Does Generosity Make You Fearful?
This morning I read a Desiring God post titled “Aim All You Have at Heaven,” written by Marshall Segal, a staff writer at desiringGod.org. It was an excellent reminder of what we should be thinking. Sadly, many times in my life I have been a bit fearful of giving or at least hesitant to give. Sometimes the fear has to do with how well the resources or the gift of my time and energy will be received or used. Will it be wasted? Is too much being spent on fundraising, diluting the gift? Sometimes it has to do with “will I have enough if I give this away?”
A Radical Statement by Marshall Segal
“The calling here is not just a lifestyle of generosity, but of ambitious generosity. Not, ‘Make sure you cover your bases, and then see if you have some left over to give away,’ but, ‘Lay up treasures in heaven.’ Chase this treasure. Search for creative ways to obtain more of this treasure. Do whatever you can to have this treasure. Not leftover generosity, but radical generosity — the kind that only makes sense if Jesus really died, really rose, and will really reward those who give and sacrifice in these ways. Don’t simply include heaven in your budget but aim your budget — your whole budget — at heaven.” – Marshall Segal
If we were to interview Marshall, I suspect he would honesty say that he desires this in his own life. He is probably working on it. This requires thought and discipline. He isn’t just telling us to do it. Radical, ambitious, creative generosity should be the energetic thinking of a genuine Christian. I’m not talking about the cultural Christian or the good person who goes to church and tithes 10%. This is a heart matter, not a law-keeping “what will keep God happy?” thinking.
Some Verses from Proverbs
It often helps to read the book of Proverbs when it comes to anything related to wealth or relationships. That is because handling wealth and relationships isn’t just a list of dos and don’ts. It is more of a how to handle the areas that aren’t forbidden or commanded. So here are some “whoever’s” to consider:
Proverbs 14:21 “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (14:31)
“Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.” (19:6)
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (19:17)
“Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.” (28:8)
It is clear God thinks a wrong response to a neighbor and the neighbor’s needs is sinful. He also takes a lack of generosity as a personal insult. But God isn’t just looking for infractions. He also considers generosity as a loan. God doesn’t owe anyone anything, so God’s repayment will be even more generous than my generosity. It might not be a like currency, but God is generous. Sometimes the payment is the joy when we see the results of the gifts in the lives of the recipients.
There are potential heartaches associated with generosity. One is that we will have “friends” who are only friends because of what they can get from us. They aren’t interested in a relationship. They want what we have. Remind yourself that you are to be wise in your giving, but don’t be judgmental if things don’t go the way you think they should. God is watching. You are only responsible for the giving, not for the way the gifts are used.
Finally, God does notice the way we acquire wealth. There is justice associated with his redistribution mandates. Ultimately, God’s wealth will be redirected, in his time, to the one who will be generous with the poor.
How Good is Your Aim?
Well, do you have the right target in the first place? If you do, then radical, ambitious, creative generosity should be your thinking. Is this thinking true of you? Aim all you have at heaven.
All scripture passages are from the English Standard Version except as otherwise noted.