Grace. We hear the word in church. Hopefully, we understand that the grace of God is what has saved us. God’s forgiveness offered to us through Jesus is glorious! Have we thought about what that word is supposed to mean to us every day? Is it a religious term that stays in our Bibles and churches or does is it our new way of living every day? I would urge us to make it our way of living. That is the only response to God’s grace that makes sense – we should copy Him! Today, I want to talk about one example of living out that grace: generous giving…
In his seventh chapter, Luke recounts a time that Jesus went to a Pharisee’s house. This Pharisee invited Jesus to eat with him. Yet, this encounter is different than other dinners that Jesus was invited to attend. Jesus wasn’t invited because of a personal transformation (like Matthew or Zacchaeus). He wasn’t visiting with this Pharisee because the Pharisee had significant spiritual questions (like Nicodemus). In fact, we don’t really get to see this Pharisee’s motive for inviting Jesus to dinner. Instead, the dinner is interrupted by a stranger. Luke says,
37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.Luke 7:37-38
The Pharisee was bothered by this event. He even says to himself that he doubted that Jesus was a prophet because if He was, God would have revealed to Jesus that this woman was a “sinner”. Jesus, as we often see Him do, chose to use this event to teach something important. We don’t know if it went over the Pharisee’s head, but it teaches us something very important about our understanding about grace and giving. He says,
44 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”Luke 7:44-47
This unnamed woman illustrated a heart-quality that we can be tempted to forget: our accurate understanding and appreciation of God’s great forgiveness of us is the best motive for our generosity. It will make us givers that refuse to keep score or get envious of others who are blessed. Grace-inspired love sees the need around us as an opportunity to shine God’s love to someone else who needs it. In other words, understanding God’s grace calls to us to live out that grace. In the area of ministry, that lived out grace is called generosity.
Jesus’ statement above points out something else. He says, “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Guilt is a lesser motive for giving. It will only motive for a little while. Duty, although deserving some praise, is also a lesser motive. It too, will fade if not connected to love. Grace-inspired love is the supreme motive. As Jesus points out, the person who thinks little of the grace of God loves little. Little love inspires little generosity. Great love inspires great generosity. The Bible declares that great love comes from experiencing God’s great grace. If it doesn’t, we must ask if we truly understand God’s grace. This woman’s great giving was inspired by her understanding of the forgiveness offered by God through Jesus. Because of her generous gift to Him, Jesus declared that her faith had saved her. She was forgiven!
I wonder what happened next in her life or in Simon the Pharisee’s life. Did she find victory in her new, forgiven life? I suspect that she did. She knew God’s forgiveness. It had inspired her love even before Jesus had declared her forgiven! What about Simon? Did he learn the lesson implied by Jesus’ parable and example? Did he learn that we all need much forgiveness from God? Did he learn that such forgiveness would inspire him to give generously in his everyday life too? I certainly hope so!
What about us? Does God’s grace mean something to us every day? Or, is grace simply a religious word to us? Does the forgiveness and love that God has given to us inspire us or do we take it as our birthright? God has given us so much – do we let His gift make our life a gift we get to give? May it be so!
Something to think about,