By Tim Howington
Refreshed by Generosity
I don’t think she even understood how desperate our plight had become. Not just in terms of money but more importantly morale. Hundreds of prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling and as they say in Arkansas “my dauber was in the dirt.” And then the check came. The check from one of our partners is normally $100 a month but this one was $300. I called my buddy to thank him for the extra and he quickly deflected to his wife (whom I haven’t met yet). Seems she felt impressed of the Lord to send some extra money. I live in Arkansas and God led someone in Mississippi to meet a need that I have been petitioning Him about privately. God moved another person to generosity on my behalf. When I talked to my buddy his comment was classic, “don’t thank us, it’s not our money anyway, we just manage the Lord’s money”. I have just been refreshed by generosity.
What does that have to do with managing ourselves in times of financial crisis? Everything! In these times, the temptation is to focus inward. What can I get to meet my needs? We search every couch, every ashtray, shake every money tree that we have and look to ourselves. It is crazy to think that at a time like this we need to be thinking outward. We need to be thinking about how we can be generous? We need to be thinking about how we can give to the Kingdom of God?
Proverbs says that “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25). Some of the most generous people I have known are poor people. They connect with the needs of others around them. A bag of rice, a cup of sugar or $10 to help with a tank of gas come out of hearts that have been shaped by need. In our wildly affluent society where a major focus is funding college funds and IRAs we sometimes miss some of the most basic opportunities of generosity.
How should we think about giving in difficult financial times?
New Testament Thinking
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
We barely see the principle of the tithe (which by the way means giving a tenth not just generically giving) in the New Testament. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus is giving the scribes and Pharisees a hard time about how poorly they are treating people while legalistically tithing off the herbs in their gardens. He then affirms that they need to continue to tithe but also treat people well. But, the emphasized principle of generosity seems to change from a specific requirement of a tenth to a principle of generosity. The letter of the law was tithing; the spirit of the law is generosity. The early church was one in which the believers took care of one another (Act 2:43-47) even in their poverty. Even in this passage above, Paul is prepping the church in Corinth to aid the church in Jerusalem through a generous gift. In the passage above we make several observations.
- We reap what we sow. If you sow sparingly you will reap sparingly, and if you sow generously you will reap generously.
- We are allowed to decide in our hearts what to give. We are not to give reluctantly or from a sense of compulsion or guilt. God will not force us to give. But allows us the opportunity to give.
- We are to give cheerfully and God loves our generous hearts
It is not without notice that Jesus positioned Himself in the temple and watch how people gave (Mark 12: 41-44). Some gave out of their surplus and I am sure that it was appreciated. But, He made a really big deal out of the generous widow who gave out of her great poverty. Why the big deal? Giving, generosity and our view of who owns the resources we manage come out in times of need. This woman lived a life of devotion to the Lord and what she had was His. She could have been standing outside asking for money but was rather in the line of the givers. She understood that a blessing that we miss sometimes during our financial struggles is the blessing of giving.
One of the more empowering things you will experience in your lean time is the dignity that comes with being generous, which by the way is not only money but generosity of our time, talents and treasure. Jesus Himself says that is “more blessed to give than to receive”. Managing yourself includes not allowing yourself to become so self-centered that you miss out on the needs around you.