Let’s Think about Generosity

As a pastor, I am responsible for shepherding God’s people. It means that I encourage and walk alongside God’s people in all areas of life. I hope to help them with their family life. I hope to help them when discouraged or tempted. It also means I talk about money.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

Money has been my least favorite subject to talk about. Over the course of my ministry, I must admit that the sermons and Bible studies that have given me the most trouble are the ones in which I talked about money. I hated feeling like I am asking for people to give the church (interpretation: to me) money. I hated feeling like that there will be people who believe that I am in ministry for easy money.

This perspective changed a few years ago. It changed when I took a careful look at why I give. You see, I like giving. I like supporting my local church. I like providing for needs that I hear about. Why? I had never really thought about why I like giving. So, when I examined the “why” certain reasons came to my mind. In fact, these reasons for why I like giving were Scriptures that I had heard over my lifetime and just absorbed without realizing it. So, here are my foundational truths about life and money that motivate the joy I have found in giving. I hope that they help someone who enjoys giving too and wants a way to explain it to others, and I hope they help someone who wants to enjoy giving but is still struggling with it.

Foundational truth # 1 – Human beings are family, not strangers.

Jesus tells a parable about this reality. It is the famous parable The Good Samaritan. This parable focuses on a person who has no reason to do good but chooses to do good anyway. Jesus asks the man to whom he told the parable who was a true neighbor. His answer? The man who showed mercy was the true neighbor. The Samaritan in the parable even paid extra so the inn-keeper would nurse the hurt man back to health. Who do we act this way with? We act this way with our family. In fact, when those we see as family have needs we look for ways to provide what they need. Seeing people as family matters.

Foundational truth # 2 – Money is a tool to do great things, not a goal in itself.

Jesus said, “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8b) What was He talking about? He was talking about how we use money. He declares that the lost know how to use money – to get what they want from others. Saved people struggle with that. Instead of using money to get what we say we want (more people to know the love and wonder of Jesus), what do we use money for? If money is the goal then keeping as much as we possibly can makes sense. If seeing the Lord Jesus be glorified is the goal then we will happily invest our money in bringing more people to a saving knowledge of Him! That way, we are using the money as a tool to accomplish the great good that we are seeking. We don’t need to keep it in case something better comes along. The “better” is already in front of us. We now simply need to invest in it.

Foundational truth # 3 – Giving is an outgrowth of giving myself wholly to God and not a separate activity involving money.

This is the area of motivation. Why do I give? I give because I have already given myself to Jesus. He gets whatever He wants from me because I’ve already given everything I am to Him. Therefore instead of thinking that Jesus has to take from me what He wants, I get to be a manager of His stuff to use as He calls me. It isn’t my stuff any longer. It is His stuff to manage as He sees fit. Sure, He gives me a great deal of latitude for much of what He has put me in charge of, but I must never forget that it is already His. That way, when He asks me to put His resources to use in a new way I can be excited about what He is going to do next. There is no resentment because He isn’t taking from me. He is asking me, as His manager, to use His resources in a new way. As Jesus said in the same teaching in Luke, “12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and  wealth.” (Luke 16:12-13) Someday Jesus will give me even more than I can imagine. Today He asks me to manage His blessings to maximize eternal benefit. If I see the blessings in my life as that, what other emotion than joy should I feel when He leads me to give?

These foundations are the ones that guide my perspective on giving. They have served me well as my wife and I invest together in eternity. They remove guilt as a motivation. They correct me when I am tempted to spend my blessings recklessly on pleasure alone. They make giving a joy especially when that giving is a sacrifice. These foundational truths are the backbone of generosity.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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