Bernie Madoff, once thought a financial genius, was revealed in 2008 as a scheming fraud. This man convinced people to trust him with their wealth and then stole their future! His greed knew no bounds, defrauding charity organizations, stealing retirement funds of middle class families, even taking the little inheritance of his personal secretary! He even used ‘generosity’ as a cynical tool. Giving public gifts to well-known groups helped him burnish his reputation as a good man. Today, he sits in a Federal prison for life, hated by most, rejected by his family; a victim of his own selfishness.
In 1977, I met Tom, one of the most giving people I have ever known! I was one of those he blessed. I was trying to support my little family, just three of us at that time, while answering a call to ministry. Faithfulness to what God desired met the imperative of putting food on the table head-on so I took a back-breaking job that required me to be on a construction site, 6 days a week, leaving little time to do what I believed was God’s work.
One day, my new friend Tom came by our home. He said, “Jerry, come with me.” We went to his employer’s office together. Tom told him, “Jerry is a great guy and I know he can do my job. I quit, hire him!” He gave me his job which paid better and demanded fewer hours so I could pursue my calling! That wasn’t the last time that Tom blessed me. And the best part was that he did it all for Jesus, not for himself, not to buy my friendship, not with any strings attached. He believed that people are ‘blessed so that they can be a blessing.’
Do you know anyone like Tom, who are radically generous, gentle lovers of the Lord and others? Some pump light and life into whatever situation in which they find themselves. Then, there are people who enter the room and suck the life out of it. Which person are you?
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey teaches about two basic views of life and resources. We can live with either an abundance or a scarcity mentality. If we think that life is just about one pie to go around, the only way to have more is take from others. Some believe that being generous means limits, that everybody must take a smaller bite. Human nature being what it is, if you think that way, you will not tend to generosity. However, if we are convinced that the pie can grow larger, we will more inclined to share.
God has made the world to grow and increase. Look at the Word – “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11, NLT) Generosity is expressed in many more ways than just giving money. We are to be generous in forgiveness, encouragement, helping others find success, volunteering, with our time, with love.
Here is the real paradox! Prosperity is often the worst enemy of generosity. One would think that having more would lead a person to want to give more, but experience argues against that. Here in these United States of America those who have more wealth generally (there are bright exceptions like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates!) give away a smaller percentage of their income to charitable causes than do the poor.
Before we engage in class warfare, let me ask you – do you give generously to others in proportion to your income? Generosity starts right where we are, right now; not sometime later when we have excess. Why? Because for most of us, if we do not start practicing the discipline of giving in the present, we will simply expand our standard of living as our store of resources increase. Proverbs includes this pithy wisdom: “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, NIV)
Jesus taught many lessons about being a giving, generous person. He spoke of right motives. “When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” (Matthew 6:3-4, The Message) A person who practices his ‘generosity’ while putting out press releases is just serving himself. His ‘gift’ stinks because it is rotten with self-interest!
He taught that God values all gifts not just those from ‘major donors’! “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (Luke 21:1-4, NLT)
And, He taught that an attitude of generosity allows God to continue to bless us! The principle of the harvest is stated this way- “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38, NLT) He was not suggesting that we ought to give to get! But, He was telling us that God isn’t likely to trust us with more if we are hoarding what we already have!
God is our generous, overflowing with mercy, grace, and love. He invests in us, seeking a rich return. So, let’s trust Him, let Him love us extravagantly, receive His grace in abundance. Then, let’s pray that or generosity will mark us as children who have His great heart. Indeed it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35, NLT)
Go, bless your world with gifts today!
Jehovah – Jireh
Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider,
His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me!
Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider,
His grace is sufficient for me!
My God shall supply all my need
According to His riches in glory.
He gives His angels charge over me.
Jehovah-Jireh cares for me, for me, for me,
Jehovah-Jireh cares for me.
Merla Watson © 1974 MCA Music Publ., A.D.O. Universal Studio (Admin. by Universal Music Corp.) Sound III, Inc. (Admin. by Universal Music Corp.) CCLI License # 810055