bought favour from the master’s debtors by reducing their debts. When the master found out what he had done, instead of condemning him, he commended him for his shrewdness. Jesus ended His story with a very puzzling comment. What do you make of this Scripture?
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16: 9)
First of all, we need to be careful about spiritualising this parable. The story is about a dishonest man who was generous with his master’s money to win friends so that, when he no longer had a job they would be generous to him. Jesus did not commend his dishonesty but the principle – generosity gains you favour with people.
His next few comments open up the meaning even more.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12)
The point of the parable is that the manager was the steward of his master’s property. He had a greater obligation to be trustworthy with what was not his than with what was his own because he was accountable to his master for what he did with it.
In the same way, we are stewards of what God has given to us and we are accountable to Him for the way we use it. He has instructed us how to apportion it so that we care for those in our circle of responsibility before we take care of our own needs. When we are faithful to carry out our Master’s instructions and use what He has given us in obedience to Him, only then can He give us greater responsibility in the life to come.
Does it shock or surprise you to realise that the level of authority you will have in God’s eternal kingdom will depend on the way you handle your money and possessions in this life? This is how seriously Jesus took the issue of money and why He had so much to say about it.
This leads me to the final point about the way a disciple uses his resources. There are serious consequences for greed, selfishness and disregard for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien.
(To be continued…)
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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