There is an old urban legend (meaning I donâ€™t know if it is true or not) about Lee Trevino being approached by a woman who told the famed golfer that her little baby needed an operation or the baby would die. Lee gave the woman a few thousand dollars for the operation and later it was discovered the woman was a scam artist. When â€œThe Merry Mexâ€ Trevino was told of the scam, he reportedly replied, â€œOh so you mean the baby isnâ€™t going to die, thatâ€™s wonderful!â€
That is what you call being generous to a fault!
Do you realize that your salvation is a level of generosity if looked upon with worldly eyes you could fault God for it. Before Iâ€™m accused of blasphemy, let me explain. Say you give the greatest sacrifice you can give, whatever is the most beloved and precious to you, so that another will not perish. That person who has received this gift, lives his or her life as though there has been no real change or at least no real fruit to see of expected gratitude. And this ungrateful one continues to receive generous portions of mercy and blessing from you. Would one not think you too generous, almost to a fault?
Our Heavenly Father pours out His blessings to us daily and yet we all too often live our lives as though we are numb to it. Let this not be so anymore! The Apostle Paul, when lauding the Philippian Church for their generosity towards him, explained the real importance of this little churchâ€™s gift:
â€œNevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.â€ (Philippians 4:14-17)
The Philippian Church, not a mega-rich church, always looked out for the needs of Paul. Sad the same could not be said for the other churches Paul planted.
Paulâ€™s attention to the blessing received to those who give generously is in line with Scripture. Paulâ€™s Bible of the day, the Old Testament, is filled with promise of blessing to those who are generous. For those who will consider the poor, David calls them blessed and protected:
â€œBlessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.â€ (Psalm 41:1-3)
That verse alone could carry the day for the prosperity preachers, but in context of the whole Bible we must consider our motivations for giving. We give to honor God and the increase we receive is the result of, not the reason for giving:
â€œHonor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.â€ (Proverbs 3:9-10)
The more accurate rendering of the adverb â€œsoâ€ in this context is â€œthenâ€, which many translations use instead. Again, it is the result not the reason we give to God and our barns are filled.
If we ignore the poor do you realize we can actually cause the opposite of blessing upon our lives?
â€œHe who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.â€ (Proverbs 28:27)
Yeah but Bro Dave, there are so many scam artists out there and people who panhandle for money that will not get a job, how are we to know if weâ€™re being taken or not? Well, if you know the person and you know they wonâ€™t get a job then thatâ€™s a different matter. However, what if that unknown panhandler is an angel youâ€™re not aware of and God is just testing you to see if youâ€™ll be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
I am talking about the times, at least for me, when Iâ€™ve felt prompted to randomly give someone some money and I just â€œhide my eyesâ€ and the guilt I feel after driving away is overpowering. But when I have been obedient, the blessing I receive is in the wonderful warm feeling of joy you get when you know youâ€™ve just â€œsprinkled a little Jesusâ€, to borrow a phrase from Kathy Troccoli.
Beloved, my concern for myself and all of you is that we not be obsessed with our possessions. When I get to heaven Iâ€™ll be okay with the Lord telling me I was generous to a fault.
But while Iâ€™m here on earth I want to learn that no matter my financial or material situation, I am living the abundant, rich life through Christ Jesus.
More on that tomorrow…
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Copyright Â© 2012 David Jeffers