I have a generous friend. I mean, really generous. If someone is in need, her first instinct is to give. And not just a token amount of giving. Really sacrificial giving.

Funny thing—among western Christians today, many would think of her as reckless, not saving for a rainy day as the Bible instructs. But wait! The Bible does not instruct us to save for a rainy day!

Instead, the Apostle Paul, going through Macedonia and Greece, was collecting money from various churches in support of believers living in Judea because they were experiencing great need. Consequently, Paul’s counsel to the church in Corinth was this:

this [giving to the Judean believers] is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; (2 Cor. 8:13-14)

Sadly the tendency in our current Christian circles seems to be more self-help than reliance on God to supply through the generosity of other disciples of Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand: I do think Christians are generous, but it seems as if we are more concerned about foreign missions and the urban poor than we are about needy believers. We support Bibles for Latin America—a really good thing—wells for Indonesia, food and water for a drought-stricken country in Northern Africa. Further, we give to Christian radio and to our missionaries and to our church.

As a group, Christians are generous, generous people.

Perhaps what we need most is a Paul who will tell us about the needy Christians we can empty our savings to help. Because it seems to me, we more often than not are giving of our surplus, our extra, some amount that won’t affect our current life-style.

True, Paul did say the Corinthians weren’t giving “for their affliction,” but I take that to mean, in comparison, they weren’t to go hungry so that the Judeans would have plenty to eat.

He introduced the whole subject of giving by telling the believers in Corinth what the believers in Macedonia were doing:

for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Cor. 8:2, ESV)

Out of their poverty, they gave.

I don’t know about you, but they put me to shame.

And here’s an interesting tie-in: my church is reading through Exodus together. Yesterday and today we read about the people of Israel bringing gold and silver and wove cloth and all the stuff needed to construct the tabernacle. In fact, they brought so much, at some point Moses had to tell them to stop giving—there was enough, and more than enough of the materials needed.

All this giving came after the incident with the golden calf. With Moses away, the people decided to stray. They convinced Aaron to help. He fashioned an idol and they jumped in with feasting and dancing, and not in a worshipful way to their sovereign God who had just miraculously freed them from Egypt.

As a result, God, through Moses and the priests who stood with him, severely disciplined His people. Thousands died. Moses met with God again, and He revealed Himself, promised to go with the people, renewed the covenant He had with them. Part of what He told Moses about Himself was this: “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth . . . who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6b)

When Moses returned to the people this time, the glory of the LORD shone on his face. He declared to the people the things that God had told him.

Afterward, they gave. The people were not thinking, I’d better keep back this bit of gold because I might need it later. They were not thinking about themselves at all.

My conclusion is this: the more the people realized who God is, they more they were willing to give. And, they did not look at their own circumstances but at what they had that they could give to supply a need.

My friend thinks like that: What do I have today that can help this person in need?

My tendency is to think, but I might need this tomorrow so I’d better not give it all.

Ironic since I’ve been the recipient so recently of the abundant generosity of so many who helped me through my medical crisis.

I have to wonder if perhaps, instead of thinking about God forgiving so generously, I’m not falling into the entitlement trap—God has to come through. Or maybe the “that’s for people who have a healthy savings account” mode of thinking.

I know we can’t give to every needy cause that comes our way. I mean, every radio program I listen to on Christian radio is “listener supported,” and hardly a week goes by that our local station doesn’t have someone telling us about a wonderful project needing our support that will help needy people.

So maybe there’s a little, “I can’t do it all, so I won’t do any” mindset.

Maybe there’s a little bit of callousness from one more collection for earthquake/fire/hurricane/tornado victims. Certainly in our information age, we know about all the needy people in the world in a way no other people knew before.

But in spite of all these factors, God’s word challenges me to be generous—out of my poverty even, in response to who I know God to be, for others in need. Which others? I guess He’ll show me if I ask Him.

Published in: on July 11, 2018 at 6:09 pm  Comments Off on Generosity  
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What The Bible Says About Promotion

Truth be told, the Bible doesn’t directly address the subject of promotion. Nevertheless, I think I discovered a principle that applies. It’s called generosity.

When people generously give, whether it is of their material wealth, their time, their ideas, their work effort, or whatever else it might be, people respond, usually by telling others. Or, more accurately, by praising the individual to others.

I think there is a fine line between genuine generosity and the kind of tit-for-tat promotion that smacks of “bought and paid for” buzz. And I found an example of that fine line in a real Old Testament account.

I’m referring to Joseph. Twenty-eight or -nine year old Joseph, by this time. He was still in prison and had just interpreted the dream of a fellow prisoner, the king’s cupbearer. According to the dream, the man would be reinstated to his job in three days. And Joseph asked a tit for a tat.

Tell the king about me, he said. I’ve been kidnapped and besides I am no criminal, yet I’m languishing in this prison. I’ve helped you, now please help me.

But the cupbearer forgot.

Maybe intentionally, at least in the beginning. After all, he had just returned to the king’s good graces and undoubtedly didn’t want to start back to work asking for special favors. Day after day slipped by and no mention of Joseph.

Until the king had a dream.

Now the cupbearer had a reason to mention Joseph. Not for Joseph’s sake, but for the king’s. No tit for tat here. The cupbearer had a chance to help the king because … who knows, maybe he wanted nothing more than to help the king. Maybe he was hoping for a tat in return.

The point is, Joseph’s bargain making didn’t bring about his release. His generosity did.

Well, of course, God actually did. And it was in His perfect time. If Joseph had been released earlier because the cupbearer came through, perhaps he would not have been in position to help his family or be reconciled to them.

But Joseph stayed in place, by God’s decree, until the time was right. Until the time when he could provide the interpretation of the king’s dream, the advice about what to do in light of the revelation, and the wherewithal to pull it off.

He himself later told his brothers God had sent him ahead that he might provide the means of deliverance for his family. In other words, that he might become a type of Christ, the Redeemer.

Because of Joseph’s special place in history, I can’t say that self promotion was wrong because it didn’t work for him. Rather, it just wasn’t what God had in mind for Joseph.

And that’s the real lesson I learned here. I may think I know a good way to work things out, and it’s not wrong for me to try it, but the most important thing is for me to be and do what God calls me to, and trust that He will take care of spreading the word in His perfect time.

This article was originally posted in August 2008 under the title “Biblical Promotion

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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