“Tell [the rich] to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage — to do good, to be rich in helping others; to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (The Message)
What is wealth? Is it lots and lots of money? That would seem to be the most logical answer for us. Yet, in Jesus’ day, wealth was determined, in addition to money, by the amount of land one owned, or by how many herds someone had, or by the number of sons a man had in order to run his business – whatever it might have been. Jesus never said we shouldn’t have money or things, only that we should not let them run our lives and be more important than God. The ancient Hebrews often were able to manage faith and wealth in good ways.
The Bible is full of directives to share: give off the top of the flock, dedicate the first-born child, give 10% to the temple or synagogue as a tithe, be generous, share openly, don’t hold back. Those who have were to share with the “have-nots,” and they were to take care of the poor, the widows, the orphans. None of this was supposed to be turned into a resented duty, but was a response to God’s generosity toward humans.
Zacchaeus the tax collector was one of the greediest in town, apparently. Yet, when Jesus came to town, he climbed a tree so he could see this itinerant celebrity rabbi more clearly and was totally taken by surprise when Jesus stopped below the tree, invited him to come down and feed Jesus and his followers! After being with Jesus, Zacchaeus’ heart was moved, and he became and honest man to the point where he over-repayed any money he may have cheated out of someone.
Generosity comes from our hearts because it originally came out of the heart of God. What flows from God to us is – well – everything! All that we have is God’s anyway. God’s generosity to us gives us a means by which to be generous with others, including the poor and marginalized of our society. Giving leaves a much better feeling in us than hoarding or being selfish about what we have.
My husband is one of the most generous people I know. I have seen him give things away that I couldn’t imagine doing myself. When I ask him why, he reminds me that “they are just things.” It’s true. When I was growing up, we were taught that what was ours is OURS, and no one else was allowed to have it. Un-learning that has taken a lot of years, and I’m thankful for a husband who is helping me to undo those attitudes. I still consider myself a pretty generous person, but it’s now a lot easier to give away things – material possessions because they just aren’t important. I still have work to do, but I’m getting there!
God wants our hearts, and when we give them to God, the other “stuff” simply doesn’t matter. What bogs us down and blocks us from a full relationship with God and others? Do we make up our minds ahead of time about what we are going to pledge to the church and not stay open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts? Are we stuck in a rut and not changing the way we give even in a tough economy? These are things to think about. Maybe we can’t change things, and that’s certainly understandable, but then, maybe we can make a small change that would make a difference in our generous giving as well as helping others through the ministry of the church.
May our hearts be open to God’s generosity and may it flow through us!