(Book begins with the Preface in the January 31 post.)
(Continuation of section on “Finding Our Balance”)
In my college days, I heard a series of messages based on Luke 6:38 in which the speaker promoted a concept he called “giving living.” Luke 6:38 quotes Jesus: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The speaker’s basic premise was this: If you need something, make an “investment” by going out and giving something to someone else, and then sit and wait for God to give you what you need. He promised it was foolproof; God always came through. Whether it works or not, it definitely promotes a wrong attitude, a manipulation of God, giving only to get.
And yet, both Old and New Testaments indicate that it is impossible to outgive God. When we freely give of our resources, he pours out an abundance upon us.
Some are quick to point out that Luke 6:38 is taken out of context when used to refer to earthly abundance. The verse is couched in a passage on judgment and condemnation. It probably refers to receiving abundant mercy and forgiveness as we provide that for others. The exegesis may be correct. But God himself in the Old Testament asks his people to test him in their giving, and he was definitely talking material stuff.
In Malachi, God talks to his people about the causes of their problems. In chapter three, he accuses them of robbing him by not presenting tithes and offerings (verse 8). And then he presents them with this challenge in verse 10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Don’t spiritualize those blessings. God goes on to talk about their crops, which were their income.
Scripture tells us in Proverbs 22:4 that “humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” Following God can provide earthly wealth. Unfortunately, the Scriptures caution us, this same wealth can too easily become our God.
Matthew 6:24 offers this admonition from Jesus, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” If God chooses to bless us with material possessions, we constantly need to be on guard against viewing them as the sum of our lives. In a comment reinforced by the parable of the rich fool, Jesus warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
God promises to bless those who give, and the promised blessings include material blessings. This frees us to give more but also gives us things to enjoy. God provides us with the resources to meet our own needs and those of others. We are free to enjoy his good gifts—and asked to freely give to others. First Timothy 6:17–19 offers the perfect blend of these two principles:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
True life comes as we recognize God as the source of all we have, enjoy all the gifts he’s given us and take advantage of opportunities to be generous and share with others.