Challenged by the “Living Generously” Seminar last weekend, I’ve been asking the Lord how I should respond. A woman in our small group decided the group should respond by giving clothing to the homeless. I’ve thought about that, and realize that winter is coming and the homeless will be subject to cold weather, but is that their greatest need? Is that the best way to help them?
This morning I asked the Lord again about generosity (this is more than just money). My first thought was the burden I have, not for the poor but for young people who want to go to Bible school and cannot afford it. This relates somewhat to my spiritual gift of teaching and my desire that Christians think with the mind of Christ which has been given them. While we all agreed to bring donations for the homeless, others in our small group will have different burdens. My husband is burdened to help someone who is not homeless but unemployed.
Having a heart to be generous comes from Jesus. He is the ultimate giver and sets a high standard for His followers. That standard goes beyond giving out of our abundance and asks that we give in sacrificial ways.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Even in His birth, Christ became poor. I’ve tried to think of what He left behind to come here and become one of us. Could it be like me becoming an ant or a flea so I could bring a great gift to those critters? Could it be like me moving to the street and living without anything but the clothes on my back so I could share the Gospel with those who would not otherwise listen to someone who has a home?
Jesus gave up heaven’s perfection to be born in a stable to a couple who were graced by being ordinary. While they loved and obeyed God, they had no status or position and were sinners just like the rest of us.
Jesus who has everlasting life was also born to die. He did not consider Himself more important than the needs of those He came to redeem from sin. He took our nature (but without sin) that He might put Himself in our place and suffer for sin, satisfying the wrath of God against sin. He knew that He would rise from the dead, but for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross and the shame of it.
He was also born into relative poverty, not that poverty is shameful but that He could have chosen a palace. This choice is perhaps the most relevant to my thinking on generous living. God has given me much, yet I am not an owner but a manager of all these resources. I could choose to indulge myself. I could choose a palace (of sorts), or I can decide to forego whatever uses I might find for what I have and become poor that through my poverty others can profit.
Whatever sacrifices I make are small compared to the great sacrifice made by the Son of God, yet He is not measuring the size of what flows out of generosity. He lauded the poor widow who only gave a couple pennies, but “she gave all she had” and that was commendable in His eyes.
Being generous means that in giving time, money or anything else, I learn to think like He thinks and that I have a heart that is ready to respond to whatever He asks me to do . . .
For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:12–15)
The most interesting part of this is the reality of God being the owner and me being a manager. If I give something away and it turns out that I need it, the Owner is quite happy and perfectly able to supply whatever is missing. In this arrangement, the needy person has no lack and God takes care of me too.