Tag Archives: Giving

This Ain’t No Prosperity Gospel

Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. –Proverbs 25:14, KJV

In Acts chapter 5, we hear of Ananias and Sapphira. They were the couple in the fledgling Church in Jerusalem who joined in the spree of selling property and laying the proceeds at the Apostles’ feet.

They are notable for being the people who said they had given everything from the sale, but in truth they held some back. The issue was not keeping some of the money for themselves but lying to the Church and, more importantly, the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit struck them dead for it.

Why, and why is this so important?

First, God was protecting His young Church. He did not want Christ’s Bride defiled immediately after the betrothal.

But He wants people who sow real seeds of blessing. Not to help those in power or receive something in return. Not to make themselves look better in the eyes of other people.

No, (and if you will allow me to get a tad allegorical) God wants His people to give gifts that can rain down and blow across the harvest field of souls.

He is not as concerned with someone’s personal prosperity as with the prosperity of His Church, that she can grow in meaningful number and relationship with Him.

If you boast of your giving of time, money, and resources to the mission of the Church, but that contribution is not as big as you imply (if at all), then you are stealing from and misrepresenting the witness of God and abusing His bride.

God may want a joyful giver, but He would rather you be an honest person who never helps than one who boasts of what in truth he has never done.

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Am I mocking the poor?

Jesus is clear that we will always have poor people with us. We always have. We always will. That isn’t the issue.

Whoever mocks poor people insults their Creator; gloating over misfortune is a punishable crime. ~King Solomon

Source: Proverbs 17:5 (The Message Bible)

Jesus challenges me to give directly to the poor. I am to do what I can to help. God’s goal for me is to love. Jesus challenges me to not judge. I don’t need to understand why someone is poor. God knows why.

Insulting and mocking the poor is insulting God. It is wrong and it is criminal. It is a moral failure on my part when I do it. I will be held accountable for what I say and do. I will be held accountable to God’s standard of love.

We should assess our leaders on their attitude about the poor. Do they love the poor? Do they help the poor? Do they “judge” the motives of the poor?

“Misfortune” does happen. It is possible, to get laid off from work and become poor. I shouldn’t gloat over that. My goal is to love.

I believe that Jesus wants us to do everything we can to help the poor and those who do not have a place to live. We are to care for the hungry and feed them. We are to care for the thirsty and give them something to drink.We are to care for the stranger and invite them into our home. We are to care for the naked and give them clothing. We are to care for the sick. We are to care for those in prison and visit them. These are the clear expectations of Jesus (Matthew 25:34-40).

  • As Jesus remarked to Judas Iscariot, ‘You always have the poor with you’ (John 12:8). Looking around at the cities, towns and refugee camps of our world, we might make this remark more specific and say, ‘we always have the homeless with us.’ Jesus had some powerful things to say about the situation of the homeless, and did many things for them. He was also a homeless person himself.
  • The Bible speaks plainly about poverty: “If any of your Israelite relatives fall into poverty and cannot support themselves, support them as you would a resident foreigner and allow them to live with you. Do not demand an advance or charge interest on the money you lend them. Instead, show your fear of God by letting them live with you as your relatives” (Leviticus 25:35-36 ).
  • “No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind” (Isaiah 58:6-8).
  • Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
  • So many people ignore the poor and homeless, partly because they believe there is little they can do to “fix” them. And they are absolutely right. In fact, it is not God’s intention that we “fix” them any more than it is His intention that they “fix” us. It is God’s intent that they follow Jesus as their King and savior.
  • Jesus tells us that we are one body in the Messiah. Everyone — rich, poor, every race, every age — has a legitimate role to play in that body. We may go to a homeless camp or an orphanage or a rest home with the intention of helping someone else, but ultimately, we will be helping each other grow together into the body the Messiah envisioned from the beginning of time.

All About Integrity

Proverbs chapter eleven is all about integrity.

What does inegrity entail?

Honesty

Telling the truth and doing what’s right is important. Honesty is life-affirming, acknowledging the image of God in others, and, honestly, keeping life simple. It is easier to keep your story straight when you tell the truth and do what’s right.

Responsibility

Doing what’s right, doing what one ought, is also life-affirming. Sin is most often associated with what we did wrong, but it includes what we don’t do that we should. If we did what was needed when it should be done (right away or when time allows), life would be easier. Owning mistakes is included, as growth comes more quickly. It is irresponsible to shift the blame or hope “someone else will do it.” It is better to do what is right, even if someone else could or should do it.

Generosity

Giving to others or taking up the burden of another demonstrates generosity. And – you probably guessed it – it is life affirming. It shows love to others. It tells others “You are worth it.” It clears up problems before they even exist or before they are out of control.

Living with Integrity

If you want to live with integrity, live out the concepts of Proverbs. Take five minutes and read the entire chapter and see how integrated and interrelated all of these concepts are.

They represent God’s character, and living with integrity makes your character more like His.

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)


Rich or Poor

Proverbs 22:16  

He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty. (NIV)

There is a school of thought that says that without poverty wealth could not exist; that one man’s poverty is another man’s riches. But I’m not rich you say! I work hard to pay my mortgage and my car loan, and to feed and clothe my family. However, if you have a mortgage on a property that boasts running water, heat and light, etc., then you are rich in comparison to many fellow citizens of planet earth.

Is it wrong then to own property? I don’t think so, but I do believe that it is necessary for all of us to examine ourselves, and the way that we live. Do we give, and are we generous in our giving? Or do we keep all that we have for ourselves justifying our actions by believing that we cannot afford to give? Is giving just about money? What about time? What about company? And at its most basic level what about a smile or a greeting for each person you meet? Just yesterday I said good morning to a man sweeping the floor at Dublin Airport. All the other passengers walked past without looking at him. It cost me nothing, but by his response I knew that my greeting was appreciated.

There is also a danger of pride in financial giving. Carefully setting aside that 10% tithe and feeling good about it is not what giving is all about. Jesus pointed out the poor widow who put all that she had in the offertory box. Tony Campolo once said that we should forget about the 10% we tithe and question what we do with the 90% we keep for ourselves. One thing for certain is that whatever we have in material terms it cannot leave the planet with us. So why then do we hoard? Could it be that this proverb is aimed at all of us, to encourage generosity in all aspects of our daily lives?


Generous Eyes

Proverbs 22:9

“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.”
“He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.” – NKJV

Always

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Never say never?” I heard it a lot in the days before the birth of my first child. I would say things like, “I will NEVER let my child…” That’s when people who knew better would offer insight based on their own experiences.

There are some decisions that should be made in advance, however; decisions preceded by a firm absolute. For example, I have said many times that I will never let my daughters leave the house looking like a “prostitot,” and I mean it.

But what about the word always? Isn’t that an absolute statement we should avoid? Should we always be giving? Should we always be generous?

Give

My father, a generous man, told me, “Son, if a bum on the street walks up to you and asks for a dollar, always give what you can…you never know who it might be.” He would never “withhold” when he had the power to give something (Prov. 3:27), and he was a firm believer in the possibility that every beggar could be a heavenly messenger:  “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).

But more importantly, my father was wise enough to understand that it’s not really about what we give and to whom, although that is important; it’s about the heart. A person with a “bountiful eye” loves to give, especially to those who are less fortunate. Like the Good Samaritan, we are not told to question why our neighbor is lying in the ditch, or how he came to be in that situation, but to offer kindness and generosity. Even when it is impossible to give money, a sacrifice of kindness is always appropriate.

Blessings

When we give blessings we get blessings in return. It may not be in this life, but the promises of God are true: he who has a generous eye WILL be blessed.

Doesn’t it make you feel good to give? Wouldn’t you like to come into a bunch of money and then use it to fund an orphanage, provide for struggling families, or give to missions? Well, it doesn’t take a few people giving a lot, just a lot of people with a heart for giving.

Remember, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given” (Prov. 19:17 NKJV). God is no man’s debtor.

 


Working to Give

Proverbs 21:25-26

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.”
“Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work. Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” – NLT

Work

As I sit here typing this “thought” for the day, my body is aching and my eyes are still blinking hard trying to bring the world into focus. Trying to make ends meet, I have been getting up early and going to bed late as I work on several different jobs and projects. Visiting, studying, making calls for work, painting cabinets, attending meetings, practicing music for a recording, and preaching have worn me out.

But if the truth be known, I would rather be tired from working than worn out from doing nothing. I would rather have a paycheck in a blistered hand than nothing in a soft, weak hand. I would rather say my bills are a little behind than say all my bills are paid by the government. I’d rather die from working than die from being lazy.

Giving

There are few things more enjoyable than to be able to give to others. The problem with the “slothful” is that he is always wanting, always greedy, always talking big and promising bigger, but never giving.

The reason the godly love to give is because they love to see others happy. As a matter of fact, Jesus says when when they give unto the least of His brothers and sisters, they give unto Him (Matt. 25:40), so giving becomes an offering of praise.

The slothful only care about themselves. They have nothing to give as a true offering, for nothing they have has any true value – they haven’t worked for it (See 2 Samuel 24:24).

Now, time to get back to work. I have some giving I’d like to do.


The Perfect Gift

Proverbs 21:14 

A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
A secret gift calms anger; a bribe under the table pacifies fury. (NLT)

I don’t recall receiving any secret gifts, or any bribes for that matter. I have been asked to pay bribes, the last time when going through passport control in a certain African country. The request for payment was not to pacify anger, but to smooth my way through immigration when I had already paid the official fee. But when should gifts be made to placate an angry person? The Bible provides some examples, although those I can think of were not made in secret.

There is the example of Jacob returning home with his family and flocks. Having cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright many years before Jacob was somewhat apprehensive about the sort of greeting Esau might have in mind when Jacob arrived on the doorstep. In fact, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob after their father died (Genesis 27:41). So Jacob sent flocks and herds ahead as a gift for his brother. As it happened Esau had already put the past behind him and had more than plenty. He was genuinely pleased to see his brother again, and to discover that God had blessed him.

Then there was the time that David sent his men to Nabal, the local rich man, to ask for food and water. Nabal read David’s men their fortune and told them to take a hike. When they returned to David he blew a fuse, and together with 400 armed men headed back to find Nabal and read him his fortune. While Nabal was a fool, he was married to a smart lady by the name of Abigail. She took charge of the situation, and headed off to meet David with more than enough supplies to feed David and his men (1 Samuel 25).

This proverb and the two examples from Scripture indicate that there may be times when gifts need to be made, and not only in secret. While there are times when a gift may correct a wrong, God’s people are encouraged to be generous. There should be occasions in all of our lives when a gift should be made for no other reason than to bring joy to another human being.

There is a gift that should be made in secret. It is the gift of our time when we choose to find a quiet place at the start of the day to surrender ourselves completely before God. We do so knowing that God’s anger at our failings was pacified when Jesus gave His life as the perfect gift. Such a perfect gift requires only one response. How do you express your gratitude?

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)