Paul’s Admonition to be Generous

This morning I read 2 Corinthians 9 during my morning devotions.  Paul devoted the entire chapter to encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous and to fulfill the commitment it had made to assist poorer Christians in Macedonia.  Paul had been bragging to other congregations of the generous gift the Corinthians had promised, and he wanted to insure that the gift would be ready when it was needed.

Embed from Getty Images

 

As Paul continues through the chapter, he encourages them that God will bless them as they bless others and tells them that it is impossible to out-give God.  Although Paul is speaking specifically about being generous with our money, his words also apply to being generous with people in many other ways, such as love, service, time, attention, guidance, and forgiveness.  Paul says that our obedience in generosity will in enrich our lives and allow God to be even more generous with us, and it will cause people to give thanks and honor to God.

In the final verses of this chapter, Paul writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others 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. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 12 – 15, The Message)

How can we not be generous when we read stirring words like these?  Generosity towards others blesses us more than it does the recipients and it brings honor and glory to God.

How has God blessed you after you demonstrated generosity?

God Rewards the Generous

God commands His people to show generosity to those in need, and He promises to bless and reward those who obey this command.  These rewards may be received while on Earth, and they will surely be reaped when we get to Heaven.  Jesus taught this principle during the Sermon on the Mount, saying “When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”  Matthew 6: 3, 4

Embed from Getty Images

 

Later in the Sermon, Jesus encouraged His followers to store up treasures in Heaven.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19 – 21

We lay up treasure in Heaven by using our earthly treasure to accomplish God’s purposes.  Randy Alcorn refers to this as ‘transferring wealth to heaven.’  He points out that we cannot take our wealth with us to Heaven when we die, but we can transfer our wealth to Heaven while we are living by using our wealth to show generosity to others.  God judges the work that we do has either have lasting value–gold and silver–or having earthly value–wood, hay, and stubble.  Works that do not have lasting value will be burned up like wood, hay, and stubble at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  When we follow God’s instructions to be generous, we are producing works that of silver and gold, which cannot be destroyed by fire.

The apostle Paul wrote, “ Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  1 Timothy 6: 17 – 19

Paul told the Ephesians to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”Acts 20:35

Being generous with those who the Lord puts on your heart to care for will result in blessings both on Earth and in Heaven.  I encourage you to ask the Lord with whom He desires you to show generosity to today and begin building your treasure in Heaven.

Having a Generous Heart

Our motives are important to God. Giving grudgingly or by force is not viewed by God as generosity.  Generosity has to flow from a willingness to help others.  As we more fully grasp the depths of God’s love for us, our love for our fellow man should increase.

When the young lawyer asked Jesus what commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”  Matthew 22: 38 – 40

Paul provided instructions to the Corinthians on how they should prepare gifts for those in need, “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.”  2 Corinthians 9:5 

If we truly love God, that love will overflow into love for people.  Thankfulness for the many blessing God has bestowed will manifest itself in sharing those blessings with others.

Jesus taught His disciples to give without expectations, “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. ” Luke 6:30 – 35

God supplies our needs and has extended generosity to each us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  We, in turn, should be generous with those in need whom God puts in our path.

Ask God to open your eyes to see those around you who are in need.  Seek His guidance on how to share the blessings He has bestowed on you with others.  Be His hands extended.

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

Generosity is a Response to God’s Saving Grace

God exemplified true generosity by providing a means of salvation for all who will accept His free gift.  Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus is the only perfect person who has ever lived on this earth.  The rest of us are not perfect.  We do not deserve to be saved.  Yet, Jesus went to the cross and paid the price for our sins.   Jesus’s sacrifice was a manifestation of God’s love and generosity.

Because God is generous to us, we should be generous with others.  Generosity should flow from the hearts of Christians in response to God’s love for us.  He has given us so much and we, in turn, give a portion of  it to those around us who are in need.  James tells us that “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  James 1:27

In the seventh chapter of Zechariah, the people of Israel are crying out to God for relief from their oppressors. They protest that they have prayed, fasted, and mourned.  The Lord tells Zechariah that they are just going through the motions, without having a right heart.  If there hearts were right, they would take care of those in need.  “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”  Zechariah 7: 9, 10

James goes on to say that true faith is demonstrated when we take actions to help our fellow man. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  James 2: 15 – 17

Embed from Getty Images

 

Generosity should not be confused with socialism or income distribution. God has never directed His people to take care of those who are able but unwilling to care for themselves.  In fact, Paul wrote that “the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  2 Thessalonians 3: 10 

Generosity is to be shown to widows, orphans, and those who are in true need of help.  We should take every opportunity to help those who need help as an outpouring of gratitude to God for His love for us and as a means to demonstrate to those in need that God loves and cares for them.

Blessings from Generosity

God has always instructed His people to be generous to the poor, and He has promised to bless those who obey this instruction.  When God freed  the Israelites after 400 years of captivity in Egypt, He set down rules that they were to follow in order to maintain a right relationship with Him.  Included in those instructions was the command to open their hands to their poor brothers and to willingly lend to those in need, in order to meet their needs.  In return, God promised to bless all the works of their hands.

“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,  but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs….You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’ ”         Deuteronomy 15: 7 – 11

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

God continues to bless His people today, as we show generosity and care for the poor in our communities.  Those who open their hearts and their pocketbooks receive many blessings in return.

Chief among these blessings is happiness.  In “The Paradox of Generosity,” authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson report that generosity is associated with increased personal happiness, a sense of purpose, and overall better health.  This should not be surprising to Christians, as God promised happiness to those who are generous: “He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” Proverbs 14:21

God promises many other blessings to the generous.  These blessings include: 

  • Abundance   “The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” Proverbs 11:25
  • Financial Repayment “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
    And He will pay back what he has given.” Proverbs 19:17 and “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
  • Bountiful Harvests.  “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9: 6
  • Needs will be Met  “He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
  • Blessings “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.”  Proverbs 22:9

My desire is to honor God in the way that I live my life.   In Proverbs 14:31, God makes it clear that we honor Him when we obey His command to be kind to those in need. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Make, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”  Proverbs 14:31

I encourage you to make it your desire to honor God, and to reap the blessings promised from Him, by being generous to those in need.

Biblical Command to be Generous

The last parable of Jesus’s ministry recorded in the book of Matthew emphasizes the importance of Christ’s followers to be generous towards those who are in need. In this illustration, the Son of Man welcomes into eternity those who cared for the needy and equates such care as caring for Christ personally. Furthermore, those who did not care for the needy are sentenced to eternal damnation.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’  Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 4And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25: 31 – 46

 


help-othersThroughout both the Old and New Testament, God commands His people to be generous and care for the poor. Furthermore, the Bible also teaches that generosity should come from the heart and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Nowhere does the Bible teach that caring for the poor is the responsibility of the government. It is the responsibility of God’s people to take care of their poor neighbors as prompted by the Holy Spirit.

A very clear distinction is made, however, between those who less fortunate and those who are idle or wasteful. Specific instructions are provided as to those who qualify as truly needed care and those who have come to poverty by their unwillingness to work or by wasting their money on worldly pleasure.

This is the first in a series of posts which will examine Biblical teachings on generosity and caring for the poor. These teachings include:

  1. God commands us to be generous to the poor.
    Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”
  2. God blesses those who are generous.
    Proverbs 22:9 “He who has a generous eye will be blessed.”
  3. Generosity is a response to God’s saving grace. James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
  4. Generosity should be done with right motive.
    Exodus 35: 4, 5 “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord.'”
  5. We should take advantage of opportunities to be generous.
    Mark 14:7 “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good.”
  6. God hears the prayers of the generous.
    Daniel 4: 7 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

Jesus taught that we will always have poor people in our communities. It is no shame to be poor. In Samuel 2:7, we are told the “The Lord makes the poor and makes the rich.” We will always have widows and orphans in our midst who need our help We will also have people who are physically unable to support themselves.

Help should first come from family members, if the person in need has a family. Families are commanded to care for those in need within their own families. “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” 1 Timothy 4:5

Furthermore, those who will not care for needy family members are being disobedient to God’s commands. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 4:8

When families care for those in need in their own families, the resources of the church are then available to help those who do not have anyone else to help them. “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” 1 Timothy 5:16

Paul ends this letter with a command to be generous. “Command them [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:18 (NIV)

Putting Faith Into Action: Ask God to reveal to you people in your family, church, neighborhood, and community who are in need of financial assistance. Pray about how God would have you help those in need.