Summary: There’s an epidemic of greed in our world today. There’s only one way to combat greed – give generously often. Jesus calls His disciples to master not just this principle but it’s application to their lives and others’ lives.
In my last post, I talked about how important it is to be content with what you have instead of falling into the trap of materialism. In this post, we talk about the kingdom principle of being generous instead of keeping all your resources to yourself.
A UC Berkeley study highlighted by the Los Angeles Times found that wealthy people are more likely to be unethical, cheating and doing anything to get ahead because of greed. It seems the insatiable lust for more multiplies itself the more you have. This only confirms what some already thought about the rich.
But you don’t have to be greedy with your wealth. You can share your resources with others around you, especially those who need it the most. We’ve been talking about Christian perspectives, and one of them pits greed against generosity.
It all starts with God. He owns everything, and He has chosen to share what He has made with all of us. We want to see what the Bible teaches about generosity and why it is a core value of God’s Kingdom. As Jesus’s disciples, we want to do what He teaches and pleases Him. Let’s get started.
Building Bigger Barns
Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who thought he could build bigger barns and retire with his wealth (Luke 12:16 –21). Instead of being generous, he decided to hoard it all. My dad once pointed out that this was the only person in the Bible to retire. But that wasn’t why God was unhappy with him in the parable.
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:16–21, ESV)
With such wealth, instead of helping others, this rich person wanted to build bigger barns to store it. When he had such an overflow, he could’ve at least given that overflow to those who needed it. But even then he wanted to keep for himself. God didn’t demand his soul from him that night because of an industrious nature that wanted to build bigger barns.
It’s tempting to find a way to store the extra God gives us. We need to take a cue from the lesson Jesus gives through this parable. When we have so much, it is not only for us. Like the wealthy people in the study in the introduction, we can become more greedy. But generosity is God’s principal to prevent that.
When God blesses us with more than enough we should be like Abraham, a blessing to the families of the earth (). God doesn’t give us more because we deserve it or because it is His blessing for us to enjoy ourselves. You can use your resources to bless others and show them the heart of your generous God.
Paying It Forward
Zacchaeus was a wealthy chief tax collector in Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). But his wealth did not satisfy him. He was interested in Jesus. He just had one problem, one I share with him. He was short. He could not see Jesus over the crowds, so he climbed a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus.
Jesus paid attention to him and invited Himself to his house. Zacchaeus couldn’t have been happier. He was so excited that he became His follower and vowed to pay back anyone he defrauded fourfold. He also gave half of his wealth to the poor.
What about Jesus so changed Zacchaeus’ heart for a tax collector, who was in the business to defraud his fellow countrymen, to be so generous? That’s one reason the Jewish people hated tax collector. The other was that they were collaborators with Rome to take away the people’s money.
Zacchaeus gets more face time with Jesus and he responds with such crazy generosity. In this short time, Jesus gave him time, a most valuable commodity. Jesus often spent time with “tax collectors and sinners.”
It was a true salvation encounter, and Luke does not tell us Zacchaeus was saved. He demonstrated it by Zacchaeus’ reaction to Jesus. Something about Jesus taught him the value of generosity. It is a Kingdom value every disciple of Jesus needs to know.
A Community of Generous People
In the Old Testament, God protected those on the fringes of society, the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners. He used His law to provide for them. One of my favorite laws to help them is His command to leave the edges of their fields and some of the grapes for the poor and the foreigner (Leviticus 19:9-10).
Those who refused to be generous must break God’s law to hoard their harvest. The poor and foreigner had no land or wealth. Think of the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was very generous to Ruth, who was a foreigner, widow, and poor. She checked three of the four boxes for God’s generosity to His law.
I hope there were more wealthy landowners like Boaz who took the Spirit of God’s law to heart, if not the letter of the law. God built into His law His generous values and principles. If the Israelites wanted to please Him, they had to take care of the poor and the other three fringe groups of society.
We see this most clearly in the way the Jerusalem church members deal with one another. The church grows by leaps and bounds after Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. A couple of times we read about how the church increases by thousands. But it’s what happens at the end of Acts 2 that’s amazing.
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
That’s incredible when you think of it. Some scholars want this to be a demonstration that socialism is God’s way. This was not socialism, but a Kingdom priority among these believers. They wanted to take care of one another.
What do you do with your resources? God’s not necessarily calling you to every thing you have a way to the poor and needy. This should cause each of us pause, to consider how we should deal with the overabundance and blessing of God over us.
The Gold Standard
The gold standard was the financial backing of the United States until 1971, when it was changed to paper money and other currency standards. The gold standard referred to gold as the only financial security that backed the economy. In the Bible, generosity is God’s gold standard. He wants His children to be generous with His blessings on them.
Jesus wasn’t the only Person to teach generosity. Paul and others in the New Testament, along with some of the Old Testament promote generosity. This is not by mistake or accident. God is a generous God, and He wants His people to be generous. We will look further into how we can be generous below.
One firmly fixed principle of the Bible is the principle of sowing and reaping. It is based off the agricultural practice of sowing seed into a field and then reaping the harvest after the growing season. It’s easy to understand because it’s a principle from the laws of nature.
Basically, however much seed a farmer sowed into the ground would yield an even greater harvest. If a farmer only sowed a small amount of seed, he should not expect to receive a large crop. Sowing and reaping tells us that if we are generous with what we sow into the lives of others, we will reap a great reward.
However, we must understand that this principle is not a one-on-one correlation. Word of Faith teachers tell us that if we sow money into God’s kingdom we will reap money. That’s not how it works in the Bible. A farmer wouldn’t sow seeds of wheat into his field and be angry when he harvested wheat. He would be surprised if he got corn instead of wheat.
God’s Kingdom doesn’t always work in rigid approaches. You may sow into one area of God’s Kingdom and read in another area. For instance, you may give money generously, but reap rich spiritual rewards in being taught God’s Word. We must not make this a hard and steadfast rule. It is a principle that works spiritually. We don’t so a certain thing because we want to reap that same thing. You don’t give money to get more money from God.
Living in Generosity
So, what does the Bible teach about generosity? Paul was collecting offering from Gentile Christians for the Jewish Christians at the Jerusalem church because of the hard times the Jewish believers had fallen upon recently. He tells the Corinthian believers how they can be generous to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Paul says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8, ESV)
You want a generous disciple of Jesus. But you don’t so generously just so you can reap generously. We don’t give to get. We focus more on the blessedly can be to others them the blessing we get. Paul also teaches that generosity doesn’t happen out of compulsion. No one can force you to be generous. It’s a choice you make and act on.
God is not looking for how much you give, but your heart in giving. If you are a grumbling giver, He doesn’t want your gift. God wants a cheerful giver. You need to be happy to be generous. God is more interested in your attitude than your amount. Jesus highlighted the widow who gave everything she had even though it was a small amount (Mark 12:44).
Generous people realize God will take care of all their needs. They give generously because they see the needs of people and can’t look away without helping. Their heart is in the right place. We will never know how generous a person’s gift is because we do not know that person’s total resources.
Generosity protects our hearts from greed. It softens our hearts to the needs of those around us. Our generosity shows God’s heart give generously. You can’t out give God. He has promised to bless you with your generosity, so make the goal of your gift to glorify Him and help others.
Jesus teaches us as His disciples to be generous with our resources. Next we will look at His teacher on storing up our treasures in heaven.